Considering I used to search art photography books and only found books with technical advice resulted in me writing this article. Are there good books about storytelling and methodologies? There are, they’re just not frequently mentioned. Introducing you to the best art photography books that I read during my studies.
Nowadays, you can find everything you need to know online. Although we live in the digital age, nothing beats the learning and reading experience like physical books. In order to feel creative, we need to feel bored.
Initially, when starting my studies, I had read quite a few books – but not enough on the topic of photography. For some reason, I always felt they were about the technicalities of the practice which led me to believe my storytelling skills were not appreciated. Eventually it became clear to me I could deepen my knowledge on how I read images and what I decided to let my audience see. Similarly with editing , knowing what message you’re conveying through your imagery is an essential skill.
Best art photography books I recommend
Although it’s great to find inspiration in visual material like photography and movies, the biggest impact for me came from books and articles. Even if you feel reading books feels difficult, transitioning between visual and written inspiration is important for your improvement in photography. You cannot base your visual inspiration solely on visual material. This will leave the basis for your work quite thin.
Hence photography being about conveying a hidden meaning or communicating with symbolism, not all inspiration can come from visual material. While reading will help you absorb details in a more creative and in-depth manner, it will also inspire you to be original. Indeed, it will help you improve your image reading skills. And of course, give you a new perspective on how to approach your themes.
Nonetheless, even if these books are not about the technicality of photography, you will find them highly interesting.
I highly recommend this one. After reading the book not only was I more educated on the well-known photographers in the field, but also their methods. A true enjoyment learning the methodologies that I later on implemented in my own practice. For example, photographers like Rineke Dijkstra, Nan Goldin, and Elina Brotherus are all introduced here. Undoubtedly this book provides an introduction to the extraordinary range of contemporary art photography, from portraits of intimate life to highly staged images.
Liz Wells – Photography: A Critical Introduction
Equally important text to introduce to you if find semiotics in imagery interesting. This text for photography students identifies key debates in photographic theory, stimulates discussion and evaluation of the critical use of photographic images and ways of seeing. The content is updated with additional international and contemporary examples and images throughout. Providing extensive material on photography.
John Berger – Ways of Seeing
Because my themes always circling around gender identity, so reading this book was an eye-opener. In more ways than one: by concentrating on how we look at paintings and images he will almost certainly change the way you look at them. Due to this reason, I learned to depict my portraiture the way I did. The opening to John Berger’s most famous written work, the 1972 book Ways Of Seeing, offered not just an idea but also an invitation to see and know the world differently: “The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled,” he wrote.
Susan Sontag – On Photography
To conclude the list with this essential text, Susan Sontag confronts important questions surrounding the power dynamics between photographer and subject. The blurred boundary between lived events and recreated images. Photographs are everywhere – high art to family albums to legal evidence, they capture and document the world around us. And whether we use them to expose, reveal or remember, they hold an enduring power.
Overall these books have introduced me to the narrative that my photographs could tell if I could visualize subjects not yet visible. Thus also introducing me to examples of the methodologies a photographer could explore – there are several that do not require you to just point your camera at your subject.
Although we all want to tell a story with our photography, knowing how context can be visualized will help you deepen your work.
Because the themes I’ve worked with felt major, at times it was difficult to find other meaning in my images than the obvious visual.
What are your favorite books about art photography?
This article includes affiliate links*