Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

10 Inspirational Photo Books

I am a great believer that looking at the work of important photographers is one of the best way to expand your horizons, to understand what it is to be a photographer and to improve.

This article By over on Lighstalking makes the same point. We all have our favourites but I have a number of the books Phil recommends. It is easy to be amazed by beautiful decorative images of landscapes and flowers but these don’t often make us think beyond, “that is beautiful” and photography as a creative art has to offer more than just beauty. No Ansel Adams here

I really wanted to inspire some photographers out there with some truly great work – photography that made me pick up my first camera.

To do this I have turned to one of traditional forums for displaying photographs; the photo book. Nothing quite beats sitting quietly with a hot drink and flicking the pages of a book packed full of incredible images. There are a huge amount of fantastic books out there, an inexhaustible list in fact. I have compiled 10 of my personal favourites, books that have aided my own photographic journey.

The Americans – Robert Frank

The Americans, Robert Frank

They should hand this out with every new camera sale! A lesson in editing, Frank shot 28,000 images for the book with only 83 ending up in the published book, and every one of those is a brilliant look at 1950’s American life warts and all.

Last Resort – Martin Parr

Last Resort, Martin Parr

Challenging the traditional view of documentary photography, Parr takes you through a surreal and very funny tour of English resort town New Brighton. Street photography at its absolute best.

Guide – William Eggleston

Guide, William Eggleston

William Eggleston’s Guide was one of the first publication’s to feature colour photography. The book may almost be dismissed as a collection of snap shots, however the more you look and look, the more it makes sense. Fantastic book.

Off the top of my head I would add these and when I have more time I will add more

2 responses to “10 Inspirational Photo Books

  1. David October 5, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    I’d have to nominate Bill Brandt’s ‘Shadow of Light’ as my all time favourite. I think Brassai’s ‘Paris de Nuit’ has to be on the list too….

    I agree with both. Good choices

  2. Jane Buekett October 5, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    The books he’s recommended are all of the same sort of ilk. I’d add:
    Nick Waplington, Living Room
    Nan Goldin, The Battle of Sexual Dependency
    Thomas Joshua Cooper, True
    Josef Koudelka, Chaos (or any book by him)
    Julia Margaret Cameron (no books were published by her, but any book of her portraits)
    Sally Mann, Immediate Family
    Andre Kertesz (any monograph)

    to name a few

    Excellent choices and I agree with all your selection although I think his choices are varied enough with the inclusion of Eggleston, Frank and Parr. It just shows how many wonderful photographers there are to inspire us.

    I love the images on your site all summer long, beautiful.

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