Turn off the computer and read a book over the holiday. Here’s the reading list my contributors compiled (big thanks to Dude). I think we can all take a little time to become better at talking about pictures next year (Thanks Robert). Who knows we may need to defend ourselves.

Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art by John Szarkowski

Ansel Adams at 100 by John Szarkowski

The Photographer’s Eye by Szarkowski

Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes

Perception and Imaging, 3rd edition by Dr. Richard Zakia

Photographers on Photography; Lyons, Nathan (ed.)

Photography until Now; Szarkowski, John

History of Photography, From 1839 to the Present; Newhall, Beaumont

The Decisive Moment; Cartier-Bresson, Henri (read the introduction essay)

On Photography; Sontag, Susan

Ways of Seeing; Berger, John

Bystander: A History of Street Photography; Meyerowitz, Joel and Westerbeck, Colin (specialty but a very good book)

What do Pictures Want?; Mitchell, W.J.T.

Richard Avedon: Evidence 1994; Avedon, Richard (read the essays)

Helmut Newton’s autobiography

The Camera”, “The Negative”, and “The Print” by Ansel Adams

Robert Adam’s “Why People Photograph

Beauty in Photography” Robert Adam’s

On Being A Photographer’ by David Hurn and Bill Jay

Creating a Sense of Place” by Joel Meyerowitz

W. Eugene Smith: Shadow and Substance the Life and Work of an American Photographer – by Jim Hughes

Stephen Shore’s recent re-release of “the Nature of Photographs

The daybooks of Edward Weston

Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity by Ted Orland

California and the West by Charis Wilson and Edward Weston


The Photograph as Contemporary Art” by Charlotte Cotton

L’Amour Fou: Surrealism and Photography; Rosalind Krauss, Jane Livingston and Dawn Ades.

Reflex: A Vik Muniz Primer; Vik Muniz and Lesley Martin

At The Edge of the Light: Thoughts on Photography and Photographers, on Talent and Genius; David Travis

Rebecca Solnit book about Edweard Muybridge’s strange life; it’s called River of Shadows

Recommended Posts


  1. I’d take Susan Sontag off that list because having never picked up a camera, she knew less about photography than you and I forgot, yet mouthed off as if she made a living at it all her life. Rated avoid.

  2. fabulous list- Zakia was a professor of mine back in the day. A brilliant man.

    I would like to add my recommendation to read fiction and poetry. We spend our days conjuring imagery in a visual medium. Where are our ideas generated from?

    Words are powerful, and the skill needed to create memorable prose is worthy of our admiration – and our inspiration.

    What about a list of what we are all reading currently?

    @ape – thank you for steering the ship that this blog has become. The effort you put forth and level of discourse you promote has made this blog one of a handful I read daily. A gift to this community.

    My best wishes to all for 2008.

  3. Wow, that’s some old-school list! Those in something a bit more contemporary might want to try “The Photograph as Contemporary Art” by Charlotte Cotton instead.

  4. The Ongoing Moment – Jeff Dyer ?

    • @Paddy,
      Yep, thoroughly enjoyed this fresh take on photography. It’s focussed, for sure, on American works of a specific period but it made me see new things in favourites…


  5. and what about Excès du visible by Edouard Pontremoli what about Villem Flusser? ; )

  6. Thanks for the props PE.
    Add to the list:

    L’Amour Fou: Surrealism and Photography; Rosalind Krauss, Jane Livingston and Dawn Ades.

    Reflex: A Vic Muniz Primer; Vic Muniz and Lesley Martin

    At The Edge of the Light: Thoughts on Photography and Photographers, on Talent and Genius; David Travis

    @3: Not so old school… W.J.T. Mitchell’s book was published last year! Not to discount what’s going on now, but it’s hard to discern what’s trendy and what’s really influential and historic when you’re in the middle of it.

    I hope this gives the loved-ones-of-photographers some gift giving ideas this year…

  7. I’ve read and own many of the books on the list… great works! I would add a book that’s not a photography book yet I found it to be inspiring to my career as a photographer.

    “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. He addresses many topics such as overcoming RESISTANCE and being a Professional..

    One of the best books I’ve read!

    Happy Holidays to all..

    Bruce Hershey

  8. @#6:

    Your Dudeness: Great call on Vik Muniz. Now there’s a true original. There’s a guy with a vision. I recommend to anyone — try to see his work in person.


  9. If your looking for an easy read, check out.

    TAO OF PHOTOGRAPHY – Seeing Beyond Seeing
    By Philippe L. Gross and S.I. Shapiro

  10. I’ve met Vik a couple times and he’s a genuinely warm, enthusiastic and extremely inspired person… it really shows in his work. The guy is one of the most brilliant, cerebral, enlightened photographers I know of.

  11. “I think we can all take a little time to become better at talking about pictures next year”

    I’m gonna try to take a little time to become better at TAKING pictures next year.. haha just kidding, that’s a nice list I’ll have to take a look at..

    Thanks for the blog APE!

  12. Over the holidays, I plan to do a lot of shooting. I’ve found that just getting out there with the camera is the best way to improve. Come to think of it, this approach works in a lot of areas of life…

  13. The two photo books I go to for inspiration are:

    Inferno by Nachtwey
    Migrations by Salgado

  14. This blog is great
    So are most of the comments

    Some photography:some to the right and left of it
    Imperfect Beauty: Charlotte Cotton
    Masters of Light: Conversations with
    contemporary cinematographers: Scaeffer and Salvato
    Art and Fear:Bayles/Orland
    Zen and the art of motorcycle maintainance: Robert Pirsig
    Whatever you think, think the opposite: Paul Arden
    An American Century of Photography
    Moving Pictures:Anne Hollander
    Art and Visual Perception:Arnheim
    Film Art:Bordwell/Thompson

  15. Robert Adams hasn’t a clue about ‘Beauty in Photography’. Still, he’s eager to let others in on the secret. Shut up and shoot!

  16. Ted Orland, taught my art photography classes at the University of Oregon.
    What a fun time! Very West Coast style . He was Ansel Adams assistant , and had lots of cool stories . Although he was more interested in shooting topless coeds in hot springs. Still a great guy.

  17. @6: One sparrow doesn’t make a Summer. If you stick with stuff like “The Print” by Ansel Adams… I’m just not so sure how useful/helpful that is.

  18. There’s good news these last 168 years: photographs are peculiar kinds of pictures, and photographic skills aren’t a prerequisite for having something intelligent and helpful to write about them.

  19. memories of a dog – Daido Moriyama

    pictures of innocence – Anne Higonnet

  20. In defense of Susan Sontog, she might not have picked up a camera but she’s given much credit for some of the success of Annie L.

  21. may I add “Art and Fear”

    I think Ted Orland is one of the co authors.

    Thanks for the great list

    Oh and the book about Weston by his wife Charis, “Through another Lens”

  22. in defense of sontag, just because someone has never picked up a camera, it doesn’t mean that their opinions are any less valuable…

    for all you tog’s looking for work/commissions… plenty of the people who hold the purse strings have possibly never taken a serious photograph in their lives – however they know what they like… and if that’s not a valid opinion, then what is?

  23. one book tht never makes anyone’s list but one that taught master Cartier Bresson is Zen and the art of Archery.
    you would be SURPRISED at what this book has to do with photography. I always carry it in my bag as a reminder

  24. Contact: Theory, published by Lustrum Press
    Photographic Communication: Principles, and challenges of Photojournalism – compiled by R. Smith Schuneman
    PhotoSynthesis by Bryan Moss

    A quote from the last:
    “What happened before you got here is irrelevant. What may happen in the future is anybody’s guess. All that’s left is what’s happening now. So take a picture of it.”

    I will travel with week with Camera Lucida and my old copy of Photography & Society by Gisele Freund since they are small and will take up less space.

  25. Before Photography by Peter Galassi. He explains how the way of seeing many of us take for granted came about.

  26. I just picked up a good one I think and did a quick review/summary on my site title is “Documentary and Anti-Graphic Photographs Check it out.

  27. I really like Bang Bang Club by Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva
    and the Zanzibar Chest by Aidan Hartley.

  28. I’ll add this one to the list:
    In Our Own Image: The Coming Revolution in Photography (Aperture Writers & Artists on Photography) by Fred Ritchin
    A inspiring book and also a good insight on the digital photography era.

  29. – Vitamin Ph: New Perspectives in Photography; by T.J. Demos and Editors of Phaidon Press
    – The Art of Collecting Photography; by Laura Nobel

  30. For those who are interested in ‘composition’.

    ‘Photo Design’ (and maybe ‘Color Design’) by Harald Mante.
    A benchmark.

    It’s a ‘quick reference’ guide to the German ‘Bauhaus’ rules (W. Kandinsky, P. Klee, O. Kokoschka, …)

    Don’t go for the reprints (it’s ‘watered stock’, imho).
    Go for the originals (1969, 1970) … you’ll find them at antique book stores or via the net. Licensed in 5 languages.

    Harald Mante is one of the most distinguished teachers of the photographic arts and an internationally recognized master of photography.

  31. I agree, The Ongoing Moment by Jeff Dyer is a really good read.

  32. I’ll pitch mine out there – on exposure

    The BetterPhoto Guide to Exposure – Amphoto/ Random House

    Current, getting great reviews, selling well, easy to read, solid images, and with a real-world approach to a subject that deals with every aspect of photography- from lighting to composition, digital to film, understanding metering to knowing your camera functions.


    Workin’ on two new books as well- I know, shameless self-promotion. Is there any other kind?

  33. “After Photography” by Fred Ritchin, is a great “of the moment” book for anyone that’s trying to work through the massive shifts in our medium and practice that are taking place.

  34. […] A Photo Edi­tor posted a list of 32 books. There is some over­lap with Pop Photo’s list, but not much. Ansel Adams appears here again, but there is more the­ory rep­re­sented. Happy to see Robert Adams’ excel­lent writ­ing make the list. Still, geared towards an out­ward look­ing view­point for pho­tog­ra­phy. APE always elic­its inter­est­ing, some­times com­bat­ive com­men­tary. This post has some addi­tional good rec­om­men­da­tions in the com­ments. […]

  35. We love our book:

    The Photographer Survival Guide available at Amazon; Barnes & Noble and most bookstores.

    Rob is even featured in it!!

  36. Also in defense of Sontag….she knew more about photography than many photographers out there.

  37. You might add Geoff Dyer, ‘The Ongoing Moment’ (2005, Pantheon/Random House US; Little, Brown, UK).

  38. Great list, but with a very important lack:

    “Towards a philosophy of photography”, by Vilem Flusser.

    Read it, it opens a really new view on photography.

  39. What photography readings are usually assigned as part of an MFA/BFA in photography program?…

    Some interesting readings are:

    Vilem Flusser – Towards a Philosophy of Photography
    John Szarkowski – The Photographer’s Eye
    Stephen Shore – The Nature of Photographs
    Susan Sontag – On Photography/Regarding the Pain of Others
    Walter Benjamin – The Wo…

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