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Books - Photography

Much as art books do little justice to the art (painting/sculpture etc) they show/explain, so is true of photography: You just have to see the actual prints to get the whole picture in many cases.

That said: My first career was photography, which I got into because I then loved the art of photography.

I still do.

The books below could form an interesting - and solid - photography book foundation. Many are classics, some unknown, some odd choices. It's my list... (Top 10 Index)
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Certain Places - William Clift
Clift is a photographer who is, in my mind, on par with landscape photographers such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and John Sexton. Yet he's virtually unknown (so is Sexton, but not quite as badly).

This book - self-published - is brief but beautiful. Subjects are primarily landscapes or similar subjects; few - but powerful - pictures of people.

I don't know, it's just one of those books I keep flipping through. I don't care how pretentious is sounds, this is photography as art, be it a picture of a landscape or jury chair.

Diane Arbus: An Apeture Monograph - Diane Arbus
A first-rank fashion photographer (which many don't realize), Arbus is better known for her pictures of the decidedly unfashionable: Drag queens, transvestites, nudists and other people on the fringe.

How she got access to these people's lives and captured what she did is unknown to me, but she is allowed into these individual's very personal lives.

Her photos are troubling, disturbing and jarring - yet affectionate. Remiscent - in a strange way - of Weegee.

There are a lot of Diane Arbus imitators; she is the original.

Georgia O'Keeffe - A Portrait by Alfred Stieglitz
O'Keeffe and Stieglitz - two of the pioneers in 20th Century art, both in the U.S. and abroad, were also married. (Note: Hardly a conventional marriage, but that's another story...)

Stieglitz - a renowned photographer - took many pictures of O'Keeffe, especially in the early years of their marriage. The photos - some overtly erotic, others suggestive (O'Keeffe's hands with needle and thread) - are an important document of this artistically rich couple.

But they stand on their own merits. O'Keeffe's smirk, her crow's feet and - especially - her hands.

The forward - written in 1978 - is by O'Keeffe, and that's worth a perusal.

But the photos are the keepers.

Lost Chicago - David Lowe
This is really an architecture book - pictures of buildings in the American city most known for its buildings: Chicago.

Lowe has collected both recent and historical photos of these incredible creations, as well as supplying the text that links each section (per building) together.

The kicker of this book is in the title: These are tales and pictures of structures that no longer exist.

One of the most heartbreaking books I've ever owned.

Mirrors Messages Manifestations - Minor White
White is just shy of a major figure in photography - he is one of the seminal members of American photography (F64 member, teacher, friend of all the major U.S. photogs), but his photographs - similar to Weston's or Adams' - do not consistently achive the brilliance of the formers'.

That said, there is little to dislike about this book, and it serves as a good introduction to the work I think White will be best remembered for: His pioneering infrared work. Trees that glow and shimmer. Grass that looks like it's covered with snow...

Pictures From the New World - Danny Lyon
Pictures of the rougher side of life in the 1960s-1970s United States: Bikers, prostitutes, lower class laborers.

Primarily black and white, some color shots are included, including a notable section on South American prostitutes.

Photojournalistic in nature, with lucid writing by Lyon.

The Americans - Robert Frank
Who better to capture the look and feel of America in pictures than...a Swiss?

Frank is a brilliant photographer, and this book is a photographic classic. Photojournalistic in tenor, it contains many well-known photos.

A bonus: The book's introduction is by Jack Kerouac, and it's a beaut.

The Family of Man - Edward Steichen, curator
This book is a compilation of what is probably the most famous of all photography exhibits, the Family of Man exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MOMA) in New York City, circa 1955.

The collection contains an amazing amount of photos that - today - are instantly recognizable and indisputable classics.

The exhibit was about family; these photos - whether about war, death or celebration - are about humans.

The World of Jan Saudek - Jan Saudek
A Czech photographer whose best work - contained here - is photographing men, women and children in various stages of undress against an unassuming backdrop. Lighting, hand-coloring of prints and compisiting lend the pictures an almost Alice in Wonderland feel, not a voyeristic pandering.

These photos - of young girls, Reubenesque women, pot-bellied men - are archetypes, lovingly captured and crafted.

Yes, prude alert: Nipples exist in some photos. As they do in real life.

Yosemite and the Range of Light - Ansel Adams
Adams, arguably the most well-known photographer of all time, was passionate about many subjects: the environment, music, education.

Yet the title of this book touches on two of his constant - and perhaps deepest - passions: Light (as in photography - Greek for "light writing") and Yosemite, where he took most of his finest pictures.

I'm a big Ansel Adams fan, and this is his best book for my money...

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