There are two kinds of books about photography. Serious books about artists (monographs, retrospectives, histories or collections of a genre) and how-to guides (how to use your DSLR, how to take black and white photography, how to take stunning portraits, etc.). The first kind assume you’re a consumer of art. They introduce you to new artists, help you understand photographs or offer you a handy collection of work you love. The second assume you’re a hobbyist who wants to improve your technical skill. They teach you about depth of field, rules of all sorts, but especially rules of thirds, and feature photographs that in the first kind of book are dismissed as ‘camera club’ images.
That’s a harsh characterisation, sure, but these books by Henry Carroll are the only ones I’ve come across that ignore this divide, and help you enjoy and read photography, whilst also helping you take better photographs yourself.
I think all photography books should be like this. We’re all artists – certainly all photographers – and anyone can learn from other artists.
When I picked up photography again in 2021, after a long break, I read lots of books, mostly technique books. But these two were the books that got me into ‘photobooks’ – collections of artists’ work. Reading these books, I started to develop an understanding of how photographs could be constructed by an artist, or read by a viewer. But they’re presented on the assumption that the reader is both an artist and a viewer.
I’m writing about books on this blog to give insight, not to review, but I’ll make an exception here, and say these are both a solid 10/10.
Buy from bookshop.org (affiliate links):