September 8, 2002
A Weekly Column By
Readings for Practicing Photographers
© Mike Johnston 2002
Good morning! This week's column is brief, because I spent a fair amount of time amassing a list for you. It was a fun process , but, of course, it took longer than I thought it would. Hope you enjoy.
Apart from a fortunate few souls who rode the tech stock bubble and managed to bail before it burst, the class of people best served by the existence of the internet may well be photographers. It enables us to show and share our work both widely and cheaply. And it's democratic âï¿½ï¿½ there is no hurdle you have to get over in order to participate.
Traditionally, books have been the best way for photographers to share their work, both with the public and with each other. Although I've made a concerted effort to look at large amounts of original work over the years, the way I've come to know most photographers is through published books. Books are a way for us to remain in control of the way our work is presented. They're also a method of preserving pictures; a single portfolio or corpus of work is always susceptible to loss, damage, or disaster. But print three thousand or five thousand copies and disseminate them around the nation and the world, and at least a few are certain to survive.
Naturally, too, books are the best way to learn. At age 27, when I graduated from photography school, I made several vows with myself. One was to make a lifetime study of the literature. Although my library of photography books is on the small side âï¿½ï¿½ numbering right around 400 volumes âï¿½ï¿½ it's carefully selected, and I know it well.
Many of the books that have been most influential on my photography aren't even photography books. Some are works of fiction or literature, books of history, books about other crafts, even religious works.
What I've done this week is to take advantage of Amazon.com's "listmania" feature to compile a short list of some of my favorite photography books, plus a few that have influenced me and my practice of the art. I've called it "Readings for Practicing Photographers." Some are good general recommendations, some are idiosyncratic personal choices. Of course you'll exercise your own discretion in figuring out which is which.
Maybe now that the kids are back in school and colder weather nears, you'll have time to pick up a few of these. I hope a few of them might influence or inspire you too. I wouldn't steer you wrong!
Mike Johnston writes and publishes an independent quarterly ink-on-paper magazine called The 37th Frame for people who are really "into" photography. His book, The Empirical Photographer, is scheduled to be published in 2003.