Let’s show some love to photo books, starting with How to Read a Photograph: Lessons from Master Photographers by Ian Jeffrey. It’s one of my favorite photography books on my bookshelf and it really is a MUST HAVE for any photographer’s collection!
What is this, book reports on the creative journal?!
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about where I find inspiration. Where does my creativity come from? How do I tend to go about learning from other creative individuals? While there are limitless sources, one has been consistent. Books. Photography books, books about writing, music, poetry, and art. Hell, even books about drawing comics and cartoons. Books really do help us expand our horizons and this one happens to be about photography.
How to Read a Photograph : Lessons from Master Photographers is a book I’ve owned it for many years. Because of recent conversations popping up online about the importance of studying the greats and learning the history of photography, I felt it was a good time to share this gem with you.
Ok, ok…so what is this book all about?
As the title says, it’s about learning to read a photograph…well… That’s not actually true. I don’t know that the title is really accurate. The first part, How to Read a Photograph. This is by no means a “How To” book about photography. There are no step by step guides to be found here.
The second part, Lessons from Master Photographers is closer to the real heart of this book but again not exactly. You will not find anything in this book that equates to tips, tricks, or advice from these Master Photographers. This isn’t a book featuring step by step lessons from Walker Evans about how to create a specific “look”.
But there are lessons everywhere. The book is presented as a high level overview of a huge variety of some of the most influential names in photography over the years. It gives you a few pages of info about their background, some of their most influential photography work and an overview of why they are important to photographic history. Each photographer has a generous helping of their work shared in their sections and the best way I like to enjoy this book is as an introduction and jumping off point. A gateway book, if you will.
You get a taste of a large variety of amazing photographers from the past that allow you to gain an understanding of where photography came from. But not everyone agrees on what an amazing photographer, or photograph for that matter, is. You may find some that you don’t care for and others that jump off the page. The book is a fantastic way to dig deeper on the photographers that interest you while letting you pass by the ones that don’t.
So who should pick up this book?
Well, with the current price on Amazon, I’d say EVERYBODY!
Honestly though, it’s a fantastic compendium of the biggest names in photography over the years. Simultaneously giving you an introduction to who these photographers are and why they are important. Even if you don’t enjoy all of the work, you’ll still learn about their place in shaping photography as we know it today.
Knowing and appreciating the history is so important as a photographer. It’s how you grow and move forward with your art. As you learn about the history you may start to notice the impact this classic work has had on your own work or the work of current photographers. Stop the press! You mean you can both learn AND be inspired at the same time? What is this witchcraft?!
Like I said above, this book is not a how to style of book. As such, the lessons it claims to teach you come from your own vision and effort. Much like any artwork, you’ll only get out of it what you put into it. If you want a book full of pretty pictures to flip through, this probably isn’t for you. However, if you enjoy taking time to read a bit of info about the artist and then spend a little time with the images you will come away with knowledge.
The lessons are there if you’re willing to learn.
All jokes aside, this really is a book that every photographer should add to their collection. As a resource, a history book, and even just as an enjoyable overview of some of the biggest names in photography, this book gives you something to come back to time and again. Just be aware that the title of the book is somewhat misleading as this is NOT a how to, tutorial, lesson type of book. In my opinion it doesn’t actually teach you anything, at least directly, about how to read and study a photograph. Rather it’s a fantastic high level overview of so many of the giants in photography and should be treated as a compendium not a lesson book. Of course with the caveat that by taking time to really look at the work of these photographers will give you insight into how and why they are know as the greats.
If you want the book and want to help me out, there’s a link below directly to Amazon.
All photos were created with a Fuji X Series cameras and lenses.
Images all processed in Lightroom Classic with the Rebecca Lily Premium Color Grading Pro Set V system as my base for all of my custom processing.
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