Sunday, January 07, 2007

Books for Night Photographers

Before Christmas I had planned to post a few lists of my favorite books for night photographers. I never got around to it. But since books usually aren't time-critical, I still want to go ahead and post them.

There are three seperate lists that I want to talk about: the TOP list, the Nocturnes list, and my personal list.

The first list comes from Mike Johnston, publisher of the wonderful blog The Online Photographer. Prior to publishing T.O.P, he was a regular contributor to the Luminous Landscape. And way back then (in 2002), he published a list of books called Reading for Practicing Photographers. This list contains twenty books that address the aesthetics of photography, the philosophy of art, and examples of great photographs. I've read seven of them, so I have a way to go before I finish the list. I'm sure all of them are just as applicable to night photography as they are to "civilian" photography (just as archery is relevant to all photography).

The second list is primarily for night photographers. About four years ago I began building a personal library of night photography books. I started contacting all of the night photographers I knew to find out which books they recommended. Tim Baskerville then put me in contact with some other well-known night photographers whom I did not know (Rolfe Horn, Todd Hido, Stu Jenks, Michael Kenna and William Lesch), and the list started growing. We eventually collated the results and posted them on The Nocturnes website. With the exception of Michael Kenna, there haven't been very many night photography books published since we compiled this list. So the list is still quite relavent.

(If I could only recommend one book, this would be it).

The third list is my own personal list. After reading many of the books recommended by Michael Johnson, and also those books recommended by other night photographers, I have to recommend the following three books as my all-time most-read, most-refered-to, and most recommended (in no particular order):

1. On Being a Photographer, by Bill Jay. Obviously, the title is a pun on Susan Sontag's landmark, although less exciting, book On Photography. The biggest value of this book is Jay's experience as a professional photographer and his outline of how a photographer should develop and implement their own working plan. He's a big believer in identifying your niche, but not wasting your photographing a niche that you can't excel at.

2. Letting Go of the Camera, by Brooks Jensen. Jensen is the publisher and author of the outstanding black-and-white fine art photography magazine LensWork. This book contains the best, and sometimes the most contrarian, insights into how to be a more effective photographer.

3. Art and Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Irrespective of the title, this book is not targeted for people who are afraid to move forward with their art (personally, I don't even understand that concept... but everyone's entitled to their own neorosis). It's just chocked full of great insights about why people need to create art, and how you can harness those needs to produce more and better art.

All of three of these books are inexpensive, relative short, and very easy to read. They're not scholarly texts. And none of them talk about f-stops, lens comparisons, polarizing filters nor exposure techniques. In fact, none of them even contain any photographs. These three books are about the internal process of planning, implementing and improving your artwork.

At least, they all work for me. Your own mileage may vary.

Happy reading.


Blogger Nadreck said...

I've read On Being a Photographer and Art & Fear, and heartily second their recommendations. Now I need to go track down Letting Go...

4:19 PM  
Blogger Matthew Bamberg said...

Check out "Digital Art Photography for Dummies."

1:51 PM  

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