I was born in the last quarter of the last century so I like holding physical things, like the old record albums that came in their cardboard box wrapped in a thin layer of plastic, or the cases for the old cassete tapes and of course those little round metallic CDs.
It should come as no surprise that I also love books in their physical form, I fully enjoy holding a hard cover between my hands, feeling the weight of the book, gliding my hands across the sheets of paper, whether they are silky smooth or a bit grainy and rough. It all becomes part of the experience that just adds to the wonderful stories and tales depicted in them.
There are many great books out there but I thought I'd make this section a bit more personal and just include those books written in English related to photography that I've read, enjoyed and that have also helped me either technically, intelectually or spiritually. There's also a list of paper books in Spanish, should you want to take a look at it, just click here.
Books for Understanding Photography:
Photography The Whole Story - by Juliet Hacking
I found this book by pure chance, I was out with my girlfriend who needed to buy some books so we went to the nearest bookstore and while she asked for the ones she needed I started wandering around. I eventually found this book, all by itself. I don't know how many copies were there originally but this was the very last one. I opened the pages and started skimming through it...I was hooked immediately.
This book is like a window into the history of photography, it pretty much covers all of the stages photography has gone through its life, from inception and origins to the digital age. I think "The Whole Story" part in the title is quite accurate as it is full with details and in-depth descriptions so one can understand why a particular image is so representative of a specific time and how to "read" it. More often than not there are many more things in the picture than meet the eye.
I must say it is not always an easy read, the first couple of times I started reading it I fell asleep, not because it was boring but because it was just too much information to assimilate so my advice is just ease into it, go to the bits that entice you the most and go from there, it's not like there's gonna be a quiz or anything any time soon.
In any case believe it is a very useful tool to develop an artistic taste and learn how to "speak" more elegantly and clearly through photography.
Just so you know I think Helmut Newton is the Steve McQueen of photography (albeit a bit more hypochondriac). In his book I got to know a smart kid that always found a way to do things faster to have time to do what he liked, a lover of women and boy did women love him back. All in all it's a story of growth, evolution and a life well lived that combined everything he liked: adventure, photography and women.
Book publisher Taschen has one of the most affordable and interesting art book series I've seen. Through little yet beautifully illustrated books one can learn about different kinds of arts as well as the history and body of work of iconic (hence the name) artists. In the realm of photography there are some rather interesting titles, in fact I have a few of them in my own personal bookshelf.
He mentions in one of his books that when he was just a little boy and started using the camera he wouldn't settle for just taking a picture, he had to arrange the scene tell the other boys and girls where they needed to be so the photograph looked the way he had envisioned it to begin with; looking at his work you can see things have really progressed from there.
In my opinion David Lachapelle is one of the greatest photography artists of our time, his images are visually attractive, alluring and seductive but underneath all that glamour there's a strong depiction of a decadent, entertained, plastic society swamped in over-consumption, stupidity, violence and fakeness.
You can see his work on his web site or on Artsy. In addition here are some of his most celebrated books so you can check them out directly (Fair Warning: Parental advisory is recommended as well as having an open mind):
Books for Creating Better Photographs:
I've said it before and I'll say it again...if you want to learn how to light a scene to create an extraordinary picture go to Joe's materials. He has produced a few useful yet entertaing books that will help anyone create a better image with one, two, three or as many flashes as you can possibly have. I actually own the first two titles on the list and I go to them whenever I'm in the pre-production stage of a job, then I go to them during production to make sure I'm doing it right and once in post production just to identify where I went wrong, <sigh>.
The Landscape Photography Workshop - by Ross Hoddinott and Mark Bauer
If you ever see me walking in the wild and ask to see my backpack it is verly likely that somewhere in it you'll find this book. I pretty much take it everywhere when I am discovering new places as it reminds me to check for specific things in terms of composition, shutter speed, etc. The thing I like the most about this book is that it is supposed to be the same material as the one you would get orally, in the field if you had signed on one of Ross and Mark's workshops, so it progresses quite naturally.
The book also has a section on post producing a landscape image, this is probably the section I like the least. I just feel there are other resources more suitable to learn how to do that (in my personal experience I think specialized magazines do a great job in this area). In any case a great book to keep around.
Go to the e-books section to see many more resources to improve your photography