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Developing your practice: photobooks to expand your vision

3 years ago

The photobook has played a vital role in the history of photography. For photographers, it is a tool to assert their independent vision, report on a subject or explore a concept extensively and an opportunity to communicate their message in an in-depth way. For the next few months, we're looking at ways you can expand your vision and develop your photographic practice. Taking the time to sit down and absorb a photobook, to recognise and respond from the very many creative decisions a photographer and publisher make throughout the bookmaking process, is an enlightening experience. Books also act as wonderful learning resources, to read the thoughts, conversations and reflections of some of the pioneering image-makers of our time. Below we've included seven books related to photography we hope to inspire you.

Museum Bhavan - Dayanita Singh
Softcover books in a clamshell box, €125

Indian photographer Dayanita Singh is not like most photographers. Believing the image is only the starting point in photography she shoots what appeals to her and only later looks for connections and themes in her work. Here we see her interest in the dissemination of the image in book form and how her work, as a collection, is presented. Limited in edition and highly desirable when first released, Museum Bhavan is currently out of print, however, you might be able to find available copies with a bit of research.  

Another Way of Telling: A Possible Theory of Photography - John Berger and Jean Mohr
Bloomsbury Publishing 
Paperback, £24

Berger is one of the most intelligent and eloquent observers of his time. Here, together with Jean Mohr, they investigate the theory of photography. Don't expect a dry approach, as each page brings something fresh and new that goes beyond theoretical approaches. Deeply absorbing and enlightening for anyone interested in photography, the book is divided into five sections and looks at what a photograph is, what photographs mean and how they can be used. The success of this book is how warm and very human a writer Berger is. 

Seeing Things: A Kid's Guide to Looking at Photographs - Joel Meyerowitz 
Hardback, $24.95

While this book might be aimed at 8 to 12 year-olds, readers of all ages will enjoy Meyerowitz's playful approach to teaching the essentials of how to truly see and interpret photographs. With images by Martin Parr, William Eggelston and Mary Ellen Mark within the guide, the author's engaging commentary highlights how the image's subtext is often what makes it endure.

Aperture Conversations: 1985 to the present 
Paperback, $29.75

Aperture Foundation was set up to be a place of critical dialogue for photographers, a space where the celebrated and emerging could meet and share their experiences, comment on current trends and discover new practices. This fascinating resource is testament to that vision. Comprising interviews and conversations with 70 of the world's best photographers, curators and journalists, this is a great reference book to pick up and put down to give you a greater understanding of photography. Particular highlights include Nan Goldin, Tacita Dean and David Hockney. 

Double Elephant 
Four hardback books in a slipcase, €98

The title of this collection comes from a term in the printing and publishing world meaning the best materials should be used throughout. The books revisit and republish four portfolios of the most important black & white documentary photographers of the 20th century: Gary Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, WalkerEvans and Manuel Alvarez Bravo. Each book has 15 photographs that the photographer felt represented their work best. Not only do these exquisite books highlight the power of a tight picture edit, but it is also a significant contribution to photography publishing. 

Love on the Left Bank - Ed van der Elsken
Dewi Lewis Publishing 
Hardback, £25 

First published in 1954, this wonderful photo novella was long out of print until Dewi Lewis reprinted it five or six years ago. A quasi-autobiographical love story following artist Valerie Myers and her group of nonconformists in Paris, photographer Ed van der Elsken presented his images alongside text, written in the first person. The book's content and creator's unorthodox storytelling made people question the images' veracity and engage with the documentary genre in new and exciting ways. A series full of drama, hopelessness and wonderful black & white photography. 

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Interviews and Conversations, 1951 to 1998
Paperback, $19.95 

A little black book full of musings and mantras from one of the best photographers of the last century. While many of us will know his images well, there are surprisingly few essays and writings by the photographer on his work. In these 12 seminal interviews, Cartier-Bresson reveals upon his inspirations, strong political opinions and overarching optimism. This book is a wonderful resource any interested in learning will enjoy – you're sure to be making notes in its margins soon after you start reading. 

To celebrate the photobook this year's Outstanding Contribution to Photography award was given to Gerhard Steidl. Read our interview with German publishing giant here.