Skylines and the Grand Style: Learning past photographic movements can inform present-day photographic approaches. San Francisco, California, 2010.
I’ve commented before on the value of planning and research before making photographs in the field, including spending time communing with books of or about photography. I thought it might be useful to share a few that I have found particularly useful or interesting.
• Vanishing Point by David Plowden. This is THE retrospective of the work of David Plowden, one of the last century’s foremost photographers of both rural and industrial America. Here is the culture of rivets, plows, and locomotives, the world of Grange halls, feed mills, and furnaces. The book is pure visual poetry, and a must for anyone who hopes to photograph industry, community, and built form.
• Beauty in Photography by Robert Adams. A thin volume and rather inexpensive, this book contains not Adam’s photography, but rather his words. In a series of essays, the well-known photographer discusses the role of beauty in making photographs, the difficulties of making critical images, and the challenge (and value!) of landscape and geography as a subject. Never stuffy, always readable.
• Approaching Nowhere by Jeff Brouws. This monograph contains some of Brouws’ recent work, most of which concentrates on the emptiness of the human-altered American landscape and the wanton decay of numerous communities.
• Silver Cities by Peter Bacon Hales. This book is one of the standards of photographic interpretation for urban photography in the United States. Re-issued a few years ago, it is heavy on text, although it does contain some photographs to help illustrate its points. Telling the story of American urban photography from the early Daguerrotypes through to 1939, the author lays out every major photographic movement, concentrating on styles, subject choices, and intentions. This book is an absolute must-have and must-read for anyone series about making photos of urban subjects.
This list is far from comprehensive, but each entrant spoke to me, my style, and my intentions. I encourage every photographer to make their own list, and towards that end, I welcome any suggestions others may have.