Five Things Friday: Inspirational Photo Books (Plus Three on My Wishlist)

I have an obsession with photography books – instructional, inspirational, historical, educational – you name it and I have at least one (or three) taking up space on on my book shelf. One of my favorite activities is to sit outside with a glass of wine and flick through pages and pages of other people’s photographs. Heaven!

So today I share my top 5 photography books, chosen for their ability to make me want to go out and start taking better photos immediately – plus three more that I currently have sitting in my Amazon shopping cart.

Note: While I have a TON of educational books, they are not included on this list. That’s a whole other post.

1. The Photo Book, edited by Phaidon Press

This books is like an encyclopedia of photography, featuring 500 photographers, each with one photograph and a short blurb about their background. This book is so big that I never fail to find something new every time I pick it up. I recommend the hardcover, full size version.

2. The Contact Sheet, by Steve Christ

Sometimes the most fascinating photographs are the ones that didn’t make the cut.  This book takes a look at some of Western culture’s most iconic photos and shows them in their original photo sequence. It’s fascinating to see the photos that nearly made the cut and those that were not even close. The best things is that you will not always agree with the photographer’s choice which highlights the subjective nature of art.

3. The Great LIFE Photographers, by Editors of Life

Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I love a photograph that tells a bigger story. I also have a passion for history (Little known fact: I have a teaching degree, majoring in History and Psychology. Not that I’ve ever really used it…) LIFE magazine employed some of the most talented photographers in the world to capture some of the most amazing stories of the 20th century and shares a profile of each and every one of those photographers in this book. I bought it on a whim at Costco and have read it cover to cover at least twice (although, in fairness, more pictures than words). Fascinating read and a visually stunning representation of 20th century history.

4. The Photo Album, By Frankie Magazine

I adore Frankie magazine. My sister-in-law introduced me to it in Australia but, sadly, shipping costs make it a little too expensive to justify a subscription. One of the best things about the magazine is their wonderful photography which is often a little vintage and a little quirky. This book features photos submitted by amateur and professional photographers who share the Frankie aesthetic. I love the simple, clean design of the book and the way the images are often unexpected and unusual.

5. National Geographic Image Collection

Pure eye candy – amazing images from from the collection separated into the categories of Exploration, Wildlife, People & Culture and Science & Climate Change. You’ll recognize some of the photos while others are being shared for the first time in this book. I dare you not to be inspired the moment you open it.

And Three More…

Although my desire for inspiration is endless, my budget is not. These books have been sitting in my Amazon shopping cart for some time and are just waiting for me to build up enough rewards points on my corporate credit card so I bring them home where they belong.

  1. Annie Liebowitz At Work – A career I envy.
  2. Vivian Maier: Street Photographer – not yet released but available for pre-order. You can preview some of the images that may be included in the book dedicated to this unsung street photographer here.
  3. The Polaroid Book: Selections from the Polaroid Collections of Photography (Taschen’s 25th Anniversary Special Editions) – I’m sure we’ll have a version of this for iphone photography in 20 years.

Please feel free to share your own favorites in the comments and help me load up my wish list.