A Photographer’s Theory Reading List

The Photosmudger did a great post on the books photographers should read to get insight into the critical theory side of the art.  I want to share with you the top three books on his list that he’s convinced me to read.  To see the rest of the reading list and to be convinced, as I was, why you should delve into critical theory head over to the photosmudger post.

Ways of Seeing by John Berger

Ways of SeeingThis, according to the photosmudger, is “the grand-daddy of them all” and required reading.

The GoodReads blurb: John Berger’s Ways of Seeing is one of the most stimulating and the most influential books on art in any language. First published in 1972, it was based on the BBC television series about which the (London) Sunday Times critic commented: “This is an eye-opener in more ways than one: by concentrating on how we look at paintings . . . he will almost certainly change the way you look at pictures.” By now he has.

On Photography by Susan Sontag

On Photography

This one comes highly recommended by many so it’s worth taking a look at.

“First published in 1973, this is a study of the force of photographic images which are continually inserted between experience and reality. Sontag develops further the concept of ‘transparency’. When anything can be photographed and photography has destroyed the boundaries and definitions of art, a viewer can approach a photograph freely with no expectations of discovering what it means. This collection of six lucid and invigorating essays, the most famous being “In Plato’s Cave”, make up a deep exploration of how the image has affected society.” (GoodReads)

Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes

Camera Lucida: Reflections on PhotographyThat epic line about looking on eyes that looked upon Napoleon is from this book.  Need I say more?

“This personal, wide-ranging, and contemplative volume–and the last book Barthes published–finds the author applying his influential perceptiveness and associative insight to the subject of photography. To this end, several black-and-white photos (by the likes of Avedon, Clifford, Hine, Mapplethorpe, Nadar, Van Der Zee, and so forth) are reprinted throughout the text.” (GoodReads)

Have you read any of these?  Share your thoughts with us.  Do you have any more suggestions for photographers?

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