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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ten of the best photography-related books to appear in the past few years are presented here with high praise and recognition. Most, if not all of these books, have relevance to both the technical and vision side of my work as a professional photographer on staff at the ninth largest university in the country. There are many other great photography books out there but this list represents ten of my favorites, the ones routinely jockeying for space on my nightstand, even though I’ve read them several times before.

1. “Evidence of my Existence” by James Lo Scalzo

A photographic memoir and autobiography of 17 years balancing the rigors of international reportage for US News and World Report against marriage and the upcoming birth of a child, “Evidence of My Existence” is an engrossing saga. It explores the challenges of devotion to photography with love and commitment to another person. “For me like so many other photojournalists, it was about the going,” writes Lo Scalzo of the wanderlust that drove him to the life of travel reportage. “It was about accepting a simple truth – in the world of photojournalism, I would always be a man of minor accomplishments but in the world of fatherhood, to one little boy at least, I had a chance to become legend.” A compelling read, Lo Scalzo’s self-exploration is a riveting piece, a captivating photo journey that you will be unable to put down. For more on info, visit Lo Scalzo book.

2. “Annie Leibovitz At Work” by Annie Leibovitz

The diva of celebrity photography, legend Annie Leibovitz holds a lasting place in the world of entertainment photography in the latter half of the 20th Century. Culled from conversations with editor Sharon Delano, “Leibovitz At Work” is a collection of off-the-cuff stories about famous photo sessions for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. These are the back-stories, the unspoken tales behind labor-intensive high production shoots and the talent that posed in front of Leibovitz’s lens. “At Work” provides insider access to the thought process of a great photographer working on location with the great luminaries of politics, cinema and art.

3. “Travel Photography” by Bob Krist

Traveling to new places with a camera is one of the sheer delights of being a professional photographer. As a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, Bob Krist is one of the true masters of shooting images in foreign countries that compel a magazine reader want to book a trip. Touching on digital workflow on location but exploring the method of working with cameras in a foreign place, “Travel Photography” is a concise and well-crafted update to the Krist’s earlier classic “Spirit of Place.”

4. “Within the Frame” by David DuChemin

In sharp contrast to Krist’s “Travel Photography” comes a travel book about the journey of photographic vision¬—seeing in an advanced way when traveling to exotic locales with camera in hand. DuChemin’s writing is a rich exploration of the decision-making that leads to successful travel imagery. At the intersection of people, places and cultures, he is able to assert a vision of the world that is consistent, regardless of the destination. “It is a book about chasing your vision and telling your stories as clearly and passionately as possible with compelling photography,” writes DuChemin.

5. “The Photographer’s Survival Guide” by Suzanne Sease and Amanda Sosa Stone

Somewhere within each of our souls is the thought of striking out into the freelance arena as an independent photography professional. To make university photographer a livable career, many of us currently moonlight with editorial, corporate or wedding shoots. Photographer consultants Suzanne Sease and Amanda Sosa Stone are marketing gurus, a savvy duo of former art buyers whose “Survival Guide” demystifies the business side of the freelance industry. It covers the gamut from logo treatment to web design to promo cards to invoices and comes with a CD containing a variety of templates and essential forms.

6. “The Hot Shoe Diaries” by Joe McNally

A master of making little strobes perform like studio lights, Joe McNally’s “Hot Shoe Diaries” is an instructional masterpiece, a funny man’s take on the gear, the difficulties and the successful problem solving that comes in working on location with small flashes. Unlike his previous effort “The Moment it Clicks,” McNally shies away from the nostalgic stories behind the shoot and hones in on his technical approach to a variety of locations, all requiring external light. Many of the set-ups are similar to shooting conditions that university photographers and practicing photojournalists routinely face on the job.

7. “The Dam Book, second edition,” by Peter Krogh

To say that the new edition of “The Dam Book” is an update to the original version would be a major understatement. Coming in with 185 more pages related to file management and workflow, Peter Krogh’s newest is still the bible for university photographers grappling with image management, processing software, databases, storage and the dreaded click of hard drive failures. Chances are that if you have a question related to keywording, ITPC or EXIF data or RAID configurations, Krogh has been there and done it and lived to clarify it. A real boon to the book is Krogh’s web site, Dambook.com, which maintains an active forum which Krogh checks and monitors on a daily basis.

8. Michael Grecco “Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait”

A master of dramatic lighting for celebrity portraiture, Michael Grecco went from photojournalist to the top of the editorial and advertising world in short order. “Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait” covers the gamut of Grecco’s lighting approach to conceptual photo shoots. Early chapters detail equipment and camera technique but the real gems of the book are the lighting diagrams and case studies that provide insight into successful approaches to location work.

9. Robert Frank “The Americans” 50th Anniversary Reissue

Arguably the most important photography book of the 20th Century, Robert Frank’s “The Americans” 50th anniversary reissue was published by Steidl this year to coincide with the National Gallery’s 2009 traveling exhibition “Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans.” Hitchhiking and bouncing around the existential post-war 1950s America, Frank and his Leica captured an outsider’s gaze at a country seeking to redefine itself in the post-World War II atomic age. His singular vision, etched lyrically in the tones of black and white emulsion, is still inspiring and laden with relevance.

10. John Harrington’s “Best Business Practices for Photographers”

Whether you like it or not, it is business practices that often separate the successful photographer from the photographer making his living selling real estate. Well known on the web as the godfather of Photo Business News & Forum blog, John Harrington’s “Best Business Practices” is a thorough, textbook style exploration of all phases of creating and maintaining a successful photographic business.

Author Blogs
Several of the authors are hip to new trends in communication and their blogs are a wealth of useful content updated each week. All are worth bookmarking for weekly visits.

David DuChemin
John Harrington
Bob Krist
Peter Krogh
Joe McNally
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