Best Essays On Photography

Posted on by Tura

1. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, in “Illuminations” ed., Hannah Arendt

2. Walter Benjamin, “The Author as Producer”, in “Reflections” ed., Hannah Arendt

3. Roland Barthes, “The Rhetoric of the Image”, in “Image Music Text”

4. Roland Barthes, “The Photographic Message”, in “Image Music Text”

5. Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author” in “Image Music Text”

6. Roland Barthes, “Camera Lucida”

7. Baudrillard, “Simulacra and Simulation”

7. Susan Sontag, “On Photography”

8. Susan Sontag “Regarding the Pain of Others”

9. Vilem Flusser, “Towards a Philosophy of Photography”

10. Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood”

11. Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces: Heterotopias”

12. Martha Rosler, “In, Around, and Afterthoughts (On Documentary Photography)” in “The Contest of Meaning”, ed., Richard Bolton

13. Deborah Bright, “Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men: An Inquiry Into the Culture Meanings of Landscape Photography”, in “The Contest of Meaning”, ed., Richard Bolton

14. Allan Sekula, “The Body and the Archive” in “The Contest of Meaning”, ed., Richard Bolton (also in October, Winter 1986)

15. Allan Sekula, “Reading an Archive” from “Blasted Allegories”, ed., Brian Wallis

16. Christopher Phillips, “ The Judgment Seat of Photography” in “The Contest of Meaning”, ed., Richard Bolton

17. Walter Benjamin, “Little History of Photography”, in “Classic Essays on Photography”, ed., Alan Trachtenberg

18. Andre Bazin, “The Ontology of the Photographic Image”, in “Classic Essays on Photography”, ed., Alan Trachtenberg

19. Siegfried Kracauer, “Photography” in “Classic Essays on Photography”, ed., Alan Trachtenberg

20. Hubert Damisch, “Five Notes for a Phenomenology of the Photographic Image” in “Classic Essays on Photography”, ed., Alan Trachtenberg

21. Craig Owens, “Photography En Abyme”, in “Beyond Recognition”

22. Craig Owens, “The Discourse of Others: Feminism and Postmodernism”, in “Beyond Recognition”

23. Douglas Crimp, “Pictures” October, Volume 8, 1979, also in “Art after Modernism: Rethinking Representation”, ed., Brian Wallis

24. John Szarkowski, “Mirrors and Windows”

25. Rosalind Krauss, “Notes on the Index: Part 1 and Part 2” in “The Originality of the Avant – Garde and other Modernist Myths”

26. Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” in “Visual and Other Pleasures”


posted by james pomerantz


I’m always looking for something good to read. Thinking others might be like me, I pulled together this list of the best selling books from the continually updated Photography, Criticism and Essay category on Amazon. There are a few books on this list that cause me to wonder how they fit into the Crit and Essay category, but the list is mostly solid. Amazon updates this collection hourly, so the odds are good positions will shift, but these are 25 good reads (glad to see PBT as #23!)

1. Chavez Ravine: 1949 by – In 1949, photographer Don Normark walked up into the hills of Los Angeles, looking for a good view. Instead, he found Chavez Ravine, a ramshackle Mexican-American neighborhood tucked away in Elysian Park like a poor mans Shangri-la…

2. The Photographer’s Playbook: 307 Assignments and Ideas, by Jason Fulford and Gregory Halpern – The best way to learn is by doing. The Photographer’s Playbook features photography assignments, as well as ideas, stories and anecdotes from many of the world’s most talented photographers and photography professionals…

3. Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer’s Photographer, by Gregory Heisler and Michael R. Bloomberg – n this first-ever showcase of his work, Gregory Heisler, one of professional photography’s most respected practitioners, shares 50 iconic portraits of celebrities, athletes, and world leaders, along with fascinating, thoughtful, often humorous stories about how the images were made…

4. Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment, by Henri Cartier-Bresson – This new publication is a meticulous facsimile of the original book. It comes with an additional booklet containing an essay on the history of The Decisive Moment by Centre Pompidou curator Clément Chéroux

5. Larry Fink on Composition and Improvisation: The Photography Workshop Series, by Larry Fink and Lisa Kereszi – this series, Aperture Foundation works with the world’s top photographers to distill their creative approaches, teachings, and insights on photography–offering the workshop experience in a book…

6. Distant Shores: Surfing The Ends Of The Earth, by Chris Burkard and Steve Crist – Chris Burkard’s photographs are puncutated by energized landscapes and moments of bliss, by adventure seeking and the lifestyle that it encompasses, and by movement and intuitive light-working capabilities…

7. Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb on Street Photography and the Poetic Image: The Photography Workshop Series, by Alex Webb, Rebecca Norris Webb, and Teju Cole – In this series, Aperture Foundation works with the world’s top photographers to distill their creative approaches, teachings, and insights on photography–offering the workshop experience in a book…

8. Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer’s Photographer (KINDLE Edition), by Gregory Heisler – see #3 for description.

9. The Paris Journal: Book One (KINDLE Edition), by Nichole Robertson and Evan Robertson – This exhilarating diary of a day in the City of Light combines 17 journal entries with over 140 sumptuous photos that bring the city, its people, and apparently its former kings to life.

10. The History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present, by Beaumont Newhall – Since its first publication in 1937, this lucid and scholarly chronicle of the history of photography has been hailed as the classic work on the subject. No other book and no other author have managed to relate the aesthetic evolution of the art of photography to its technical innovations with such an absorbing combination of clarity, scholarship and enthusiasm…

11. Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Mind’s Eye, by Henri Cartier-Bresson – Henri Cartier-Bresson’s indelible writings on photography and photographers have been published sporadically over the past forty-five years. His essays–several of which have never before been translated into English–are collected here for the first time.

12. Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography, by Errol Morris – In Believing is Seeing Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris turns his eye to the nature of truth in photography. In his inimitable style, Morris untangles the mysteries behind an eclectic range of documentary photographs…

13. On Photography, by Susan Sontag – One of the most highly regarded books of its kind, On Photography first appeared in 1977 and is described by its author as “a progress of essays about the meaning and career of photographs.” It begins with the famous “In Plato’s Cave”essay, then offers five other prose meditations on this topic, and concludes with a fascinating and far-reaching “Brief Anthology of Quotations.”

14. Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs, by Steve McCurry – In the finest documentary tradition, Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs delves into McCurry’s personal archive to reveal never-before-seen ephemera, including journals, portraits, maps, and beautifully reproduced snapshots from various assignments. The book is organized into 14 photo stories, each brought to life by narrative text and over 100 lavish, full-color photo plates.

15. Criticizing Photographs, by Terry Barrett – This brief text is designed to help both beginning and advanced students of photography better develop and articulate thoughtful criticism. Organized around the major activities of criticism (describing, interpreting, evaluating, and theorizing), Criticizing Photographs provides a clear framework and vocabulary for students’ critical skill development.

16. The Photography Reader, by Lizz Wells – The Photography Reader is a comprehensive introduction to theories of photography; its production; and its uses and effects. Including articles by photographers from Edward Weston to Jo Spence, as well as key thinkers like Roland Barthes, Victor Burgin and Susan Sontag, the essays trace the development of ideas about photography.

17. The French Cat, by Rachael Hale McKenna – One of the most successful animal photographers in the world today, Rachael McKenna (née Hale) turns her lens toward France—her newly adopted home—and the charismatic cats that inhabit this picturesque backdrop. The result is The French Cat, a stunning exploration of the country and its felines.

18. The Photographer’s Eye, by John Szarkowski – The Photographer’s Eye by John Szarkowski is a twentieth-century classic–an indispensable introduction to the visual language of photography. Based on a landmark exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in 1964, and originally published in 1966, the book has long been out of print. It is now available again to a new generation of photographers…

19. The Nature of Photographs: A Primer, by Stephen Shore – The Nature of Photographs is an essential primer of how to look at and understand photographs, by one of the world’s most influential photographers, Stephen Shore. In this book, Shore explores ways of understanding photographs from all periods and all types – from iconic images to found photographs, from negatives to digital files.

20. Photography for Any Idiot (KINDLE), by Randy Pellis – Randy Pellis, artist, educator, former reporter and photojournalist with 40 years experience in photography has the answer… His zen-like, philosophical approach will set the beginner on the right path, the more advanced photographer on a corrected path, and the serious professional on a possibly enlightened path to greater photographic and overall perspective.

21. The Art of iPhone Photography: Creating Great Photos and Art on Your iPhone (KINDLE), by Bob Weil and Nicki Fitz-Gerald – The Art of iPhone Photography explores how 45 of today’s best iPhonegraphers from around the world conceived, composed, and created some of their finest and best-known pieces-all in their own words. Through an understanding of the artists’ visions, creative decisions, and techniques, beginning through advanced iPhoneographers will immediately be able to apply what they learn and take their own photographic art to the next level.

22. Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital, by Todd Gustavson and George Eastman House – This gorgeous cornerstone volume celebrating the camera and the art of the photograph, created in collaboration with the George Eastman House, spans almost 200 years, from the first faint image ever caught to today’s state-of-the-art digital equipment…

23. Photography Beyond Technique: Essays from F295 on the Informed Use of Alternative and Historical Photographic Processes, by Tom Persinger – Photography Beyond Technique is a compelling selection of essays and images that reveal the thoughts and methods of some of today’s most exciting contemporary photographers. These artists employ alternative, historical, or handmade processes and techniques, and they share a comprehensive view of the medium: that the choice of photographic process is just as important as the selection of subjects. While other books concentrate solely on process, or theory, or artistic intent, none focus on photography in which these decisions are considered inseparable.

24. Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography, by Robert Hirsch – Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography provides a thought-provoking, accurate, and accessible introduction to the photographic arts for all readers. With stunning images and commentary by hundreds of international artists, the text clearly and concisely provides the building blocks necessary to critically explore photographic history from the photographers’ eye, an aesthetic point of view.

25. A World History of Photography, by Naomi Rosenblum – From the camera lucida to the latest in digital image making and computer manipulation, photographic technology has dramatically changed throughout its nearly 200-year history, as succinctly explained and powerfully illustrated in A World History of Photography. Thanks to the unique immediacy with which photography captures perspective and history, the popularity and use of the camera spread rapidly around the globe

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