Every time I go to a book store – whether it is a glossy one like Kinokuniya in Sydney or the photo markets at Leederville Town Hall every four months, I am amazed to see the amount of literature that has been published to do with photography. Please note I say published rather than put out on the internet – I am speaking of paper printing.
Of course any technical subject garners paper – look at the amount of material there is on medicine over the last 3000 years – and in the case of medicine it all boils down to take two leeches and call me in the morning…So it is not surprising that an artistically technical science that makes money faster than it loses it should build a wide library. I have the equivalent of 8 floor to ceiling IKEA BILLY bookcases full of hard-bound photo books and even then it is a squeeze for some subdivisions. And I reined myself back over the past few years…
Has it been helpful? You bet. What it did not tell me in a technical sense it did in a historical one. Names and ideas that just flit through the magazines or internet chat sites can flesh out in a book – and there is a better chance of seeing more of the artist’s work than will attract a Google search. It must also be said that some of the publishers of the late 50’s and early 60’s were superb in their art reproduction for monochrome images.
Has it been biased? You bet. I took a series of publications that dealt with the Linhof camera system as well as one that was put out by the Hasselblad compay. As you might imagine, they lauded their own products but eventually ran out of puff and had to go further afield in large and medium-format work. Then it became a good way to see into the studios and minds of other photographers.
Do I have any favourites? Steve Sint and Roger Hicks speak most clearly to me. I have benefitted from reading a Peter Gowland book – I only read it for the articles…And I have several books that deal with Hurrell and his Hollywood colleagues that have done me a world of good. I am still looking for my own style with the portraits, but at least I have found it with the table top work.
PS: If you come to sell your books, do it with a Hamburger Sale. Price them according to the price per kilo of hamburger on your local market. Buyers will gleefully pay far more than they would if you tried to display a considered and intellectual pricing policy.