On Photobooks


I recently went through and pruned my photobook collection (including art books, including a small collection of books on Tibetan Buddhist art from a previous period in my life). It’s not really a photobook collection per say, but I do have a few! I’m keeping most, there are some that I’m setting aside for a second pass and there are a few that I’ll sell, trade or give away. It was an interesting exercise; it was my first real pass through them with an editorial eye since I started getting serious about photography.

In the photography genre the books that I was most interested in keeping fall into three general categories:

  • Books of work focused on artistic vision with photography as the medium, not necessarily as the intent (abstracts, multiple exposures, photos along with narrative, etc)
  • Books from photographers with pictorialist styles (both old and new photographers)
  • Landscape photography of all stripes, but with an emphasis on the kind of “forest” photographs that I myself take – it is interesting to me to see how many photographers seem to have the same fascination with this subject matter

Over time, “straight” photography (surely a debatable term) is less interesting to me (with exceptions of course). I realized that I have become more interested in “art” that uses photography as the medium rather than simply a lover of photography. If that makes any sense at all (words seem to fail me here).

One photographer whom I have been studying a lot lately is Robert Adams. His work is very subtle but very powerful when taken together. I recently read a comment in a blog post by a gallery exhibit “reviewer” who went to the Robert Adams The Places We live exhibit at Yale. The commenter remarked that “his work functions better when it is contained in his small books.” I’ve not seen the exhibit, but I just might agree with that assertion. Adams has also written about photography and I think I have and have read most of those books.

What is that saying… so many books, so little time. I will, however, point out that my photobook collection is not as large as my wife’s cookbook collection!

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