Books on photography


A few personal favourites:

Robert Capa, Slightly Out of Focus – Basically the Frank Sinatra of photography. He oozed cool while managing to get himself into all sorts of scrapes. Capa was a founder of Magnum Photos and coined the famous photographic dictum “if your photos aren’t good enough you are not close enough”. His autobiographical account sees him on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War where he took famous and controversial ‘Death of a Republican Soldier’, going in with the first wave on D Day and finding time in between to meet glamorous women in the Dorchester. I found his biography to be amusing, touching and thought provoking.

Don McCullin, Unreasonable Behaviour – Born in the East End of London, McCullin showed from an early age, an ability to get the shots others could not; from images of East End gangsters he developed into one of the greatest war photographers of all time. Covering numerous conflicts from the Middle East to Africa, he found himself detained by the US Army in Vietnam, shot by the Viet Cong (the bullet lodging in his Nikon), facing a likely death sentence in Uganda, the Phalangists threatened to kill him in Lebanon and the British Army refused to let him cover the Falklands.

McCullin not only covered war from the view of the soldiers but from those innocents affected by war. His coverage of famine in war torn Biafra is heart-breaking and the slap in the face we so often need. What impressed me most was his ethics and instinctive humanity, personified by his willingness to ditch his camera in order to help a fellow human being.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Mind’s Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers – The Father of the candid shot. Cartier-Bresson was a co-founder of Magnum Photos and the master of the decisive moment. He had an innate ability to catch an instant and in that capture to portray so much, as he puts it  “To take photographs means to recognise  simultaneously and within a fraction of a second both the fact itself and the rigorous organisation of visually perceived forms that give it meaning.”

The Mind’s Eye is much like a journal containing Cartier-Bressons collected wisdom, insight and views.


I would be grateful to hear any views on these books, their authors or any other inspirational books on photography or photographers.