The best photography books 📚

Browse the best books on photography as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of The Travel Activity Book

The Travel Activity Book

By DK Publishing

Why this book?

Traveling is a time when you often need to entertain a bored child on a train, plane, or in a car. This book has tons of great games, puzzles, stickers, and even cultural information that will educate your child. Lots of photography and illustrations to entertain, as well. A good mix of education and fun.
From the list:

The best family activity books

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Book cover of Proust in the Power of Photography

Proust in the Power of Photography

By Brassaï, Richard Howard

Why this book?

When the Hungarian-French photographer Brassai arrived in Paris in 1924, he taught himself French by reading Proust. As a photographer, he was fascinated by a similarity between his own impulse to make pictures and how the novelist used the photographic process as a metaphor for establishing or obscuring his character’s inner and outer worlds, as if both he and Proust were developing images in their respective darkrooms. Proust, Brassai saw, “used his own body as an ultra-sensitive plate, managing to capture and register thousands of impressions.” He was like a reporter with a camera—sometimes a portraitist, a landscapist, and, “sometimes…
From the list:

The best books to expand your grasp of Marcel Proust

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Book cover of Lewis Carroll: Photographer

Lewis Carroll: Photographer

By Helmut Gernsheim

Why this book?

Mention the name ‘Lewis Carroll’ and most people will immediately think of the two Alice books. Very few would equate the name to Charles Dodgson, the photographer. This, however, is the aspect of the multi-talented Oxford don which Gernsheim, a professional photographer himself, appraised in his 1949 first edition for the very first time, concluding that Dodgson was ‘the most outstanding photographer of children in the nineteenth century. Many of the black and white plates substantiate this claim, but equally, Dodgson’s mastery of this new invention enabled him to meet and photograph (sometimes uniquely) numerous famous writers and artists, as…
From the list:

The best books about Lewis Carroll and Alice

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Book cover of Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art

Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art

By John Szarkowski

Why this book?

As the legendary curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, John Szarkowski was instrumental in elevating photography’s stature to an equal among the fine arts. He is eloquent in his explanation about the meaning of photography and illuminating in his descriptions of each of the one hundred photographs published in this book from MoMA’s sterling collection of photographs. There is no better guide to an awakening of your own eye than Szarkowski.
From the list:

The best books for understanding photography as art

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Book cover of American Photography (Oxford History of Art)

American Photography (Oxford History of Art)

By Miles Orvell

Why this book?

This book is a lively, questioning, and comprehensive survey of American photography, from its beginnings to the present. It analyzes achievements in each of the genres, from portraiture, through landscape, to documentary, fashion, etc. It treats individual photographic artists, from Avedon to Weegee, from the views of New York taken by Berenice Abbott to J.T. Zealy’s likenesses of enslaved Africans. American Photography is always concerned to underscore what photographs have to tell us about major aspects of American culture: race and ethnicity, gender and identity, business and technology, religion, and region. It also has numerous well-reproduced images; illuminating sidebars…

From the list:

The best books on American photography

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Book cover of Print the Legend: Photography and the American West

Print the Legend: Photography and the American West

By Martha A. Sandweiss

Why this book?

Print the Legend, the product of profound scholarly immersion in archival sources, manages to both offer a wealth of totally new information on the ways photographs have represented the West and give a superior account of themes and figures already extensively studied. Paradoxically, much of its excitement is due not so much to the way Sandweiss reads the photographs themselves – though we can all learn from her in this respect – but the way she reads the written texts (what she rightly terms “the legend”) that contextualized them. I am personally much indebted to Sandweiss’ treatment of the…

From the list:

The best books on American photography

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