Despite studying photography at University, I’ve only just started to read more photography books. These aren’t the usual “how to take landscape photos” type books, rather they’re more concerned with the ‘why’ we take photographs in the first place. I’m talking about books on photographic theory. To those of you who have pursued a photographic education, you probably know exactly the books I mean. They appear on most reading lists, and I have to say I probably glanced at them once or twice while at university then never again.
I’m now however looking to refine my photography and concentrate more on one or two aspects of it. To do this I’ve turned back to the theory to give my ideas some grounding. This has opened up a whole new understanding in my photography, one that I hope to build on in the coming months. A lot of people find the theory side boring, and I could see why, but I now think that a critical underpinning to photographic practice can help lay the foundations for creating photographs with meaning. Understanding a photograph can bring a whole new life to photography. I’m hoping to turn this around and introduce a bit more critical theory on the site as well as push my own photographic practice. I also have an interest in art history and photographic history so there are a few books which cover this too.
My current reading list is;
- Ways of Seeing, John Berger, 1972, BBC/Penguin
- Understanding a Photograph John Berger, 2013, Geoff Dyer (ed), Penguin Classics
- Camera Lucida, Barthes, 2000, Vintage
- On Photography, Susan Sontag, 1978, Penguin
- Classic Essays on Photography, Alan Trachtenberg (ed), 1980, Leets Island Books
- Criticizing Photographs, Terry Barrett, 2000, Mayfeild
- Practices of Looking, Martia Sturken & Lisa Cartwright, 2009, Oxford University Press
- Art The Whole Story, Stephen Farthing (ed), 2016, Thames & Hudson
- The Story of Art, E.H Gombrich, 2016, Phaidon
Critical theory sounds dull, but it can open a whole new world of understanding and is definitely an avenue I’d recommend anyone with an interest in art or photography should explore.