Art & Photo 
Book Reviews

What came before the digital age of photography is just as important for picture-taking now. Start here with this book!

 

Naomi Rosenblum's A World History of Photography should be on every photographer's list or any enthusiast. It is an overview of the history of photography that is more indepth than any course on the subject. Students and instructors use it tirelessly. The images are iconic and powerful and well laid out. 

 

It is definitely an inspiration to any photographer. 

This is less a how-to manual and more of a small coffee table book chronicling a Pulitzer winning photographer's experiments with an iphone. The photos in David Hume Kennerly's On the iPhone are beautiful and will give you the inspiration to try things out. The tips portion are more words of wisdom on what makes a good photo, portrait etc. by a award-winning photographer. If you are looking for specific instruction for your iphone or android camera then it is best to look elsewhere (see Kat Sloma's book Art with an iPhone instead).

 

David Hume Kennerly won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for his photos of the Vietnam War when he was 25 years old - one of the youngest people to ever receive that honour. 

The work of 45 different photographers in The Art of iPhone Photography gives anyone wanting to progress their photography, and specifically their smartphone photography, an excellent direction. The book is both coffee-table beautiful in its examples but detailed enough in its instruction to be a technical manual. Each photographer goes into great detail on how they got and edited their shots including what apps they used and how to use them with step-by-step visual instruction.  

Now if you are looking for an iPhone camera specific book, this is the one for you. Kat Sloma's Art with an iPhone gives both inspiration and instruction in her slim yet packed volume. She covers the photography basics but also shows you how to handle lighting with your phone's settings, HDR, filters and special effects found in apps. Her examples also act as inspiration to try out different projects. Each topic has a two-page spread with plenty of examples including what to look for on your screen to transform your image. It is a wonderful book for iphone and even Android enthusiasts.

Interested into turning your hobby into a bit of a money maker? Or looking for another line of income for your established photography business? Well Taking Stock: Make money in microstock creating photos that sell by Rob Sylvan does emphasize that the "bit" part of money maker. This is quite a flooded market with so many online sites selling stock photography. However, with an idea of what sells and what to keep an eye out for, you could make some money in this business. This book is a good overview of the business and helps you become aware of other business matters you should also lookout for such as model and property releases. 

Wondering what to do with your images? Are these just taking up digital room and you rarely look at them? Then maybe you need some inspiration to get you printing and using those photos so you can display them and see them on a daily bases. You need Photojojo!: Insanely Great Photo Projects and DIY Ideas. It will also give you ideas for photo projects and get you making more images and using some diy/crafting skills. Don't worry there are great instructions and lists of materials that you will need including a list of resources for those materials at the back of the book. 

Looking for a smaller, pocket-sized version of the above or just more concerned with THE iconic photos in the history of photography? Then  Photography: The 50 most influential photographs of all time is for you. The book while highlighting the key participants in the history of photography also gives a context to the time that each contributed to. There are chapters on the rise of photo journalism and the photograph as a document, the rock and roll years of photography and alternative processes and yes the camera can lie.  

Even though this book is only 6 years old it already feels dated in many ways. However don't let that stop you from reading John Freeman's Photography: The New Complete Guide to Taking Photographs.   It still talks about film but also goes in depth to study digital photography. From how to take care of your camera to how to set up a shot, this book covers all that you need to know to start taking your own wonderful photos. If portraiture is your aim, it talks about lighting and subject as well as make-up for photography. The book even covers aerial and underwater photography. Every aspect is covered.

Adding to your coffee table collection and wanting an overview of the history of photography, then Photography the Definitive Visual History by Tom Ang, may be a great choice for you. There are sections on the social, historic and artistic context to photography, its artists and its images and its technical progression to present day. It also looks indepth at its famous practioners and their body of work or singles out iconic images to talk about in greater detail. There is a section at the back of the book that list key photographers and their career highlights. It is a stunning book. 

Picturing Toronto: Photography and the Making of a Modern City by Sarah Bassnett is both a wonderful history book of the city of Toronto and a photographic coffee table book of archival images of the city. There have been so many changes to the city, for better or for worse. Of the latter we have lost some historic buildings over the years in the name of progress so it is nice to have at least a record of those. Toronto is becoming a very modern city but it is nice to look back and see where we once started. 

There are many great floral photographers out there but this one has created a whole garden to be their subject. New Brunswick based photographer Freeman Patterson shows his garden throughout the year in stunning colour in his book The Garden. There are macro shots and wide angle views and images of all stages of life of plants. He even makes dying hosta leaves look fascinating and wonderful. 

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Anyone who is interested in Photojournalism and how it influences portraiture and streetphotography will love Behind the Camera. The large, mostly full-paged, images are well reproduced of the greats like Dorothea Lange and Robert Capa. There are also more recent photographers in this overview such as Sebastio Salgado and Steve McCurry. 

This book goes along with the exhibition of Dianne Bos' show The Sleeping Green. I was lucky to see it in my hometown of Hamilton and got to meet the artist. This body of work uses Bos' well-honed skills of pinhole photography with some additional elements. It is a powerful show and companion book. The subject is the No Man's Land 100 years after the Great War. Mother Nature is powerful but even it doesn't hide all of the scars from WWI. Try to find this book if you can. Unfortunately I don't have a link to where you can purchase it. 

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I worked on a series of store front images years ago for Contact Photography Festival in Toronto and I still can't help myself from still taking pics when I stumble across a unique one on my travels. Some of these were old store fronts in NYC so I particularly loved seeing this book Store Front II. You cannot find store fronts like these nowadays and soon they will be gone for good especially in NYC where property is worth so much and independents are often made an offer they can't refuse or simply cannot compete with chains. I highly recommend this coffee table book. The price isn't for the faint of heart but it will make a beautiful addition to your collection. 

Possibly why Garry Winogrand isn't as famous as some of his contemporary New York based photographers like Diane Arbus or Robert Frank, is because of his working style. However, he is important at a crucial time in the US just after the war and full of hope but also "on the verge of spinning out of control." Winogrand really showed only a small part of his work in exhibitions and teaching. He wasn't great at note taking etc or even developing his film (he left 6500 rolls of filmed undeveloped or unproofed at the time of of his death), preferring to be out photographing instead. So when he died relatively young at 56 he left behind a lot of questions. This book tries to address them for a retrospective of his work. 

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I love Detroit and it changes every time I go there but yes there are still wonderful structures that are abandoned but many are also being restored especially along Woodward Ave, the city's main drag downtown. And even the wonderful train station is also being restored by the Ford Motor Company. But if you are into ruin porn The Ruins of Detroit may be the coffee table book for you. There are gorgeous, large-scale photographs of abandoned factories, office buildings, churches etc. It is a sumptuous book to own. It is important to counter it with looking at the city, maybe even take a trip to see the wonderful architecture that is coming back to life. 

Like photographs? Like bicycles? Like people looking dandy or hipster on said bikes? All of the above? You may then like Cyclestyle. There are pictures of gorgeous bikes, people and places and clothes. What isn't there to love? And really that's all this book is and it is pretty upfront about it. You are not going to learn about cycling or the people or places featured. But hey, that's okay. 

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I'm not even sure I should be reviewing this book, Capturing the Light, as I only managed a chapter of it. I was excited to get it as I've read about these two inventors of photography, Louis Daguerre and Henry Fox Talbot, as well as early photographic scientists like Niepce, but not as indepthly as this book promised. I just couldn't get through it, though. To say dry is an overstatement. It really reads like an undergraduate text, and I have read a lot of those in a previous life. But give it a go.  

Yet another chronology/history of Photography book you say. This is a bit different from the above, though. A Chronology of Photography does create the standard timeline of the history of photography's earliest stages to present day. However, interspersed are sections focused on other aspects of photography like the Daguerrotype to present day social media and instagram and how this contributes to the history of the medium. There are even sections on Magnum photographic agency, architecture, sport, photomontage, street photography etc. The images are large and well reproduced. It's a coffee table sort of book with a lot of info. 

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Do you follow certain instagrammers just because their profile page is full of gorgeous, curated photographs, or did one of their photos stand out from the crowd when you were merely scrolling through loads of other images? How do they do that? This book, Styling for Instagram,  might help crack into that if you're just starting and don't really know how to proceed. It will also help you start off as you mean to go on with thinking about your brand and who you want to attract to your feed. Certain ideas such as travel, props, charm act as jumping off points. Popular instagrammers are interviewed for their top tips as well. 

Another instagram how to. However, Insta Style, focuses more on the author's own methods as an influencer. How did this stunning 6 foot blond who works in music, fashion and photography in an equally cool city like New York make it? Okay that's cynical but you get the gist. There are some takeaways for your own. There's info on tracking your engagement and other metrics. There's even how to work with a photographer if you're throwing everything you've got at this. Or do your own photography (there's tips for that like the general basics and creating presets for "your look"). Tezza's instagram runs the whole gamut of her fantastic life like travel, beauty, fashion, family, health, food. But you can take what you like, or don't, from these sections. I found the "Discoverable" section the most informative in the book. Like Styling for Instagram she does interview others for tips. 

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Okay this isn't strictly a photography book but come on! Women artists! There are far too few of these books and it does feature female photographers like Stephanie Vovas, Samantha Fields, and collage artists working with images. I find that other mediums often influence my work as a photographer so it is important to read about their processes and what influences them and what obstacles they've overcome. A Big Important Art Book Now with Women is definitely worthy of your book collection.

This book is just crammed with oodles of information even to what chair to consider when doing hours of restoration of photos. Yes folks, digital restoration of damaged photos is not a 2 min job! Photoshop Restoration and Retouching is a fabulous book. I got it out of the library but I really need to own this book! Absolutely everything is covered including storage of digital photos. 

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Studio : creative spaces for creative pe

Again Studio : creative spaces for creative people isn't strictly a photography book but it is full of gorgeous photos of creative studio spaces. And if you are stuck in a small room or sharing a multi-purpose space then this will make you drool with envy. It does make the point that you can carve a space unique and functional to you almost anywhere. 

Following along with the theme (and you'll see why I have been looking at these books if you go to my series of Creative Women in Hamilton) of creative spaces I give you Maker spaces : creative interiors from the homes and studios of inspiring makers and designers. Once again there are some truly envious creative spaces to admire in full colour in this book but it also talks about the variety of types of space like shared spaces. It features 13 creatives and their spaces and their artwork. Definitely a good book to curl up with on a grey day. 

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In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs, I had totally forgotten that this book was on my wish list when it came out and didn't think about it until I had already started my own similar project Creative Women of Hamilton. So instead of research for what questions to ask my participants it acted as an inspiration and confirmation that what I am doing is working. So, yes it isn't a photography book as such but the photos are fantastic and it will inspire you as well. The interviews with each participant gives you hope for your own work. These women worked hard to be where they are and their talent is amazing. 

After a recent trip consisting of a few national parks in Nevada, Utah and Arizona, I want to see more. Of course Yosemite has always been on the list especially after studying Ansel Adams photos taken there. Yosemite in the Sixities features the photographs taken by Glen Denny. He climbed but also documented his fellow climbers for a decade, some of the finest of our time, who developed techniques to climb Yosemite's sheer cliffs and who were based in Camp 4. Denny captured some of the climbing shots without the aid of various modern modes that photographers use today. 

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I know I keep harping on about Detroit. But it really is a great city. And a lot of cities, including my own could learn from it especially in preserving some very fine architecture. American City: Detroit Architecture 1845-2005 has great photos of some wonderful buildings, many of which are or are being restored. But I would also just suggest going to the city!

American photographer Lee Friedlander created a visual language in the 1960s and 70s of urban "social landscape". Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom however documents this extraordinary event, organized by Mr. Rustin, as well as A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was given access to some of the key leaders of the period - a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement. This is documentary photography at its finest. 

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This man, Grayson Perry, got me through the first lockdown with his show Art Club on. Channel4! Now while this isn't an art book per se it is a book by an artist and has illustrations by said artist. The Descent of Man is an important book about masculinity today. See it as a guide for not becoming a stereotype if you are a man. And if you are raising a man how to go about that. 

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Now this Grayson Perry book is more about art, or specifically the art market and understanding art and the art world.  Playing to the Gallery dispels some myths about the art world and makes it more approachable to the layman. I love his comment about photography in the 1990s. How can you tell if a photograph is fine art? Well if they are huge! Even though he is now part of the art establishment he doesn't mind making fun of its elements. And of course there are more colourful, hilarious and piss-taking illustrations. 

Jean Haines' Atmospheric Watercolours: Painting with Freedom, Expression and Style is for the beginner and beyond. She takes you through the basics like what materials you will use etc. but she goes beyond this with demonstrations and such things as the philosophy of colour. It is useful if you are a watercolourist and feeling in a bit of a rut of late. Or you are trying to loosen up the way you paint. 

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Jean Haines' World of Watercolour is much more suitable for beginner to intermediate watercolour artist. Haines describes her style and influences, information about her palette and paper choices and brushes. There are loads of demonstrations of techniques building up the reader to using these elements in larger paintings. Landscape, wildlife and portrait instruction are all there. What drew me to this book is the looseness and simplification of Haines' work. 

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Artists' Drawing Techniques published by Dorling Kindersley reminds me of their travel books. I used to pore over those and their pages of bird's eye views of museums in various cities. That same indepthness is in this book as well. It takes you through everything you need to get started such as composition and materials. Then in focuses in on media in each chapter - pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, coloured pencil and pastels. It starts you with beginner techniques and brings you up to more advanced techniques in wonderful, detailed photos. Materials are pictured and things like how the media reacts to different surfaces helps beginners and more advanced artists alike. 

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Essential Techniques of Landscape Drawing by Suzanne Brooker is another incredible book focused on drawing. Brooker works from objects in order to show how light and form need to be drawn and then shows how this is applied to landscapes. You have to start small in order to tackle the wider world, literally. Techniques like tonal shading and contour lines will help you to portray realistic forms in nature. Then there is how to build up to a full landscape drawing by breaking the elements down. How to study cloud formations, how to portray different terrain and how to properly depict vegetation, how to suggest atmosphere and on. Packed with photos, this is a great guide for a landscape artist.  

Another DK publication that doesn't disappoint at least to this art supply junkie! The Artist's Manual goes into great depth about media including photography, film and outdoor materials. It covers it all. The next part of the book goes into how this media is used to make art - blending techniques, colour information as well as forms of art from the traditional still life to painting from photographs and fabricating materials to form sculpture or assemblages for site specific works. Even if the latter isn't your thing it is still a fascinating read. I love the detail and photographs for printmaking - something that sometimes gets left out in art books on media and art making. This should be part of any artist's library. 

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Another Grayson Perry book! I have just loved watching his Art Club tv programme. Try to find it because it will restore your faith in humanity. The people and their stories really make it. And Grayson and his wife, Philippa, make an artwork each week. I wanted to see more of his actual artwork and this book, Grayson Perry, delivers. It's almost like a catalogue raisonné but is a monograph of his work and this is an updated and expanded edition. This book surveys his life and work and is written by Jacky Klein who also wrote his biography (see above). The book has large reproductions of his artwork and their inspiration as well as images from his life. The amount of detail in his work is incredible. 

Ann Blockley has a series of books on watercolour. Her Watercolour Workshop: Projects and Interpretations guides you on how to see your subject and how to combine techniques and mixed media to interpret it. There are the basics about choosing paper and tools but then you get started into full on guided projects such as ways to paint a white flower or using more inventive materials like gesso and tissue paper. It is mostly focused on landscape but the ideas can be applied to other things. I love that there is so much experiment away from the usual watercolour painting. The textures produced are wonderful. It's more about mark making rather than a realistic interpretation of a scene.

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Jake Spicer often writes how to articles for the magazine Artist and Illustrator and they are amazing so I wanted to try his books. His You Will Be Able to Draw Faces by the End of This Book will be able to help even the most novice artist. The book is laid out in a workbook form with various exercises working you towards more and more study of certain aspects of the face including angles, neck and shoulders (sometimes forgotten about) to hair and accessories. Each part of the face also has its own exercises with plenty of space to try them out inside the book. At the beginning of the book there is even a guide to how long each segment takes if you are looking for warm-up exercises, ones that will take 15mins or longer studies. He is a great teacher. 

Now moving on to the full body. Jake Spicer again takes you step by step in his Figure Drawing: A Complete Guide to Drawing the Human Body. This isn't a workbook like the above with areas set aside to practice your skills. You'll have to have your own sketchbook for that. He discusses tools you may need, and there are exercises. There are also spotlights on famous artists and their interpretation of the human form. You'll learn about tone and contour, shadow, mark making but also looser interpretations of the human form in his Beyond Looking section. Here you are responding to a feeling, showing movement through gesture etc. It really is the clearest and most comprehensive instruction on drawing the human form. 

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This book may be little but it is packed with ideas to get you out of your artistic rut. Joanna Goss' The Watercolor Ideas Book takes you from ideas concerning the nature of watercolour such as playing with opacity and glazing to themes to thinking well outside the box such as working on found paper or collage to using embroidery with it or creating dioramas. Every idea comes with a beautiful artwork as an example. 

David Chandler takes you through 30 watercolour works from the Tate collection in his Master Watercolour: Painting Techniques inspired by Influential Artists. You start with an artwork as inspiration by such notable figures as JMW Turner and Paul Cézanne to modern figures such as Maggi Hambling. Then the David Chandler gets to work using their artwork as inspiration to create an entirely new work and you see the steps he takes. The palette is listed as well as the tools he uses. Again this is inspiration and not a direct copy. Sometimes they are more alike the original and sometimes quite different. It is a great way to learn from the greats and also to break out of a rut to try something new. It's also just a beautiful guide to the Tate's watercolour collection. 

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Hazel Sloan's Light and Shade in Watercolour is a thorough book examining how to depict light and shade in watercolour (the same key elements can be applied to different media), to exploring colour and how to use light and shade to create an effect or add to a composition. Most of the examples are focused on landscape or figures but there are also examples of floral and other objects. It also deals with using focus and blur (and how to achieve that) to denote atmosphere, objects of attention or in shade. 

I love looking at other people's sketchbooks. I know mine are often little moments around my city or elsewhere or working out different techniques and ideas. For the great artist David Hockney it is more of the former. A Yorkshire Sketchbook is a beautiful reproduction of his sketchbook. Nothing is left out (except for a couple of blank pages). They are just little snatches and scenes from his beloved Yorkshire. It is really delightful to see. I'm trying to be looser in my sketches like Hockney. 

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The more I look through City Sketching Reimagined by Jeanette Barnes and Paul Brandford the more I like it and the more I learn. Some of these are just snippets like using a glue stick to much up your paper and try drawing over it for a looser look. Some of the hints or insights are just like that - small snippets of ideas while others dive into the key things like perspective (that pesky thing!) and approaching the drawing of figures. Some are just spotlights on the places the authors have sketched (including my hometown of Toronto!). There are more of their ideas on tools and media and exercises for those who like that sort of thing. The images are incredible. Some of them remind me of a wild Piranesi drawings or architecture - so much line work that really imbue the image with life of a hectic city. This book feels like a conversation with a friend. And I can totally take the advice of going to a cocktail bar and sketching!

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I came to this book, Urban Drawing, because I follow the author/artist on Instagram. He is known as @shoreditchsketcher . I just love his images of buildings and street scenes from London. And I also miss London a whole lot... There's the usual instruction on composition and perspective needed (or not because that's cool too!) for urban drawing. However, I think Phil Dean excels at describing how altering line size or adding tone etc. can change the composition and outcome. There are many exercises to try out as well. And follow him on Instagram!

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Another David Hockney book...Spring Cannot be Cancelled. Can you have too many? This is an artist who in his 80s is still exploring and still learning and I think that is an inspiration. Hockney could just churn out the same work that made him famous but he doesn't. In an exchange between the artist and art critic, Martin Gayford we explore these ideas and art history. Like the draw of Yorkshire, the nature of the place and the changes of the season, you have a similar but with the artist's home in France his subject while we were all in lockdown. A beautiful and informative book. This isn't a coffee table book although it has wonderful reproduction of Hockney's and other notable artists' work. It is very rich exploration of what is art by both a critic and an artist with long careers.

I haven't done calligraphy for years and I'm out of practice. I also know certain calligraphy is see as more modern. In steps Modern Calligraphy Workshop. This is another one of those books that I got at the library and then wanted to own for myself. 

There are practice lines and exercises (I like doing lines of lettering) but Imogen Owen also shows you other ideas to inspire and take you into more creative typography. My favourite to practice was definitely the brush lettering technique. I need more practice with the beautiful handwriting examples. 

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