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Book Reviews

Naomi Rosenblum's A World History of Photography book

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. 

David Hume Kennerly's On the iPhone book
The Art of iPhone Photography  book

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.

Kat Sloma's Art with an iPhone book
Taking Stock: Make money in microstock creating photos that sell by Rob Sylvan book

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. 

 Photojojo!: Insanely Great Photo Projects and DIY Ideas book
Photography: The Whole Story 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.  

Photography: The 50 most influential photographs of all time book
John Freeman's Photography: The New Complete Guide to Taking Photographs book

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. 

Photography the Definitive Visual History by Tom Ang book
 Picturing Toronto: Photography and the Making of a Modern City by Sarah Bassnett 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. 

Freeman Patterson The Garden book
Behind the Camera book

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. 

DianneBos The Sleeping Green book
Store Front II book

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. 

 Garry Winogrand book
The Ruins of Detroit  book

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. 

Horst Friedrichs Cyclestyle book
Roger Watson and Helen Rappaport Capturing the Light book

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. 

A Chronology of Photography book
Styling for Instagram book

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. 

 Insta Style book

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. 

Photoshop Restoration and Retouching  book
Yosemite in the Sixities  by Glen Denny book

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. 

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. 

Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom book
American City: Detroit Architecture 1845-2005 book

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!

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