I do most of my photography in black and white, ordinary silver gelatin. Yet it seems that my photo book collection is anything but. Perhaps I fear competition?
"Our true intent is all for your delight." AMAZING set of postcard shots taken at the Butlin resorts (a british kind of club med, before it was cheap enough to have vacations on the real Med). They explain everything about the photography of Martin Parr (just exaggerating a bit here), and they are masterfully executed.
"Fred Herzog" If you know him, then you deserve my respect. Fred Herzog is a Vancouver colour photographer, and no, he's not Jeff Wall. He arrived from Germany after the war, and has been taking handheld colour 35mm photos since then. A rare document and breathtaking eye.
"The antiquarian avant-garde" a collection book about the alt processes. Organized by process, the book tries to explain the relationship that exists between current avant-garde photographers and 19thC processes. Interviews with Sally Mann on collodion, Chuck Close and Jerry Spagnoli on Daguerreotype, and more. Another rare combination. It's not a how-to manual, and some of the photos are definitely head-scratching inducing, others absolutely gorgeous. High-falutin and beautiful.
"American Surfaces" by Stephen Shore. I'm starting to like this one more than Uncommon Places, because there are so many jokes in it, and such a profusion of little things that it's an absolute joy, and reads like a novel.
"Emotions and Relations" A Taschen collection of Nan Goldin & friends photographs. Some great stuff, some that makes you go meh, but it was a bargain.
"Light: Science and Magic" definitively the best book on the principles of lighting. Makes you understand how to check your angles, types of reflection, light sources, surfaces, etc.
"Post Exposure" Ctein is an endearing writer, and his dedication to figure out the truth behind common conceptions of the craft is essential. Sometimes contradicted by...
"Edge of Darkness" by the late Barry Thornton, no less gifted a writer, and an amazing photographer. This has to be the only book ever to really strike a balance between technical knowledge and fine photography. Fred Picker's book "The Fine Print" comes close.
"The Photographer's Toning Book" by Tim Rudman. Best and only complete reference on toning prints. Enough info to keep you busy for decades.
The Kodak Dataguides: B&W, Color, and Professional Photo. I have the 70's editions, the ones on heavy paper, actual paper samples, and analogue dial computers for exposure compensation, guide numbers, etc. It's an actual marvel of design and function.
"Photography" by John and Barbara Upton. An old edition with actually good photographs to illustrate the basic parameters of photo, science and art. The later editions have more stock shots, probably because they couldn't renew rights or whatnot. This was the book that allowed me to understand photography; all the rest was refining that knowledge.
AA's The Negative and The Print. 'Nuff said.
Currently on loan from the library:
"Modern Photographic Process" by Grant Haist. With Mees' "The Theory of the Photographic Process", this is the 101 book for photo engineers. In broad circulation, this is about as scientific a book on photo you will find. Beyond that, you really need to go read the publications in specialized journals. Personally, I only have my two organic and inorganic chemistery class from CEGEP, but I can follow. Not that I'm really going to design my own developer soon, but I enjoy learning about molar solutions of obscure benzene molecules. It's a bit like the Extended Cut of Anchell and Troop's "Cookbook"s.
"The Complete Untitled Film Stills" by Cindy Sherman. The first contact I had with Cindy Sherman was through academic papers about her. Bleh. But if you actually LOOK at her photos instead of trying to cope with the po-mo BS, her photos are actually brilliant, innovative, and deal with significant issues.
Must buy soon:
"What Remains" by Sally Mann. I love Sally Mann because her photos can at the same time absolutely irritate me, put me out of myself ("how could she do that? This is not art?" while I tear my hair, until I eventually think I get it), while knocking me down with their brilliance. "What Remains" to me has the most powerful finale a photo book ever had.