The Voices In My Head

In Books by David40 Comments


Would you learn photography from THIS man? Thanks to Chris Orwig for this uber-flattering photograph of me. Very nice. (the voices, the voices, make them stop!)

I’ve heard it said that two of the largest influences on who we become are the people we spend time with and the books we read. I went to Photoshop World last week to spend time with people that I believe have something to teach me. It was too short. I could wait forever to get time with all of the photographers I’d like to learn from. But books are easy; they can be taken anywhere, read anytime, and don’t require a trip to Vegas. Here is a collection of the voices that rattle around in my head on a daily basis. Some of them are old, some of them are new. All of them are on my bookshelf and are highly recommended. The links below will take you to Amazon in a new window and I’ll get a dime or two if you buy one. But don’t forget the library – they still let you borrow books for free 🙂

The Mind’s Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson

Photographing the World Around You: A Visual Design Workshop, Freeman Patterson

Photography and the Art of Seeing, Freeman Patterson

Mountain Light, Galen Rowell

The Photographer’s Eye, Michael Freeman

Welcome to Oz, Vincent Versace

The Hot Shoe Diaries, Joe McNally

The Moment It Clicks, Joe McNally

Visual Poetry, Chris Orwig

Tao of Photography, Gross & Shapiro

The War of Art, Steven Pressfield

Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity, Hugh MacLeod

The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp

I know video learning is hot right now, and I know it’s convenient. Heck, I love video learning. But it’s the rare video that teaches what a book can. Books – I mean good books – can teach a  mindset, a way of looking at things, that I have yet to see a video do. Videos feed the geek, books feed the artist, both are needed to improve as photographers. Looking for some new voices to listen to? Look up some of the above books.

The last three aren’t photography books but are must-reads, especially The War of Art, and Ignore Everybody. If you’re twiddling your thumbs waiting for VisionMongers to come out – these two books are absolute essentials for anyone who is even contemplating doing something creative for a living. I love these books and my own copies are marked up and dog-eared beyond recognition to prove it.

Have influencing voices of your own you want to share? Leave a note in the comments. If it’s been a couple days since you’ve been here, keep reading. Yesterday I announced a contest for a free DROBO and the response has been off the hook. I’m closing it at a random date and time, so get in on it while you can.


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  3. I have read one third of the books you propose and they are absolutely great. Will have a look into the other titles. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Great list – you must have looked at my bookshelf because I have most of these. I can especially recommend The War of Art – hopefully I’ll have SP on my blog for a mini-interview soon.

    Others to consider.

    My Tibet – Galen Rowell (photos) and the Dalai Lama (words)

    Annie Leibovitz at Work

    An essential photo business related book would be ASMP’s “Professional Business Practices in Photography”.

  5. Author

    Thanks for the additions, folks. This list is primarily about the words and teachings of other photographers, not just books of photographs, but there’s no reason those too can’t be included too. Keep them coming.

  6. I like your list. There is a photographer who has written a very insightful memoir which touches on the role of mentorship in the creative process. I like this book very much: I Hear A Voice Calling by Gene Lowinger

  7. I can’t believe it is not on your list – a book I go back to again and again for inspiration – The Family of Man, by Edward Steichen for MOMA. I believe it is out of print but is readily available in used book stores and the web.

  8. Another vote for “If You Want to Write…” You could easily just swap the word ‘Shoot’ for ‘Write’ and it’s just as applicable. Used copies abound online for dirt cheap.

  9. Yes, I would definitely learn photography from that man. And you might not add WTF, but it’s one of the greatest books about photography I’ve read, and it found me exactly at the right time. End of sucking up part. LOL.
    Another book that I really love is Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. I learned photography by myself, alone, nobody around to ask a simple question. And that book had the answer to those questions. Highly recommended for beginners.

  10. I would also like to recommend Art and Fear by Bayles/Orland. An excellent discussion of why we make art and more importantly, why we fail to make art. Another one I’d like to recommend was one of the first books I read when was first taking photography seriously and has stayed with me ever since. That’s Edward Weston’s Day Books. He was someone who truly lived his art.

  11. I would recommend ART AND FEAR: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland

  12. I think Ansel Adams’ “The Camera” is a definite must. Not sure how well “The Negative” and “The Print” hold up in a digital world but “The Camera” is the first book any photographer should read.

  13. Pingback: The Voices In My Head – David duChemin (pixelatedimage) @ Photo News Today

  14. Author

    @JVL – Mark actually served as a beta-reader for VisionMongers, so he’s one of the few people on the planet who have read the text. No one but me and the publishing team have seen the final layouts and all the elements, but there are a couple folks that have seen the text. Play your cards right and you might be one of the few chosen to read the next one if I decide to enlist some beta-readers.

  15. Hey Mark, David’s influence is deeper than I realized if VisionMongers has already been an influence to you.

    I’ll second that, inevitably, future books, as yet unreleased, will have a profound impact on my life. Maybe like that sports book from Back to the Future II… the one that lists winning numbers that makes Biff Rich.

  16. Author

    LOL. Yeah, I’d add Within The Frame too, but i’m afraid it would appear oddly self-self serving. I figure if you’re here, you’ve read it, or plan to, or know I’ll cry if you don’t pretent to have read it.

  17. Either of Nick Brandt’s books (especially for those photogs going to Africa with you)

    The Photoshop Lightroom Workbook: Workflow not Workslow in Lightroom 2 by Seth Resnick and Jamie Spritzer

    Irving Penn: Small Trades

    VisionMongers: Making a Life and a Living in Photography (how could you leave this one out!)

    And I can wholeheartedly recommend Chris Orwig’s book as well as anything by Freeman Patterson.

  18. My favorite photo book isn’t on that list and you wrote it!

    Within the Frame, definitely needs to be added.

    Also, I’d add Creative Filmmaking From the Inside Out by Jed Dannenbaum, Carroll hodge and Doe Mayer.

    It’s about the creative process and most of the things said about video can be applied to stills. Worth a read for anyone who does anything creative.

  19. Well, to be real, my wife went to school for photography and she has been the biggest influence. One can drop names of published this and that, but if its someone on a much less recognized level who is still doing great work, its worth recognizing.

    So, my wife. There. 🙂

  20. What? Nobody’s thrown in Within the Frame WTF!? While the Joe McNally books tell me a lot about the geeky how, WTF taught me loads on the “why” and the more spiritual “how” (how to “see” but in a trippy minds-eye sort of way).

    A few non-photo books that have certainly influenced me as a person, and inevitably my photography, would be the Tao of Pooh… something that just teaches me to slow down sometimes, not get frustrated, not to focus on my GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). To find the frame first, sit, the shot will come. Too often do I go on a photowalk and come back with nothing, because I walk briskly, and fail to see and experience the world around me.

    Finally, if you want to know a bit about visual storytelling read Understanding Comics by Scott McLeod, I worked in a comic book store for years, and like how Freemen dissects the frame in the Photographers Eye, McLeod will layout sequential storytelling; a great way to develop narrative in your photographs is to understand the way they relate to each-other and themselves. Just like a comic book panel!

  21. I come here often and check out your portfolio Dave. Its a great way to develop a framing style.
    Another guy’s site I frequent is a photojournalist for a small paper in Illinois, but he puts up some great stuff on his blog:

    Just nice to see people who are out there working it, and seeing the output. For us amateurs, it really helps develop a vision.

  22. David, I would certainly add the three Ansel Adams books: The Camera, The Negative, and The Print. While dated in terms of current technology, they were invaluable to me in learning the art of pre-visualization. You’ve discussed elsewhere that you’re interested in bettering your landscape photography skills; who better than one of the masters to teach you?

  23. Author

    Justin, as Winnie The Pooh once said, this is far too important to be taken seriously. 🙂

  24. David,

    I love photo. But what I love even more is the fact that you posted it. I agree with an earlier post that it really shows us a bit more of who you are and the kind of person you are.

    You certainly know your stuff and have been highly successful but at the same time, you don’t take yourself too seriously.

    I like that.

    I’ll keep reading and supporting your writing career.

  25. Author

    Ron. Sadly, there is no liquifying going on here. Can’t for the life of me think what might have possessed me to ever do this in the first place. Once a comedian, always a comedian, I guess.

    Thanks for the recommendations, the first one looks particularily up my alley, I’ll see if I can dig it out at any of the local bookmongers before I resort to an Amazon order. I like Amazon well enough but would rather shop with the little guys first or they’ll all but vanish.

  26. Cool list…this should keep me busy for a while.
    By the way, I love the site. Ever since you and Brandon put on that photography workshop for us here in Temple, TX, this site has been a daily read for me. Keep up the great work!

  27. Okay, I’ll ask… Was that pic done using the ‘liquify” tool in PS, or can you really do that? And if so, what prompted you to try it the first time? And I’ll add two books to the list…

    The first is a great book with a bad title — If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit, by Brenda Ueland. The sub-title sums it up nicely; it’s about the creative process, and not just writing.

    The Ansel Adams Autobiography is good for a peek into the lives of some of the masters, as well as life in the days of film. AA was friends with Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keefe, among many others. A good read for inspiration if nothing else. AA was a true gentleman.

  28. Great List David a few new ones there I need to look into. I agree there is nothing like a book for real learning, it adds something to the process. This may be an odd choice for photography but I would add “The Tao of Poo” by Benjamin Hoff, it is on my list for those times I need to relearn to see.

  29. I love the list of books but I love the super-awesome photo of you at the top of this post. Very awesome. I think that those sorts of shots of people show their character and sense of humour the most. Simply Awesome!!!

  30. Well I guess the voices in your head are The Voices That Matter… 🙂 I usually buy from so a tip could be to get the same deal there.

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