The Gift of Inspiration

In Books, Creativity and Inspiration by David13 Comments

Ah, Christmas time, that precious time of year once set aside to celebrate love, peace, and forgiveness. It’s also that time of year when the blogs get full to bustin’ with “official” gift guides (it’s true, they register them down at town hall.) for photographers who need more clever gimmicks and plastic crap like they need a wet tongue on their sensor.

Want to give the photographers in your life something that will last longer than so much of the stuff being flogged? Give them a day out without the kids to make some photographs. Get them a membership to a local art gallery. Or consider getting them a book. Get them something that will feed their imaginations, stir their thoughts, and fan the flames of the love they have for photographs themselves.  If you’re looking for ideas, and aren’t planning to shell out for the camera they keep hinting about,  here are 10 books you might consider.

Andrew Zuckerman, BIRD.
I love this book. I’ve got Wisdom too. Gorgeous colour, scale, and light. I know, you don’t think you like birds. “Bird people” are creepy. I get it. But this will blow your mind. You might also look at his other books, Creature, Wisdom, and his just released, Flower. On Amazon HERE.

Iceland, A Journal of Nocturnes – Bruce Percy.
Simply gorgeous. I got mine a couple weeks ago and spent a few hours looking through it, before returning to it to study his compositions. Bruce’s sense of balance and tension, and the serenity of the light he captures, is second to none. Available from Half Light Press HERE.

Magnum Contact Sheets.
I love this book. It’s huge. And it’s not cheap. But here you can see some of the iconic photographs from the last century, in a context we rarely see them – sandwiched on contact sheets by the frames made before and after. This one’s a killer and I’d put it  at the top of the list. On Amazon HERE.

Vivian Maier, Street Photographer.
If the photographer in your life (I know, that might be you, that’s OK) likes candid and street photography, you’d not do much better than this one showing the work of Vivian Maier. On Amazon HERE.

Walker Evans, American Photographs
Every photographer should know the work of Walker Evans. Enough said. On Amazon HERE.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Photographer.
Classic stuff from the man who popularized the idea of the decisive moment. On Amazon HERE.

Elliott Erwitt, Personal Best.
My favourite photographer. Hands down. The king of wit and juxtaposition. On Amazon HERE.

Paul Nicklen, Polar Obsession.
This guy has my dream job. Except for the cold and the wet part involved in being a polar diver and photographer. The cover alone blows my mind. On Amazon HERE.

Karsh Portraits.
My first photography idol. Still a man I revere. If you can get one, this is a classic. On Amazon HERE.

Masterclass, Arnold Newman.
I’ve never seen this one, but it’s now on my own list. On Amazon HERE.

Better yet, make a donation in their name to Kids With Cameras, then head over with a bottle of wine and spend some time together. No gift guide in the world has that one on it. We’re going to keep December pretty quiet around here. I’ll save my usual Christmas post for later, but I trust you all manage to find peace and time with loved ones in all the chaos. Got an idea for celebrating that preserves the wonder and doesn’t involve the usual descent into madness, let us know! 🙂



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  4. Hey David,

    How about taking the time to create a beautiful print? Hone one’s craft and create a gift as well…..

    Or if you’re shopping for a book how about “Venice in Solitude” by Christopher Thomas. Large format photographs of Venice devoid of people……


  5. I’ve been so incredibly lucky to get to travel and shoot with Paul Nicklen. Fabulous, passionate photographer. Awesome book. Thanks for the other recommendations. I’ll make sure my “santa” knows about them.

  6. Oh and as you were modest enough to not do it… I hear there are some great books by some guy called David duChemin that any photographer would love to get. Very inspirational 😉

  7. I was lucky enough to pick up Elliot Erwin’s Personal Best for a steal when Borders bookshop in the UK went under. Its a hefty tome but like you do, I’d heartily recommend it. Filled with great and witty shots.

  8. David, thanks for the recommendations. I enjoy looking at how women see/have seen the world. Which women’s work would you recommend in addition to Vivien Maier?

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