In my Created Image video, one of the things I strongly advocate is studying the masters. I think finding those masters, the ones with whom you truly resonate, and finding them yourself, is part of the fun. I’m always hesitant to tell people to study this person or this person, because the list of photographers I myself don’t know, photographers we’d learn so much from studying, is so much longer than the one I’ve got in my mind. But if your question is who are the photographers whose work is on my own shelves, from whom I’ve learned so much, and to whom – dead or alive – I still return to learn from, that’s a question I feel good about answering.
Here, right now, are the photographers who grace my shelves, whose work is still readily available, for the most part on Amazon.com. I learn more, at this stage of my journey, from the work in these books than I do from any how-to manual I might find. But even younger photographers, photographers who still need the how-to books, should be studying these or others like them.
In no particular order, here’s what’s on my shelf right now:
Sebastiao Salgado – Genesis, Workers, and AfricaVivian Maier – Street Photographer
Elliott Erwitt – Personal Best (also look up Paris, and New York)
Andreas Feininger – That’s Photography
Yousuf Karsh, Portraits
Gregory Heisler – 50 Portraits
Michael Kenna – Images of the Seventh Day, and A Twenty Year Retrospective.
Steve McCurry – The Unguarded Moment, Looking East, and In the Shadow of Mountains
Galen Rowell – A Retrospective (but you should also look at The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography if you’re into landscapes)
Arnold Newman, Arnold Newman, A Masterclass, and anything else with his name on it.
Robert Frank – The Americans
Fred Herzog, PhotographsAndrew Zuckerman, Wisdom, Bird, Creature.
Others you should know – Robert Capa, Robert Doisneau, Walker Evans, Lewis Hine, Gordon Parks, Irving Penn, W. Eugene Smith, Edward Weston, Garry Winogrand, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eliot Porter, Philip Hyde. Oh, and Saul Leiter.
Also look at Magnum Contact Sheets – it’s amazing.
Start with a Google search, find the ones you resonate with, and go from there. But remember that this list is so partial and incomplete that it’s embarassing. It misses so many, and it favours the ones I love while neglecting others I still have much to learn from, including entire genres. But this list should give you a start if you’re looking for one.
Got one that should be on this list? Leave it in the comments below.