I love photography books. Nothing against the books that are mostly text, but a book that exists entirely to serve as a picture gallery exploring specific themes is so delightful to me. I am proud to add Photographer John Dersham’s new photo book to my collection.
My Alabama: John Dersham Photographs a State – May 15, 2019 by John Dersham (Author), Bo Jackson (Foreword)
This beautiful hardcover book highlights the beauty of my home state at a time when it sorely needs some good publicity. John told me he spent four years putting the book together, and the effort certainly shows in this spellbinding collection of landscapes in all four seasons, reflecting the diversity of Alabama as it celebrates its 200th Anniversary of statehood.
He sets a high bar for any photographer wanting to create the definitive showcase of Alabama scenes. I did the author’s photo for the book, and it has been such a treat to see my work be useful for John in promoting his book sales.
John is a mentor of mine, a respected photography educator, and a good man. It is for all of these reasons that I highly recommend buying this book for your photography collection.
Visual Treasures: My Favorite ‘Picture Books’
I own plenty of how-to books on the art and craft of photography, but I’m talking about the ones that are meant to entertain and inspire.
Sure, I also get that from shooters I follow on Flickr or Instagram, but images feed in so rapidly now that even the best images can be forgotten very quickly. A collection of photography that you can hold in your hands just feels more permanent than a collection of pixels that you scroll past once you’ve liked it.
I absorb everything visual, so taking the time to crack open a book containing page after page of quality images really is a mental vacation from my own thoughts. The best ones leave me with a combination of angst that I may never create an image as striking or as poignant as what lays before me, along with a sense of hope and resolve that if I step it up and really take my art seriously, maybe someday I could.
Some of my favorite photography books include…
This was the first big, impressive photo book that I purchased as a young man. It features that unforgettable image of a naked John Lennon straddling a clothed Yoko that was created shortly before he was murdered, along with many of her other iconic images for Rolling Stone magazine, Vanity Fair, and others. I was struck by the level of intimacy Leibovitz achieved with celebrities, as well as the cleaner, clear evolution of her work over time.
Mary Ellen Mark “Streetwise” – June 1, 1988
The first time I viewed Mark’s book showing runaway children living in the streets of Seattle, I discovered the power of photography to offer a powerful commentary on issues of poverty, class, race, and addiction. Three generations later, it continues to remain a relevant statement about the complexity of American life. Sadly, Mark passed away in 2015, but what an amazing contribution she made to photojournalism and portraiture!
The Ansel Adams Photography Series – 2003 by Ansel Adams (Author)
So much of my early interest in photography involved experimenting with his Zone System for seeing grayscale. Today’s digital photographers could benefit from reviewing his examination of optimizing negatives and prints in a chemical darkroom, if only for learning about capturing effects in the camera rather than manipulating in Photoshop after the fact. For years, I had several large Adams prints in my home. His images of Yosemite National Park continue to shape the photography I do of Little River Canyon and other beautiful locations close to my home. My favorite Ansel Adams book is Basic Techniques of Photography by John P. Schaefer, a beautifully illustrated how-to book. Adams was one of the first big-name photographers bringing artistic respectability to the medium.
This is a wonderful and thoughtful examination of how to apply modern art photography techniques and become inspired to shoot atmospheric, fairy-tale artistic photos worthy of exhibiting in a gallery as fine artworks. Shaden offers insight and instruction that serves as a springboard for achieving one’s own distinctive style.
Crazy Sexy Cool – October 1, 1996 by Us Magazine (Editor)
This wonderful compilation captures more than 50 of today’s most popular celebrities, including Johnny Depp, Alicia Silverstone, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, and Keanu Reeves, in provocative, playful, and introspective full-color and black-and-white photographs taken by top photographers like Mark Seliger, Lance Staedler, Albert Watson, and others. Books like these are great tools for bringing my own portrait clients out of their shell, daring them to be as bold as the celebs depicted in various fun, likeable, and intimate ways. Upon seeing images like these, I knew I wanted to do THIS kind of photography – not Olan Mills.
Jeanloup Sieff (Italian) Paperback – 1989 by Jeanloup Sieff (Author)
I found the Paris fashion photographer’s self-titled book of black and white images in the discount bin at a book store and immediately relished in the assortment of sensual imagery. I was impressed by the way Sieff handles sensitive subject matter than would seem near pornographic in a less capable photographer’s hands. It’s obvious that the photographer has a deep appreciation for the female form and expressing it in an elegant way.
Another French fashion photographer, Demarchelier created stunning images for the covers of nearly every major fashion magazine. The one has supermodel Paulina Porizkova on the cover. Demarchelier works like a craftsman with light, color, and beautiful models to achieve nearly geometric compositions of the human form. His work provides insight into how images created at the highest level of the art should look and feel.
“10 Women by Peter Lindbergh” Hardcover – September 1, 1996 by Peter Lindbergh (Author), Karl Langerfeld (Introduction)
This one is a series of fashion images of Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Kristen McMenamy, Kate Moss, Tatjana Patitz, Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington, and Amber Valletta. For each model, Lindbergh presents a portfolio of pictures showing her in various moods and dramatic poses and includes a brief statement in which he attempts to define what makes her a memorable subject. Because he concentrates on the women, not the clothes, his work has unusual intensity and depth.
Fashion Photography: A Complete Guide to the Tools and Techniques of the Trade – October 28, 2008 by Bruce Smith (Author)
I wish I’d had this book at the start of my career. It is jam-packed with tips and tricks of the trade from a fashion industry insider. I met Bruce in Cancun, Mexico a couple of years before he wrote this book. I spent nearly two weeks chatting with him in the lobby of the hotel about random stuff before even seeing any of his photography work, then I was in awe and wished that I had spent that time doing a deep dive into his knowledge and experience. I didn’t know that he was at the same event I was assigned to cover, but he was there to offer a workshop on outdoor lighting techniques. Luckily for me, much of what I might have learned in that time is in this amazing book, plus Interviews with Nigel Barker, Dirk Franke, Barry Lategan, and other top names.
Mystical Sirens – March 15, 2005 by Mark Daughn (Author)
A master of stylish lighting, Daughn shares incredible photography of stunning glamour models such as Divini Rae, Jennifer Korbin, Zdenka Podkapova, Diana Kauffman, and others in locations like glaciers in Alaska and subway stations in Prague in the Czech Republic. I had the pleasure of working with him and several of these beauties while serving as the editor of Savvy.com and negotiating a content sharing arrangement whereas our site shared non-nude teaser versions of these photo shoots. I became a big fan of Daughn’s lighting, his work ethic, the way video so easily integrates into his content alongside stills, and the way he manages to make erotic photography look so damn beautiful and elegant.
Sirens (1997-10-31) – October 31, 1997 by Marco Glaviano (Author)
Speaking of Sirens, they inspired the title of this gorgeous book by Italian lensman Glaviano. It contains many of his stylish photos from the 1980s and 1990s, when Glaviano collaborated with Elite Model Management and worked extensively with prominent models such as Paulina Porizkova, Iman, Joan Severance, Anneliese Seubert, Yasmeen Ghauri, Tatiana Sorokko, Eva Herzigova, and Cindy Crawford. This was his first of 14 published books.
A Private View: Photographs & Diary – February 1999 by David Fahey (Editor), Sante D’Orazio (Photographer), Isabelle Salmon (Designer)
This book also contains many sensual images of gorgeous supermodels, but also pages from his diary, Polaroid snaps, air tickets, notes, and other kinds of personal souvenirs, providing a peep behind the scenes of his work and at the stars he worked with, such as Julia Roberts, Keanu Reeves, the Rolling Stones, Johnny Depp, John Travolta, Kate Moss and many others. his signature subjects are the human form, his own image, sexuality, myth and spirituality, non-Western symbols, and dreamlike visions.
These are probably my favorite prized photo books, but there are so many that bring me hours and hours of inspiration and enjoyment. If you are looking for the same, I can recommend these to start with. I’m always on the prowl for new photography books when I visit Barnes and Noble or search for something at McKay’s Books in Chattanooga.
Future Plans: My Own Photography Book(s)
My future goals include publishing my own fine-art and photojournalistic style photography books.
I am consulting with an expert in fashion merchandising who has spent decades in the business and hope to produce a high-quality, tasteful product that has serious literary and entertainment value, pairing seductive storytelling images with historical facts about undergarments or quotes from celebrities on the topic.
I also have an ongoing project that is closely tied to visualizing the lyrics in classic and contemporary music, essentially the scene I picture in my head as I sing along to the song on the radio.
My intention is to initially publish as an eBook like the ones produced for Nook, Kindle, etc. These are ongoing and long-term projects that I am creating new content for, so if anyone reading this is interested in participating as one of my models, please get in touch!