Winter Reading List

Following the success of my Summer recommended art-related reading, I have compiled my Winter list for all of you arts readers and those looking to add to their Christmas lists. I have chosen to limit this list to printed books and not include online content or periodicals. I have read each book on this list (often more than once), and selected titles that I have found helpful in my own art and business practices. This list is not intended to be a review of each book, nor is it focused on new releases, as there are so many great books that remain relevant today. 

Working Stiffs: Occupational Portraits in the Age of Tintypes
Michael L. Carlebach
Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2002
Pages: 144

While the title implies a textbook, this little volume is so much more than a history of the tintype. Beautifully illustrated, this book examines the impact that the “fast and cheap” form of photography made on the general public. The arguments against the “new” technology are the same arguments we have today over digital technology. A short but captivating read. 

Purchase from Abe Books.


Pandora’s Camera: Photography After Photogr@aphy
Joan Fontcuberta
Publisher: MACK, 2014
Pages: 192

Mentioned on DTP before, renowned photographer Joan Fontcuberta’s essays are amusing as well as insightful in their discussion of the technological shift in photography in recent years. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in thoughtful discussion of photography’s past and future. 

Purchase from MACK Books. 


Why Photography Matters
Jerry L. Thompson
Publisher: MIT Press, 2013
Pages: 104

This little book is really one long-form essay that delves into what makes photography a unique medium. I recommend it for those who need a little reminder about photography’s purpose in making sense of the world around us. 

Purchase from MIT Press.



Photographs Not Taken: A Collection of Photographers' Essays
Will Steacy
Publisher: Daylight, 2012
Pages: 232

Knowing when not to photograph is a valuable skill for photographers. In this collection of essays, notable photographers explain their feelings and circumstances around the decisive moment to not click the shutter. Every photographer who has ever struggled with feelings of guilt, frustration, or anxiety around the making of a photograph should read this book. 

Purchase from Daylight Books.


On Photography
Susan Sontag
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977
Pages: 224

Considered one of the most groundbreaking theoretical writings on the subject of photography, Sontag’s book is a must read. Many of the other books on this list reference her essays, and her ideas have stood the test of time. 

Purchase from Strand Books.


Words Not Spent Today Buy Smaller Images Tomorrow: Essays on the Present and Future of Photography
David Levi Strauss
Publisher: Aperture, 2014
Pages: 192

Strauss thoughtfully examines the photograph as a means of evidence, from reportage to fine art, and references game-changing theoretical writings to discuss how we consider the medium as a vehicle for truth. This book is a good read for those interested in political and ethical questions of photography.

Purchase from Aperture.

Kat Kiernan is the Editor-in-Cheif of Don't Take Pictures.