Summertime is upon us and book recommendations are pouring in. For the seventh installment of the Don’t Take Pictures reading list, I have compiled a Summer reading list for all of you arts readers looking for something to take on vacation or fill time between semesters. 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 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.
Diana & Nikon: Essays on the Aesthetic of Photography
Publisher: David R. Godine, 1980
A long time photography critic for The New Yorker, Malcolm’s collected works use the form of the essay to define what photography is. She writes on photography’s pioneers including Steiglitz and Steichen, and innovators including Avedon and Eggelston, searching to conclude photography’s place in the hierarchy and history of visual art. This book could be picked up at random as each essay is strong on its own. I recommend it for anyone interested in photography history.
Purchase from Amazon
The Artist as Culture Producer: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life
Publisher: Intellect Books, 2017
This collection of essays by 40 visual artists provides insight into how artists extend their practices beyond the studio. Each essay is a first-hand account of the author’s life as an artist as well as how they contribute to the arts community at large. Some of the essayists have founded non-profits, media outlets, exhibitions, or engaged in other out-of-the-box ways of promoting art and culture beyond their own, while balancing their own art making. (Full disclosure: I am a contributing essayist.) Anyone interested in the role of the artist should add this title to his or her bookshelf.
Purchase from University of Chicago Press
Known and Strange Things
Publisher: Random House, 2016
While not strictly arts writing, this book has it all—part memoir, travel writing, literary commentary, and photography criticism, New York Times Magazine photography critic Teju Cole writes about photography and life in a way that will make the reader pay closer attention to their own everyday experiences. The writing is clear and accessible, making this a great read for photographers and non-photographers alike.
Purchase from Random House
The Art of the Con: The Most Notorious Fakes, Frauds, and Forgeries in the Art World
Anthony M. Amore
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016
Everyone loves a good scandal, and art scandals are some of the most fascinating to read about. Written by the head of security and chief investigator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Amore tells the stories of some of the art world’s most notorious cons including theft, forgeries, online scams, and more. I recommend this book for those interested in the shady, worst-case-scenarios for artists and collectors.
Purchase from Macmillan
The View from the Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way in an Uncertain World
Publisher: Image Continuum Press, 2006
From the co-author of Art & Fear, Orland’s second book dives into the obstacles, pressures, and fears that artists encounter before beginning their work. Chapters including The Education of the Artist, Surviving Graduation, Art & Society, and more offer practical advice and philosophies for artists facing a creative uphill battle. I recommend this book for artists of all disciplines at all stages of their careers.
Purchase from Consortium
When I Was a Photographer
Publisher: MIT Press, 2015
The celebrated 19th- century photographer, writer, inventor, and balloonist Félix Nadar published this memoir in 1900 at the age of 80. The book contains stories of his experiences in the earliest days of photography, shedding light on how this “magic science” was perceived by the public and practitioners of the time. From his experiments with artificial lighting in the catacombs of Paris to photographing Paris from a hot air balloon, this book is part adventure-story, part photographic diary, I recommend this book for those interested in history.
Purchase from MIT Press
For more recommended reading, see past recommended reading posts.
Kat Kiernan is the Editor-in-Chief of Don’t Take Pictures.