Cameron Davidson


A blog by Washington DC photographer Cameron Davidson.

Books every photographer should own.

Ok, that is a strong title, and if you don’t own them, so be it. But go find a copy at your library, friend studio or used book store.

This is my list of my favorite photographers and the books that focus on their immense talent and careers.

If you don’t know who these people are, that is all the better, you’ll learn something in the process.

Following the internet gurus and stars of photography may help you learn the newest digital technique, encourage you spend to money on gear (usually through their sites, where they earn a commission on everything you buy) or how to light like a master, Maybe.

Take the time to view, think, look again and again at the work and dedication that went into these bodies of work.  Even if you don’t appreciate (or, understand) the work, you’ll come away with a deeper understanding of craft and vision.

Small Trades – Irving Penn.

A three city portrait project in 1950 focused on vanishing trades and craftspeople. This is classic portraiture at its best. An inspiring book that I return to again and again.

Eye to Eye – Vivian Maier

A phenomenal photographer who shot for herself.  Her negatives were found in an auction and purchased for very little money.  Street photography with a Rollei.

Himalyas  – Yoshikazu Shirakawa

A grand adventure that took three years and hundreds of rolls of 120 film shot with Pentax 6×7 cameras. (The Indian Post office lost several shipments of film that were sent to Japan for processing)  This is a stunning book of heavenly landscape photography of the Himalayas.  This one is hard to find and has been out of print for years.

An Autobiography – Richard Avedon

Published in 1993 by Random House and Eastman Kodak.  A look at Mr. Avedon’s career from the first days to the early nineties.

Rituales En Haiti – Cristina Garcia Rodero

David Alan Harvey turned me on this photographer and her work.  Enough said.

Ocean Soul – Brian Skerry

Brian is a friend. In my opinion, he is the best underwater photographer in the world.  Thisis underwater photography created with a purpose in mind and a dedication to telling a story in a unique and compelling manner.  A mid-career retrospective.

Aerial Photographs – William Garnett

One of the two grandfathers of American aerial photography, Mr. Garnet’s approach to abstract images placed him far above any other aerial shooters. His photograph of marching sand dunes hangs in my office.

Mountain Photography – Bradford Washburn

The other grandfather of American aerial photography, Mr. Washburn was more than a photographer: he was an explorer, mountaineer and cartographer.  Imagine hanging out over the mountains of Alaska, mid-winter, in a small plane, without a door, at 12,000 feet without oxygen and shooting aerial photographs with a handheld 8×10 camera – oh yeah, he was also making stunning graphic images that revealed unseen Alaska.  These are some of the finest aerial photographs I have ever seen.

Cuba – David Alan Harvey

Harvey at his best.  Incredible book.  Harvey is the master of the moment.

Andlitt Nordursins – Ragnar Axelsson

Fantastic Icelandic photographer who shoots the northern world.  Book is a black and white love affair with Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Photographs, 1920-1950 – Martin Chambi

David Burnett turned me on to this Peruvian photographer and his work.  If Burnett loves his work, then it is worth checking out.

Soul Rebel – David Burnett

David’s intimate look at Bob Marley.  Right place, right time (a couple of times) and doing it right.  Read and learn from the master on how he saw an opportunity and ran with it.

Portraits of America – William Albert Allard

The great Bill Allard of NGS fame.  An honest, steadfast, profound book of portraits shot across this amazing land.

50 Portraits – Gregory Heisler

Stories and techniques from a photographer’s photographer.  That say’s it all.  A Masters Class in portraiture, production, lighting and business.

Nurse – Karen Kasmauski

Karen is a friend so I may be a bit biased here.  An exceptional book focused on nurses.  Beautiful images of nurses and their work from around the world.

Days with my Father – Phillip Toledano

A personal project about his fathers last few years.  A small, elegant and charming book.

Geisha – Jodi Cobb

A long-term project on the hidden world of Geisha.  Killer images.

India – Eric Meola

Color. Form. Graphic.  Meola is second to none.

Jet Airliner – Josef Hoflehner

Austrian landscape photographer known for his long-exposure B&W landscape images. Here be photographs aircraft landing at St. Marten.

Torero – Ruven Afanador

In the early days of Rueven’s career, he assisted me for close to a year. ( He grew up in the DC region)  I saw that he had an terrific eye, talent for lighting people and god could he print B&W.  Toerro is his enchantment with matadors, the clothing, culture and history of bullfighting in his native Columbia plus Mexico, Peru and Spain.

The Creation – Ernst Haas

The virtuoso of color. By far, the book that has had the greatest impact on me as a photographer.  It is stunning.

Migrations – Sebastiao Selgado

Stunning long-term B&W photography by the master of long-term projects. The title says it all.  A book that is timeless and timely.

Inferno – James Nachtwey

Photojournalism at its best.  Many of these images are difficult to look at and easier to turn away from.  Don’t.

New York in the 50’s – Jay Maisel

The master of color shot Black and White street photography in New York City in the fifties.  Who knew. Loads of surprises in the delightful exploration of New York.

Cyclops – Albert Watson

The celebrated Scottish portrait photographer who creates stunning black and white portraits.  A retrospective.

#iPhone Only – Julian Calverley

Jules is a good friend, he in an outstanding landscape (and commercial) photographer.  Usually he shoots with an 80 megapixel back mounted on an Alpa camera.  However, remember, its not about the gear, it’s about vision. A book of impressive landscape images shot in Northwestern Scotland with an iPhone.  Available as a printed book or an an ebook. (go for the printed version)

The Last Place on Earth – Nick Nichols

Nick Nichols walked across Africa.  These are the photographs.

Dorchester Days – Eugene Richards

Expanded version of the classic 1970’s self-published book about Dorchester, Massachusetts.  It is dark, intimate, courageous and intense.  It is one of those books, that I am glad to own, rarely review and when I do, the photography scares me it so good.  Tough book. Tough Subject. Stellar photography.

Periodical Photographs – Dan Winters

Portraits, many of them in large format. When I think of Dan Winters, a couple of things come to mind: precision, clarity, intense focus and well researched backgrounds and in-depth understanding of his subjects.

Cameron Davidson