Henry Carroll’s 2014 book, Read This if You Want To Take Great Photographs, offered a handy guide to the basics of photography. With tips on lighting, framing and composition, as well as images by influential photographers, it was a huge success, selling over 500,000 copies worldwide. Carroll and publisher Laurence King have since released guides to photographing people and places and building a profile on Instagram.
Their latest collaboration is less focused on technical considerations and more on ideas. Photographers and Photography: How The Masters See, Think & Shoot explores the work of some of the world’s leading photographers – from Ansel Adams, who captured America’s dramatic landscapes in the 1930s to Maisie Cousins, who has found fame with compelling photographs that sit somewhere between repulsive and seductive.
Each of the book’s 50-something entries features a single image or series by a different photographer and a brief analysis of their craft. Carroll addresses recurrent themes and techniques in that photographer’s work and explains what makes their images so thought-provoking and innovative. He also deconstructs the individual photographs featured in the book – exploring the thinking behind everything from their framing to composition and format.
A section on Dutch photographer Hellen van Meene explains how she uses size to create a deeper connection between viewer and image, printing out portraits of adolescent girls on paper measuring just 28cm. “She prints her photographs small because she wants to draw us in, she wants us to stand physically closer, she wants us to have an encounter,” writes Carroll. Another entry on recent graduate Olivia Bee explores how her technically imperfect pictures capture “the emotional spectrum” and messiness of youth.
Alongside this, there are interviews with Olivia Bee, Alec Soth, Broomberg & Chanarin, Ron Jude and Esther Teichmann, who reflect on their creative process. Soth discusses constructing narratives and editing series, while Teichmann discusses her relationships with her subjects and what separates the photographers who make it from those who don’t (it’s not just a question of talent, she says, but focus, momentum and “consistent hard work”).
The choice of photographers is diverse – not just in terms of practice (which ranges from fine art to portraiture, fashion and landscape) but visual styles and techniques. Filled with beautiful images, and some insightful commentary, it’s a useful and thought-provoking read for any aspiring photographers and anyone who wants to better understand the medium.
Carroll describes the book as an extension to his Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs series. “While that offers a foundation for the technical aspects of photography, this offers an introduction to the more philosophical,” he writes. Aimed at the “critically curious”, his book aims to help readers “piece together [their] own distinctive philosophy of photography” through presenting a range of viewpoints, genres and quotes for them to absorb, dissect and challenge.
Photographers on Photography: How The Masters See, Think & Shoot is published by Laurence King on October 29, and costs £14.99; laurenceking.com