The Nature of Photographs – Book

Although only last reprinted in 2015 this book, another on the list of essential reading, seems already to be out of print (a not uncommon issue with books published by Phaidon which often seem to have relatively short print lives) and whilst still available second hand seems only to be readily available at prices that are significantly in excess of the original cover price.  As I do not have ready access to any libraries in my area that might have, or otherwise be able to obtain, a copy of this book I have had to buy a copy of my own (as indeed I have had to do with almost everything else on the course reading list) and in order to get one at a sensible price I was left having to track one down in the US (even allowing for the Transatlantic postage and weakness of the pound against the dollar)!

Whinge apart, and despite the fact it looks a little “thin” in the sense that there is not a great deal of text, this is perhaps one of the most useful books on the subject of photographs that I have read so far.  It certainly has a deeply thoughtful selection of images, most of which I had not seen before, although I have previously come across many of the photographers featured.  So useful I think this book is that I wish I had read it before embarking on the exercises in Part 1 of the course as it would have greatly helped my thinking.  I am not sure I would necessarily have arrived at any different ideas or conclusions but it might have made the process easier.  The third section, The Depictive Level, dealing with framing I found particularly enlightening.

I was also struck by Stephen Shore’s application of the concept of being mindful (without getting into capital M Mindfulness as a discipline) to our awareness of the nature of a photograph and how we approach and regard it in the final section on Mental Modelling.  This is for me something that resonates and I will certainly think about this more deliberately in future when looking at images, particularly those that are new to me, in the future.

Another book that should repay repeated visits.

Shore, S, (2015).  The Nature of Photographs: A Primer. London:Phaidon.


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