One of our favorite aspects of photography is the fact that learning something new is a constant. Not only is the craft and technology constantly evolving, even if we would be able to press pause on new technology, the lessons to learn about the basics of how to see are endless.
As Youtube solidifies its position as a key modern platform for learning, we invited three of our favorite voices from this platform to turn off their computer and talk to us about the value of photography books and share some of their favorites.
Matt Day (Ohio), George Muncey (London), and Willem Verbeeck (NYC) are three of our favorite photographers on YouTube. They delight and inform us about our chosen craft, each from their own unique point of view and with a distinct approach and focus.
As a father and experienced wedding photographer, Matt Day’s channel shows us a true slice of life of the working photographer. George Muncey’s channel finds a balance between technical camera reviews and his increasingly fine art oriented personal landscape work. Willem Verbeeck’s videos take a different tack every Sunday, ranging from interviews to analysis and gear-related pieces.
Please enjoy their practical and inspiring resources.
This interview was edited for clarity and length.
Photo Book Recommendations by Matt Day:
Elliott Erwitt’s Dogs,
by Elliott Erwitt
“Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of Elliott Erwitt and that I’m a dog person. So naturally, this has always been a favorite book of mine. One of my favorite elements of Elliott Erwitt’s work is the humor that he consistently finds and it’s never been more apparent than in his photos of dogs. This is just a fun book that always reminds me of why I love using a camera to comment on what’s in front of me, share something that I find important or interesting, and just connect with something without the need for words.”
Portraits of America,
by William Albert Allard
“I’ve owned this book for many years and it’s probably one of the most frequently read books in my collection. My cousin, who isn’t a photographer, found the book for around $5 at a discount store and thought I might enjoy it. It was my introduction to Allard’s work and I was instantly hooked by his ability to use the light and color in the scene to really give a sense of feeling to the environment. This book in particular has several bodies of work all collected together and it’s a great expansive look at his work.”
by Danny Clinch
“Danny Clinch’s ability to put his own signature on photos of larger-than-life musicians and artists always stands out to me. When you have a subject like Willie Nelson or Bruce Springsteen, you naturally think of their impact and their career. But when it’s a photo by Clinch, it stands out a bit more and feels more personal. To me, that access he gets is part of his signature. The subjects are brought down to earth a bit more while still honoring their importance and impact. I’m also a film nerd and love seeing him make a cohesive body of work while exploring all different formats. This one is a must have.”
Photo Book Recommendations by George Muncey:
Somewhere Along The Line,
by Joshua Dudley Greer
“Often when I look at works of the “Great American Road Trip”, I’m led to questioning how I can feel nostalgic about a time period I wasn’t even alive during. I often think - in 30 years, will looking at a photo littered with Prius’ have the same feeling as the cars in a Shore photo?
Somewhere Along The Line does an amazing job at bringing the tradition and ideology of road trip photography to the current day. It’s the perfect blend of painterly landscapes, and utterly bizarre scenes.
It’s a piece of work I think a lot of people would wish they had made themselves.”
by Matthew Genitempo
Jasper is such a great example of a traditional style photo book done right. Everything about it has such a premium feel, with incredibly well printed images, and lush paper stocks. The whole book feels like it’s built up to give you the best possible experience and delivery to let the images speak for themselves.
The images really draw you in, with their hazy style you almost feel like you’ve visited this place in a dream sequence. Matthew did such and amazing job and painting a whole picture, and by the time you’ve got to the end of the book, you feel like you’ve explored the Ozark’s yourself.”
by Robin Friend
“For the last few years i’ve been working on my own series of photos which explores my relationship with Britain. Often, I find it hard to discover other works which display Britain so beautifully - So I was so elated when I stumbled across Robin’s work.
Being shot over the course of 15 years, it’s such a complete and extensive series of images, and a real testament to his dedication to the landscape.
I think it’s very easy to forget how much beauty is found within the U.K, and Robin’s work is the perfect reminder.”
Photo Book Recommendations by Willem Verbeeck:
Preston Bus Station,
by Jamie Hawksworth
“I love the simplicity of the subject matter in this book. Jamie Hawksworth photographed a bus station in England, which is such a simple concept but the work he made speaks so much about Britain and its people in a beautiful way. It’s also just incredibly inspiring to look at an early project from such an established photographer.”
by Larry Sultan
“One of my favorite bodies of work ever is The Valley by Larry Sultan. He documented pornographic film sets by photographing everything except the deed. I think it’s humorous but also incredibly captivating to see images of very comforting/luxurious looking homes on first impression and then have that perspective totally shifted once you look into the subtle details of the work. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition of ideas.”
by Joel Sternfeld
“Aside from his incredible documentation of the American landscape with this work I think there is a clarity to the work of Joel Sternfeld that makes me come back to his images more than anyone else's. Not just in terms of how sharp and clear the images are but a clarity referring to the understanding of the scene that is being photographed. Each image feels like a documentation of an entire narrative. He can say so much with singular images.”
Matt, George, and Willem, each of you focuses on analog photography and you share your lessons learned through your individual Youtube channels. That’s an interesting juxtaposition and blend of old and new technology. Photo books fall into the older category of publishing and I was wondering what you learn or otherwise gain from photo books that is unique compared to other forms of media.
Matt: What I get out of a photo book is the increased attention. There are no distractions or ties to a device where I need to rely on battery or service. It’s unplugged and there’s intention behind flipping through a photo book. You don’t just scroll into it, you choose to consume it. That says a lot about the work you hold in your hands.
George: The most important factor of why photo books are so significant to me, is time. I often neglect giving things time, whether it’s ingesting media so fast through your phone, or browsing and watching tv simultaneously. I think it’s become a lot harder to give something your undivided attention. When I sit down with a book, it’s the only thing i’m paying attention to. You pay attention to so much more of the finer detail, and allow yourself to get fully immersed.
Also, the photographer has far more power and freedom to dictate how the viewer interacts with their work. As opposed to ingesting work through platforms like Instagram, where you’re far more restricted.
Willem: To me, photo books are special because of the idea that I can own and spend time with a physical copy of someone's work. To have work I admire inside of my daily living space. I think what makes me gain more out of photo books compared to other platforms is that there is an intentionality to it, I never accidentally pick up a photo book but instead I always approach it with the mindset of appreciating photographic work.