Untold: Stories Behind the Photographs, by Steven McCurry

Why?

“What I loved most about the work of Steven is the humanity he captures in all of his subjects, along with the stories he shares about his journey. His work inspired me to want to travel the world and document various cultures and communities. This book now serves as a guide for my next book endeavor.”
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- Jamel Shabazz, Photographer

Black in White America, by Leonard Freed

Why?

“This book was one of the very first photo books I ever saw/read. My father had a signed copy sitting front and center on our coffee table. This one book would introduce me to the world of black and white photography, documentary photography, and street photography, and expose me to racial issues of the 1960's America.”
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- Jamel Shabazz, Photographer

Indian Circus Book, by Mary Ellen Mark

Why?

“I love how she used the environment as a backdrop, like a tent. For me, it was really interesting to see that a master like Mary Ellen was inspired by photographers like Diane Arbus. It's interesting to photograph a subculture. I think that's a cool thing to spend an extended period of time shooting one culture and just getting different aspects of it. And the circus is its own thing.”
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- Robert Clark, Photographer

Son, by Christopher Anderson

Why?

“Chris's book is interesting because I think that one of the most important things a photographer can do is to turn the camera on their own world. He can find the intimacy of stuff and his use of color is phenomenal. If you look at Approximate Joy and his Instagram feed, there's just so much interesting work in color. I'd love to be able to do more of that—maybe as I get older and things kind of disappear. I've got a nine year old daughter and I've photographed her extensively, so even though a lot of it's with the cell phone I think that all of it will be historically interesting. If I could change anything about my career, it would be what I love about Chris's work, in that he's able to turn the camera inward.”
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- Robert Clark, Photographer

The Road to Seeing, by Dan Winters

Why?

“Dan talks about composition in his self-portraits and how he also pulls in a lot of historical examples of photography. He talks about other people's work, why it's important, and how it influenced him. I was attracted at first because of the technical ability of it all. It's just like Martin Schoeller or Albert Watson or Richard Avedon. I got sucked in because of trying to understand the technical aspect of it—and then you sidestep the technicalities of it and you see the beauty of it. I think the palette that Dan is obviously known for is a palette that he kind of works in and created for himself.”
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- Robert Clark, Photographer

Cyclops, by Albert Watson

Why?

“It's kind of a collection of his portraiture and advertising. And I was lucky to meet him. What I liked about this photo book is the diversity. It’s beautiful still life, beautiful portraiture, and I have a few books of his. I think one of the things that's always been most important to me is composition. Composition is changing because of the cell phone. There’s more freedom to it because most of the people doing it aren't formally trained in photography.”
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- Robert Clark, Photographer

Umbra, by Viviane Sassen

Why?

“I love this book because she uses shadows and light in such a unique way; it was like paintings. Her work feels like experiments and questions. When I look at the image of the giant cactus and the small man in front, it gives me a sense of nostalgia. It makes me feel like I know the person, but I also don't. I love having this omnipresent view, but also feeling kind of connected to the subject matter and to what they're doing. There isn’t a single visible face in the work.”
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- Micaiah Carter, Photographer

Philip-Lorca DiCorcia: Hustlers, by Philip-Lorca DiCorcia

Why?

“What inspired me was that he really connected with each of the subjects. It was very interesting to see these everyday people kind of submerged into this fantasy within his photos with lighting and with the framing. I really like the way that he colored his images and the ranges of the color. There’s honesty shown within these people. I try to put a lot in my work as well. It makes me feel like a fly on the wall, peering into these peoples' lives, into their every day or where they're stationed at.”
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- Micaiah Carter, Photographer

A Time Before Crack, by Jamal Shabazz

Why?

“I love the way that he captures people, and especially New York City. It's important within the black community to see these photographs of people. It reminds me of my dad's archival work, too. Capturing people in the ‘80s and the late ‘70s is historical—that was the biggest thing, having a pinpoint for these people to live in history. That stood out to me the most. But I can also see that he takes time in his framing and I like seeing that initiative to frame up these subjects where he only has a few moments to shoot the photo of these people.”
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- Micaiah Carter, Photographer

The Kitchen Table Series, by Carrie Mae Weems

Why?

“I love the subject matter and the simplicity of it—how she can have everything on the kitchen table series but then go through so many scenarios that go on. I love the simplicity that she held onto when she was going through each of these scenes for the book. I felt a familiar face. I felt connected. I felt that there was something that I could relate to. It was interesting to see a woman's perspective—that really resonated with me the most. And seeing her be honest with her own storytelling. I try to create that same energy sometimes. It was really nice to see these photographs exist.”
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- Micaiah Carter, Photographer

Photographs 1931-1955, by George Platt Lynes

Why?

“This book was very important to me because it already had an existing gay photo history, even though nobody talked about it. It was there. It gave me some confidence to make new stuff, and not feel like I was the only one. I feel like we all got too defined by sex and that's not what's interesting anyway. It's the other things that are worth investigating and having a discussion about—the relationships that people have with each other and their family. This photo book is the one that has stayed with me, and I've borrowed his aesthetics quite heavily.”
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- Sunil Gupta, Photographer

Ba Ra Kei: Ordeal by Roses, by Eikoh Hosoe

Why?

“This is a book about Yukio Mishima, the writer. I was aware of Mishima’s work, and who he was, and that whole melodramatic way in which he committed suicide. I thought this book was a great departure from the stuff we talked about so far, in the sense that it was not a social documentary. It was more about his lifestyle, or aesthetics, or the kind of homo-, quasi-, fascistic ideals that he had. It's visually lush. It’s a kind of ‘60s Japanese black-and-white, contrasting photography. It's very theatrical. It's not like the other things that I talked about.

This book opened up a little door that  possible to have gay content and it was possible to come from outside of the West. That combination of gay and Asian, it rang a bell with me. It made me think something like this was possible. In my education, I'd never been shown anything like this. I had a very classical kind of education.”
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- Sunil Gupta, Photographer

Un Paese: Portrait of an Italian Village, by Paul Strand

Why?

“I like the way this one is about a place. The idea of a place always was something that appealed to me. About 10 years ago, I embarked on a project modeled after this, in India. My dad comes from an Indian village, so I had access to it in a way that was not just a professional, journalistic way. I could just hang out there. I began to document it, trying to describe something without being judgmental about it.

People look at Asia as a kind of economic powerhouse, but they aren't interested in the villages. They're interested in the towns and the IT part of things. There's not much general interest in an Indian village anymore. I kept looking at it and when I saw this place, I went back to live in India, and I thought, "nobody is looking at rural India, and it's half the country.” Anyways, I did it. I'm sitting on it. Maybe there will be a chance to show it somewhere one day. But it was inspired by this book directly.”
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- Sunil Gupta, Photographer

Master of the Photographic Essay, by Eugene Smith

Why?

“When I was in college, I modeled my future around doing documentary work on social justice. W. Eugene Smith struck me as somebody who really dedicated himself. I came across his book and it became a kind of visual bible. It shows you how the guy shot across the different essays. It wasn't just the final essays—actually they aren't even there—it's all the shooting that went on. That kind of detail was hard to come by in print back in the day; I'm talking about the 70s and 80s. I found it very exciting to have access to something almost private.”
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- Sunil Gupta, Photographer

The Europeans, by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Why?

“Cartier-Bresson’s books he did on the people of China and the people of Moscow were much more journalistic, and they inspired me too, but this book inspired me [specifically] because many of his pictures are not that good. They're all very valid and vital and valuable, but not necessarily formed as he can form a picture in the most exquisite way.

Generally speaking, this is an extension of what Cartier-Bresson owns up to, which was the odd marriage between surrealism or a distant kind of abstracted point of perception and, at the same time, being a leftist who was trying to be a journalist telling the story of what was going down.”
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- Larry Fink, Photographer

Nothing Personal, by Richard Avedon and James Baldwin

Why?

“It was very, very tender poetism. Baldwin is such a brilliant man, an emotional man and also analytical. He was able to work with Avedon’s pictures.

This book gave me a sensibility for the breadth of photography and a different way in which it could be applied. The whole idea of how you can make something as dark and as clinically alienating as a studio, and with a certain kind of aggressiveness that Dick used as his palette. I always thought that he was just a little Jewish kid from the Lower East Side who was going to be bigger than anybody else. He put people in his white jail, boxed them in, made them extremely uncomfortable and whacked them one.”
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- Larry Fink, Photographer

The Joy of Portraits, by Keizo Kitajima

Why?

“I discovered Keizo Kitajima way after I discovered his photographs. I love the variation and free nature of not only his subjects but the way he takes portraits; there isn't a prescribed way that he sees a face or a person, each portrait feels different, and I like that. Maybe each portrait feels different because it feels like each person.”
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- Ronan Mckenzie, Photographer