Book Recommendation: How to Read a Photograph

Last Friday morning I had a business meeting in downtown San Francisco – just a couple of blocks away from SFMOMA – the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I have been wanting to catch the Garry Winogrand photography exhibition before the museum closes shortly for a three year makeover – so I headed for SFMOMA once the meeting finished.

How to Read a Photograph

The Winogrand exhibition is massive in its scope – and striking in so many ways to a novice like me. All black and white – beginning on the streets of New York City and ending up in the deserts of the southwest, and the political conventions and beaches of California – Winogrand’s images are so “in the moment”. That notion – the decisive moment – seems to define the essence of great street photography – and it’s strikingly shown in his work.

From an earlier time, there’s the differences in dress and – strikingly – the effect of cigarette smoke in so many of his images. He was amazingly prolific – must have appeared almost to be non-stop – and seemingly uncaring toward the processing – and, indeed, any editing – of his images. One wonders what he’d be like today with an iPhone camera in his hand – or Google Glass on his forehead – snapping away! The exhibition closes shortly – and is then on to shows in Washington, at the Met in New York City and then on to Paris.

As I was leaving, I visited the SFMOMA Museum Store and happened across this book – How to Read a Photograph: Lessons from Master Photographers by Ian Jeffrey. I thumbed through it – finding it to be a treasure of photographers’ work from the late 1800’s to perhaps a decade ago. It’s wonderfully illustrated with the great images from the photographers that Jeffrey decided to profile – and a delight to just pickup and browse – sort of like one of those annual almanacs but dedicated to great photographers and their work – including Winogrand.

When I got home, I checked on Amazon.com and found mostly good reviews – and a bargain price on the book (currently $15) compared to the $37.50 I paid for my copy at the Museum Store. If you’re interested in diving a bit deeper into the history of some of the great photographers of the last hundred years, I highly recommend this book. You’ll enjoy it.

By the way, SFMOMA published an extensive catalog to go with the Winogrand exhibition – here’s that title: Garry Winogrand (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art).

Note: I only include items here that I actually use and are worthy of my recommendation – there is no sponsorship involved. I do participate in a number of affiliate programs that compensate me if you find an item and decide to purchase it because of one of my links. You won’t pay any more – it’s just the affiliate’s way of saying thank you for a referral. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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