Photo book inspiration

It is Monday morning, it is rainy and cold outside, so perfect time for some photo book inspiration. I really enjoy browsing my photography book collection, sometimes for inspiration, sometimes just to get immersed into worlds far away and times passed.

This small selection is perfect for the novice, the aspiring amateur and for the professional photographer. Even if you are looking for a great photo book as a present for someone, this will be a great place to start!

If you see a book that you like and you decide to purchase it, please considers using the links in the article (if you click on the covers they will bring you to It will be of great help with writing more articles! Thank you!

I will start with a book by one of my favourite street photographers – Saul Leiter. He was an American photographer and painter whose early work in the 1940s and 1950s was an important contribution to what came to be recognised as the New York school of photography.  He had no formal training in photography, but the genius of his early work was quickly acknowledged by Edward Steichen, who included Leiter in two important MoMA shows in the 1950s.

This book is a great collection of street photos from one of the most photogenic cities in the world – New York. When looking at my photo books collection, this is the book I would pick most of the time.


One of the street photographers who have had a very strong impact on my interest in street photography is Alex Webb. He is a Magnum photographer who uses strong colours and light, great compositions and emotion to capture beautiful and complex images. I bought this book last year after visiting an exhibition in Brussels where I saw some of his Istanbul images printed.  This is a book that will make you go back time and again. The foreword of the book is written by Orhan Pamuk!

In 1998 Alex Webb visited Istanbul and was immediately enthralled by its people, history, and the richness of its street life, especially the sense of Istanbul as a border city between East and West, Europe and Asia, the only major city in the world that actually exists on two continents.


In suburban settings or on elaborately detailed sets of American homes, interiors, and neighborhoods, Gregory Crewdson manages to stage haunting, cinematic photos of alienation and eerie quietude. “I’ve always been interested in wanting to construct the world in photographs,” he has said. His work posesses a dreamlike quality reminiscent of filmmakers as Stephen Spielberg and David Lynch. His quietly disturbing American settings are immaculately staged and lit.

This is actually one of the first photo books I bought and I was blown away by the composition, the light and the amazing cinematic feel.

I was in love with India years before I actually had a chance to travel there, mostly thanks to the work of SteveMcCurry. He is an American photographer famous with his photojournalistic and editorial work in India, Afghanistan and all across Asia and the world. He is a member of Magnum Photos.

I am proposing here two photo books of his extensive book collection – one called simply India and the other called Untold. The first one is a collection of stunning images from across India. Untold is a fascinating book of stories behind some of his most memorable photos (and the photos themselves). This book is a great adventure and I highly recommend it.

Nick Brandt is an English photographer who photographs exclusively in Africa and one of his goals is to record a last testament to the wild animals and places there, before they are destroyed by the hands of man. His books are fascinating and terrible.

Three years after the conclusion of his trilogy, On This Earth, A Shadow Falls and Across the Ravaged Land, Nick Brandt returned to East Africa to photograph the escalating changes to the continent’s natural world. He writes in the essay in the book: “We are living through the antithesis of genesis right now. It took billions of years to reach a place of such wondrous diversity, and then in just a few shockingly short years, an infinitesimal pinprick of time, to annihilate that.

In a series of epic panoramas, Brandt records the impact of man in places where animals used to roam, but no longer do. In each location, Brandt erected a life size panel of one of his earlier (unpublished) animal portrait photographs, setting the panels within a world of explosive urban development, factories, wasteland and quarries. The people within the photographs carry on with their lives, oblivious to the animals that are now no more than ghosts in the landscape.

Harry Gruyaert is born in Antwerp and is a photographer best known for his images of India, Morocco and Egypt as well as of the west of Ireland and of course Belgium. He is a member of Magnum Photos. Along with Joel Meyerovitz, Stephen Shore and Saul Leiter, Gruyaert was one of the first to exploit the creative power of colour film, a tool until then relegated to the field of advertising.

From Magnum Photos’s website: “Far from indulging in stereotypical exoticism, Harry Gruyaert has a vision of faraway countries that locates the viewer within peculiar and somewhat impenetrable atmospheres.

This book is a collection of colour saturated images with bold compositions from across the world. Highly recommended!

Magnum Contact Sheets is a collection of contact sheets from various Magnum photographers. What is a contact sheet? A contact sheet is a direct print of a roll or sequence of images shot by a photographer on film. In the book itself  the editor Kristen Lubben goes more in-depth: “This contact sheet, a direct print of a roll or sequence of negatives, is the photographers’ first look at what he or she captured on film, and provides a uniquely intimate glimpse into their working process. It records each step along the route to arriving at an image– providing a behind-the-scenes sense of walking alongside the photographer and seeing through their eyes.

The contact sheets are a great way to demystify the seemingly magical quality of photography.  They are a fantastic tool to learn and see trough the eyes of the photographer and this book should be a must for every photographer aspiring to become a pro! In this book for the first time, are the best contact sheets created by Magnum photographers. They reveal the creative methods, strategies, and editing processes used by some of the acknowledged greats of photography, from legends such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Elliott Erwitt to Magnum’s latest generation, including Jonas Bendiksen, Trent Parke, and Alec Soth.

Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French humanist photographer considered a master of candid photography. He pioneered the genre of street photography and the idea behind capturing a decisive moment. Henri Cartier-Bresson was one of the founders of Magnum Photos agency.

Originally published in 1952, this collection of Cartier-Bresson’s best work from his early years was embellished with a collage cover by Henri Matisse. The book has since influenced generations of photographers.

This new publication―the first and only reprint since the original 1952 edition―is a meticulous facsimile of the original book that launched the artist to international fame, with an additional booklet on the history of The Decisive Moment by Centre Pompidou curator Clément Chéroux.

You can see more about Henri Cartier-Bresson at the Magnum’s website by clicking here.

Brassaï was a Hungarian–French photographer, sculptor, writer, and filmmaker who rose to international fame in France in the 20th century. He was one of the numerous Hungarian artists who flourished in Paris beginning between the World Wars.

Brassaï became interested in photography as a way to record encounters on his nightly walks through the streets of Paris. He enjoyed these long strolls after dark and began carrying a camera and tripod in 1929.

Night does not show things, it suggests them. It disturbs and surprises us with its strangeness.”

Two years later, he compiled some of these street photographs in a book entitled Paris de nuit (Paris by night). It was a stunning collection of black and white images that juxtaposed luminous, dreamlike nightscapes with contemporary documentary images of the nighttime’s denizens. It was a technical marvel as well, for he was one of the first photographers to shoot extensively at night.

Robert Doisneau was a French photographer. In the 1930s he used a Leica on the streets of Paris. He was a champion of humanist photography and with Henri Cartier-Bresson a pioneer of photojournalism.

This is a small format book with some of his famous images. It is a great present!

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