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How professional photographers see, think & shoot - this book reveals all

Photographers on Photography book by Henry Carroll, how they see, think & shoot on a coffee table
(Image credit: DCW)

Author Henry Carroll has released a paperback version of his thought-provoking photography book that features quotes and interviews from 50 leading and renowned photographers. Aimed at the critically curious, this book can be viewed as an extension of his earlier works, the Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs series. 

Carroll is known for his clear and jargon-free style of writing and teaching, which has demystified digital photography and inspired thousands of newcomers and professionals to get more creative with their cameras. 

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The book, titled Photographers on Photography, How they see, think & Shoot, features a carefully curated selection of quotes and images in a somewhat randomized order of 'feel' as the author describes. Reflections on contemporary concerns within photography as well as timeless statements from old masters of the medium can be found in this book, published by Laurence King (opens in new tab) (Orion Publishing Group).

Photographers on Photography unveils the important things that matter most to the world's most influential photographers, through interviewing the likes of 23-year-old fashion photographer Olivia Bee, to documentary photographer Alec Soth, as well as Esther Teichman, Ron Jude and the duo that is Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin. Carroll discovers how these artists have developed their distinctive visual styles and the core ideas that underpin their work and themselves as photographers.

Untitled, from the Mythologies series, 2009, by Esther Teichmann. (Image credit: Esther Teichmann / Orion Books)
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Alec Soth is quoted twice in the book, stating, "if in your heart of hearts you want to take pictures of kitties, take pictures of kitties," and also sharing that, "I fell in love with photography because it was an excuse to wander around alone". American art photographer Ralph Gibson is also quoted, saying, "reality is to photography what melody is to music".

The book opens with an image of a road in New Mexico accompanied by a quote from Dorothea Lange: "For better or for worse, the destiny of the photographer is bound up with destinies of a machine". Carroll interprets this to be in relation to the evolution of digital cameras that Lange would've bared witness to, relaying in his own words that dependance on the camera means that photographers are creatively cursed – every image they make must be a negotiation between man and machine; a state of compromise.

The Road West, New Mexico, 1938, by Dorothea Lange. (Image credit: Dorothea Lange / Library of Congress / Orion Books)
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Some philosophical approaches to contemporary debates in photography have been explored through those featured in the book – for example, a quote from John Baldessari that, "probably one of the worst things to happen to photography is that cameras have viewfinders." Initially a painter, Baldessari was an American conceptual artist known for his work featuring the art of found photography and appropriated images, rationalizing why he may have felt that viewfinders are a bad asset to photography. 

Maisie Cousins, London-based photographer has been quoted debating the topic "what's the point of taking a nice picture?" featured alongside an image of hers depicting various shrimp heads and cut flowers, with other unknown liquids, in a grotesque masterpiece from her series titled What Girls Are Made of from 2013-14. 

Darkroom photographer Man Ray, born 1890, is quoted saying, "People ask, 'What camera do you use?' I say, 'You don't ask a writer what typewriter he uses.'" The irony of this statement is picked up on by Carroll as he explains that Ray used a darkroom, not a camera, to create his most famous works of 'Rayographs'. 

"Cul Mor from Stac Pollaidh, in the Assynt region of Sutherland, Highland" 1985, by Faye Godwin (Image credit: Fay Godwin / Orion Books / Collections Picture Library)

Japanese photographer and lifetime award winner, Daidō Moriyama, is quoted as stating, "I take photographs not only with my eyes but with my entire body," followed by two high contrast images of a dark street and an angry appearing dog. Carroll's interview with Olivia Bee revealed that she works with film over digital, and appreciates the beauties of imperfection and rawness of blur above all else. 

Overall there are some terrific and meaningful quotes in this book that not only inspire ingenuity, but make us question why we take images in the first place – and what they mean to our subconscious. A great book for dipping in and out of on days where you feel a creative block, it is a useful pick-me-up for a dive into the notions and meanings behind the art of photography and how we make it, as told by the greats of the past and present industry leaders.

Misawa, 1971/2010, by Daido Moryama  (Image credit: Daido Moryama Photo Foundation / Orion Books)
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The book concludes with a quote from the father of photography, William Henry Fox Talbot, displayed next to his famous image of the latticed window regarded as the world's earliest surviving negative. "I do not profess to have perfected an art, but to have commenced one; the limits of which it is not possible at present exactly to ascertain."

Latticed Window at Lacock Abbey, 1835, by William Henry Fox Talbot. (Image credit: William Henry Fox-Talbot / Science & Society Picture Library / Orion Books)
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This great little coffee table book Photographers on Photography, How They See, Think & Shoot by Henry Carroll, is being sold at $17.99 / £12.99 / AU$34.25.

Read more: 

15 best new photography books
(opens in new tab)The best photo books in the UK (opens in new tab)
The 50 best photographers ever
(opens in new tab)100 quotes about photography by famous photographers (opens in new tab)

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Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.