Photographers on Photography by Henry Carroll: How They See, Think and Photograph


Author Henry Carroll has released a thought-provoking new photography book that features quotes and interviews from 50 high-profile and renowned photographers. Aimed at curious critics, this book can be considered an extension of his earlier works, the Read this if you want to take great pictures series.

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

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This new book by Carroll, titled Photographers on photography, how they see, think and shoot, features a carefully curated selection of quotes and images in a somewhat random order of “feel” as the author describes them. Reflections on contemporary concerns within photography as well as timeless statements from past masters of the medium can be found in this book, published by Laurence King (Orion Publishing Group).

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

Untitled, from the series Mythologies, 2009. (Image credit: Esther Teichmann/Orion Books)

Alec Soth is quoted twice in the book, stating, “If deep in your heart you want to take pictures of kittens, take pictures of kittens,” and also sharing that, “I fell in love with photography because it ‘was an excuse to wander alone’. American fine 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 New Mexico road accompanied by a quote from Dorothea Lange: “For better or for worse, the fate of the photographer is bound up with the fates of a machine.” Carroll interprets this as being in relation to the evolution of digital cameras that Lange allegedly witnessed, relaying in his own words that camera addiction means photographers are creatively cursed – every picture they make must be a negotiation between man and machine; a state of compromise.

The western route, New Mexico, 1938. (Image credit: Dorothea Lange/Library of Congress/Orion Books)

Some philosophical approaches to contemporary debates about photography have been explored through those presented in the book – for example, a quote from John Baldessari that “probably one of the worst things that can happen to photography is that cameras have viewfinders”. Originally a painter, Baldessari was an American conceptual artist known for his work showcasing the art of found photography and appropriate imagery, explaining why he may have thought viewfinders were a bad asset to photography.

London-based photographer Maisie Cousins ​​has been quoted debating the topic “what’s the point of taking a great photo?” featured alongside one of his images of various shrimp heads and cut flowers, along with other unknown liquids, in a grotesque masterpiece from his series titled What are girls made of from 2013-14.

Darkroom photographer Man Ray, born in 1890, is quoted as saying: “People ask, ‘What camera do you use?’ I say, ‘You don’t ask a writer what typewriter he uses.'” The irony of that statement is echoed by Carroll when he explains that Ray used a darkroom, not a camera, to create his most famous works of ‘Rayographies’.

“Cul Mor of Stac Pollaidh, in the Assynt region of Sutherland, Highland” 1985. (Image credit: Fay Godwin / Orion Books / Collections Picture Library)

Japanese photographer and Lifetime Laureate Daidō Moriyama is quoted as saying, “I take pictures not just with my eyes but with my whole body,” followed by two high-contrast images of a dark street and a angry dog. Carroll’s interview with Olivia Bee revealed that she works with film rather than digital and appreciates the beauties of imperfection and the rawness of blur above all else.

Overall, this book contains terrific and meaningful quotes that not only inspire ingenuity, but make us wonder why we take pictures in the first place – and what they mean to our subconscious. A great book to dive in and out of the days when you feel a creative block, it’s a useful pick-me-up for a dive into the notions and meanings behind the art of photography and how we do it, as told by the past and present big names in the industry.

Misawa, 1971/2010 (Image credit: Daido Moryama Photo Foundation / Orion Books)

The book ends with a quote from the father of photography, William Henry Fox Talbot, displayed next to his famous image of the lattice window believed to be the oldest negative in the world. “I do not claim to have perfected an art, but to have begun one, the limits of which it is not currently possible to determine exactly.”

Lattice window at Lacock Abbey, 1835. (Image credit: William Henry Fox-Talbot/Science & Society Picture Library/Orion Books)

This great little coffee table book Photographers on photography, how they see, think and shoot by Henry Carroll, courtesy of Orion Publishing, can be purchased now from Blackwell’s for $12.19 / £8.99 / AU$16.93 as well as other retailers including Amazon, Waterstones, World of Books, WHSmith, Laurence King and on pre-order at Rough Trade.

Read more:

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The UK’s best photo books
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