Do We Rush Our Photography?

My study of early film photographers has me wondering: Do we rush our photography?

In this post, you will learn about some of my favorite books on old black and white master portrait photographers. Included are links to the books and a few chosen images created by these early masters.

Skrenbneski Portraits – A Matter of Record

I absolutely love Skrebneski’s work. He has a unique way of using extensive black shadows with no detail whatsoever to create form and put emphasis on the face. Some of today’s judges for popular print competitions will certainly have varying opinions with his amazing work.

A few notable examples can be viewed here:

Yousuf Karsh – A Sixty Year Perspective 

And, then there is the totally amazing Yousuf Karsh. The wonderful book I found in a used bookstore is:

Karsh has done so many, many iconic and wonderful portraits. I find the money that I spend on books well-worth it as many of these old master images are not available on the Internet in digital form. This book is 10” x 11” and the printing is amazing as one might expect from Bulfinch Press. Here is a quick link to a Google search on his images. 

One of my all-time favorite black and white portraits is:

When you read the story behind this image, you’ll be even happier you bought, borrowed, or checked the book out at a library. When you view images like this one in the book you can see detail in the shadows, which is not visible on the Internet images.

One of his shots of Ernest Hemingway taken in 1957 is another stunning portrait. Next to the Hemingway photograph he notes:

“Hands give clues to the entire personality—the subject’s mood, attitude, tension. They are for me, almost a barometer of a person’s being, a distillation of the whole. Except in rare instances, I never set out to photograph hands alone; they are always a compliment to the total image.”

This particular image, which I find to be so fascinating, was not found online.

Yousuf Karsh – Biography in Images

Here is one more wonderful Yousuf Karsh book.

Other highly recommended books on this topic include:

Masterclass – Arnold Newman

Imogen Cunningham: Photographs

Faces – Phillip Trager

For a fantastic look at portraits taken from unusual perspectives this is an exemplary example. It is amazing to see how one can define a style by using something so simple as shot perspective.

Again, in these books you will see many incredible images that are not available online. These and similar books make me wonder why we are all so eager to put our work online. Is our work not more valuable if it is not on display everywhere and it is only shown at its best? Having written one of the first, if not the first book on digital cameras in 1999, I’m fully into digital imagery and I love my iPad and all the ways we have to show work digitally—but, as a photographer—I’m am absolutely, unequivocally in love with exceptionally well-done prints be they in a book, or be printed on fine art paper or printed chemically.

Oh—and back to the initial question I posed: Do you think we rush our photography? When I look at all this amazing imagery done by old masters, I can see the time and thought they put into each and every image. Do our rapid-fire, no-incremental-cost-per-image digital cameras put us in the wrong mind-set?

Please let me know what black and white photography books you love.