Some Recommended Holiday Reading


An ideal bit of holiday reading about photography is Roland Barthes’ classic study of the medium, Camera Lucida. Its a short book that, unlike most works of photographic “theory”, has a distinctly poetic quality that seems so appropriate since you will be hard pressed to find a theory in it. Its lovely to read, with interesting and quite challenging ideas on nearly every page. It will certainly get you thinking about that most powerful of media – that’s one of his ideas by the way, that photography has an extraordinary power over us. A wonderful companion piece to this work of Barthes’ is Susan Sontag’s equally short, accessible and interesting study of the photographic medium entitled On Photography. Barthes and Sontag take a related approach to thinking about photography that you are likely to find really thought provoking. A very different and more historical companion piece to these two is Michael Pritchard’s A History of Photography in 50 Cameras which provides a fascinating insight into the way the development of photographic technologies influenced the history of photography and what kind kind of photographs could be made. Alternatively, have a look at Graham Clarke’s The Photograph: A Visual and Cultural History. Its still one of the best short general histories of photography and is, as they say, richly and wonderfully illustrated. You can download it here:

But the holidays are also a time for watching old films and there are two in which the theme of photography looms large. The first is the 1991 film Proof directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse. It a dark comedy about a blind photographer who takes photographs as proof of what his friends and carers describe is in front of him. You can watch a trailer here:

The other film is the 2006 film Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus directed by Steven Shainberg.  Arbus is among the really great photographers of the 20th century, and she undoubtedly led  a very interesting life. This is a fictionalised biopic that, although far from perfect, takes the viewer into the circumstances which inspired an extraordinary photographer. You can watch the trailer here: