Browse any gift shop or bookstore on a rainy afternoon. Examine a friend’s coffee table for more than appetizers. Odds are you will soon be within thumbing distance of an art or photography book profiling a far-off land, an historical event, or a person whose work graces museum walls or the front of t-shirts.
Such books are still on the minds of publishers in 2014, but it is coupled with a growing awareness that readers have more tools at their disposal to create art, especially in the expanding world of photography.
“The art of photography has never been more popular in history,” says Keith Riegert, acquisitions editor at Ulysses Press. “Now that affordable digital cameras can match the level of quality of film-based cameras of decades past, the art form is among the cheapest, most accessible available.
“Photography is now everywhere,” he adds. “In the Internet age, consumers are inundated with influential, carefully constructed imagery wherever they turn; whether that’s on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or blogs, news sites, or online magazines. We live in the age of digital imagery and it has been remarkably inspirational to the generations who are coming of age using it.”
According to research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 61% of Americans own a smartphone. By extension, 61% of Americans have immediate access to a camera, which has changed the idea of photography, says photographer Steve Sonheim, co-author of last year’s Creative Photography Lab: 52 Fun Exercises for Developing Self-Expression with Your Camera (Quarry).
“Photography used to be rigorous and slow and difficult and required an understanding of the process; all that is gone and we now have an almost unlimited opportunity to create images,” Sonheim explains. “Therefore, more and more people are becoming photographers and they are discovering that photography is really about looking and seeing and thinking.”
And the swelling of curious amateurs leads to a golden opportunity for publishers.
Brooke O’Donnell, managing director at Trafalgar Square Publishing, describes amateurs as a vital audience for how-to books. “These consumers tend to buy multiple books in a category as they look to expand their knowledge of the subject and search for aspirational resources,” she explains.
“The more people have access to a camera, the more likely they will want to improve at the medium,” says Princeton Architectural Press editorial director Jennifer Lippert. “Instructional books offer a lens—sorry!—into a specific arena. For example, our book Pinhole Cameras: A Do-It-Yourself Guide is a way to learn about this particular type of photography. But, in general, photography books offer inspiration and how-to [advice] for the amateur.”
Curiosity for photography will only take readers so far. “We think that books of photography have to have a clear, interesting perspective,” says Bill Wolfsthal, associate publisher at Skyhorse Publishing. “While people are happy to look at anyone’s photography at no cost, they will only pay for a book for themselves or give it as a gift if it has an interesting viewpoint or something special to offer.”
In June, Skyhorse will release Michael Wright’s Digital Photography: A Complete Visual Guide, described by the publisher “as a comprehensive guide to digital photography, including smartphone photography.”
Available for sale right now is Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs (Laurence King). Author and photographer Henry Carroll draws upon the skills and talents of 50 noted photographers to show amateurs professional techniques in composition, exposure, light, lenses, and seeing.
Focus & Filter: 100 Photography Tips from Inside the Studio and Out in the Field features New York City photographer Andrew Darlow (The Imaging Buffet website) sharing his knowledge with novices. Specifically, publisher Ulysses Press promises the October release will reveal how readers can improve portraits, candids, and selfies with any camera in any situation.
“The goal of this book is to offer an intro course to amateur photographers who are developing their eye, skillset, and perhaps considering photography as a part of their career,” says Ulysses Press’s Riegert.
Creative ambition is also part of the plan in The Street Photographer’s Manual (Thames & Hudson, June) by David Gibson. According to the publisher, this illustrated guide clues readers in on “observ[ing] and captur[ing] the unexpected.” For those seeking a greater understanding of this particular method of photography, Jackie Higgins’s The World Atlas of Street Photography arrives in September. The publisher, Yale University Press, says Higgins’s work includes “a diversity of styles and practitioners and includes specially commissioned profiles of city artworks by 12 artists from around the globe.”
Focal Press is catering to the professional side of photography. Michelle Bogre’s Photography 4.0: A Teaching Guide for the 21st Century: Educators Share Thoughts and Assignments comes out in July. The following month brings Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained by Grant Scott, a handbook offering clarity on everything from exhibiting to understanding budgeting and copyright in the digital world.
“Even with expensive cameras with auto settings and nice lenses, simply pushing the button does not produce amazing results,” says Kimberly Duncan-Mooney, senior acquisitions editor at Focal Press. “Some aspiring photographers need to learn how to see photographically; some are naturally inclined toward interesting compositions and visual structure but need the nuts and bolts of technical instruction; some want to hear ‘war stories’ from photographers who have tried and failed and tried again.”
Agate Publishing’s e-book, Depth of Field: Tips on Photojournalism and Creativity (April), features Chicago Tribune staff photographer Alex Garcia discussing the demands of visual storytelling and detailing everything from basic pointers to more advanced skills. The Pulitzer Prize winner also goes into technique as well as clichés to avoid.
“Professionals are still a strong market, especially those wanting to sharpen their skills and offer greater value to clients,” Garcia says. “But what has happened in the photography market is a blurring of the line between professionals and enthusiasts. More amateurs are using some of the same gear as professionals because costs have come down.”
Amherst Publishing is releasing several books through October geared toward specific areas of photography such as boudoir photography (Kay W. Eskridge’s Sultry, Sweet, or Sassy, July). With wedding season nigh, Neal Urban’s Dream Weddings: Create Fresh and Stylish Photography (April) might be of particular interest. The Buffalo, N.Y.–based wedding photographer addresses everything from creative lighting to the use of posing to create memorable portraits.
Rocky Nook continues this specialization with books written by accomplished photographers in their respective fields. Thierry Legault teaches amateurs and veterans the art and techniques behind Astrophotography (July). Tilo Gockel covers the ins and outs of using Creative Flash Photography: Great Lighting with Small Flashes (Oct.) for portraits, fashion, and more. In Secrets of Backyard Bird Photography (Sept.), J. Chris Hansen covers everything required—from equipment to attracting the feathery subjects—to capture the creatures of flight. Finally, Tobias Friedrich mixes in case studies as he dives into Underwater Photography (Sept.).
Sometimes photographers need, ahem, other counsel. Enter The Photography Law Handbook (Aug.), published by the American Bar Association and written by lawyer-photographer Steven M. Richman. According to the ABA, readers can expect “a pragmatic and personal perspective on photographer’s rights and obligations” plus guidance in “an unpredictable area of law.”
Photography takes work. So does understanding the final result. Ruth Thomson’s Photos Framed, which Candlewick Press will release in August, asks readers 10 and up to examine and interpret 27 of “the most important and vivid photos taken over the medium’s history.”
“It is extremely important for young readers to have a frame of reference for looking at photography,” says Hilary Van Dusen, editor of Photos Framed. “Photography isn’t only an art but a prominent way of communicating through social media. It is imperative that children learn to question what they are looking at and develop a critical eye for the story the photo tells, the authenticity of the message being conveyed, the quality of the image, the use of the image (is it art, is it advertising, is it personal, exploitive, or documentary?).”
Generating ideas for photography, not to mention every other field of art, is fairly important. In William Kluba’s Where Does Art Come From?: How to Find Inspiration and Ideas (Skyhorse Publishing, out now), the author examines where creativity comes from in the mind and body before evolving into artistic expression.
The instructional and how-to genre applies to other artistic fields. Designers eager to create their own work will find guidance in The Infographic Designers’ Sketchbooks (Princeton Architectural Press, Oct.). More than 50 of the world’s leading graphic designers and illustrators reveal their private sketchbooks to authors Steve Heller and Rick Landers.
“Emphasizing idea-generating methods—from doodles and drawings to three-dimensional and digital mock-ups—this collection is the first to go inside designers’ studios to reveal the art and craft behind infographic design,” the publisher explains.
In Stained Glass: Art, Craft, and Conservation (Robert Hale, May) expert Steve Clare gears his lessons for beginners. The Art of Sea Glass (July, Down East Books) not only features samples as part of “whimsical and clever scenes,” author Tina Lam includes tips for finding sea glass.
As part of a raft of books released before year’s end—everything from a retrospective of photographer Vivian Maier to The Art and Making of “Hercules”, the anticipated summer blockbuster starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—Harper and Harper Design will release You Can Paint Vibrant Watercolors in Twelve Easy Lessons (July). Geared toward all skill levels, watercolorist Yuko Nagayama covers what’s required for vibrant watercolor paintings, including how to mix colors on the palette and initial sketching techniques.
“Although smartphones and other devices offer digital tools and different ways to create art, I like to think that most people still have a fundamental desire to create a piece of art using their hands and a pencil or paintbrush,” says Allison Paige Doscher, assistant editor at Harper Design.
Another great resource for aspiring photographers is the work of established photographers and visual artists generally—understanding composition is the key to most any visual effort.
“I hear from many photographers who decided to learn how to photograph because they were inspired by seeing amazing photographs and wanted to create their own,” says Duncan-Mooney of Focal Press.
Photographers, painters, even sketchers—Kurt Vonnegut Drawings will be released in May by the Monacelli Press—should find their muse.
Ansel Adams in Yosemite Valley: Celebrating the Park at 150, a large-format clothbound effort from Little, Brown (Oct.), celebrates Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Yosemite Grant with roughly 150 images from legendary outdoors photographer Adams. Peter Galassi, former chief curator of New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s department of photography, serves as author.
The University of Texas Press is set to honor two late, great photographers. Wynn Bullock: Revelations (June) is “the most comprehensive assessment of the photographer’s extraordinary career in nearly 40 years,” including ones previously unpublished. The 110 images trace Bullock’s career from his experimental work in the 1940s to his late metaphysical photographs of the 1970s. Then in October, the publisher will release Aaron Siskind, the photographer’s first complete retrospective.
Throughout the rest of 2014, Abrams will publish or distribute a number of books on famous artists, including Meschac Gaba: Museum of Contemporary African Art (Tate Publishing, Nov.), published to accompany the artist’s exhibition at the Tate Modern, and Bruegel in Detail (Abrams, Oct.). The latter title reproduces all of Bruegel’s best-known paintings, drawings, and prints, and is organized by his major themes: landscapes, daily life, biblical subjects, and festive celebrations. Plus, Manfred Sellink’s book reveals the works in large close-up details.
According to MFA Publications, its Goya: Order and Disorder (Oct.)—featuring text by Stephanie Loeb Stepanek, Frederick Ilchman, and Janis A. Tomlinson—“presents a comprehensive and integrated view of Francisco Goya’s most important paintings, prints, and drawings through the themes and imagery that continually challenged or preoccupied the artist.”
In Cecil Beaton: Portraits and Profiles (Frances Lincoln, Sept.), the photographic and pen portraits of the late, great portrait photographer—who captured everyone from Winston Churchill to Mick Jagger—are arranged chronologically and feature text from Beaton’s journals, diaries, and essays.
Returning to American artists. Tim Nye’s The Astonishing Works of John Altoon, a monograph, is devoted to the artist’s paintings and drawings (Monacelli Press, May). A key figure in Los Angeles’s 1950s and ’60s art scene, Altoon’s jarring work portrays “a magical moment in post-war California,” the publisher explains, “between the Beat Generation and the sexual and psychedelic revolution of the late sixties.” Available now, Pomegranate’s Irene Hardwicke Olivieri: Closer to Wildness highlights the living painter’s work (described as exploring “the wildness within and without”) and includes journal entries and excerpts from family letters.
Not every book featuring work from an artist or photographer is a retrospective. First, there was Underwater Dogs. In September, Seth Casteel will unleash Underwater Puppies (Little, Brown). Get ready for 80 previously unpublished portraits of, you guessed it, underwater and adorable puppies.
A grittier series comes from photographer Graham MacIndoe, a former heroin addict. His drug of choice was packaged in stylish glassine envelopes. Now these baggies, collected throughout New York City, are on display in All In: Buying into the Drug Trade (LittleBigMan Books, May).
Books more focused on text than images also have plenty to say about the art world. Georgina Adam has the fiscal side covered with Big Bucks: The Explosion of the Art Market in the 21st Century (Lund Humphries, June). The Financial Times journalist explores how the modern and contemporary art market morphed into a global operation worth an estimated $50 billion annually.
Meanwhile, in 33 Artists in 3 Acts (Norton, Nov.), author Sarah Thornton (Seven Days in the Art World) profiles “a dazzling range of artists, from international superstars to unheralded art teachers” as she seeks to answer the age-old question: “What is an artist?”
Readers craving photography with a historical grounding or a newsy angle will not be disappointed over the coming months. In Beyond the Forest: Jewish Presence in Eastern Europe, 2004–2014 (University of Texas Press, Nov.), Loli Kantor’s black-and-white photos reveal how Eastern European Jews are honoring the past and building the future through such things as revived observances of Passover and Hanukkah.
Edited by Julian Cox, Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay (Yale Univ., published in association with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, July) compiles Friedkin’s portraits of gay communities in Los Angeles and San Francisco from 1969 to 1973. These black-and-white photos, collected in their entirety for the first time, will be published on the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City.
George F. Thompson Publishing turns its attention to Europe, albeit from different perspectives, with two summer releases. Writer-photographer Jeffrey A. Lowdermilk retraces his past and pays tribute to America’s fighting men with Honoring the Doughboys: Following My Grandfather’s World War I Diary. And Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams wanders the country with activist-photographer Elizabeth Billups in Ireland: One Island, No Borders. Billups shares her experiences, but Adams contributes “stories, tales, and facts about his country and his family’s history,” according to GFT Publishing.
Another view of Ireland is portrayed in Melancholy Witness: Images of the Trouble (April) from The History Press Ireland, an imprint of The History Press. Culled from Sean Hillen’s photography exhibit, this collection chronicles the years of the conflict in Northern Ireland. “Combining personality with documentary history, what emerges is a powerful and compelling story of unrest, beauty, and change,” is the History Press Ireland’s description, one that probably won’t be used in any tourism campaigns.
Maude Schuyler Clay’s time in the Mississippi Delta led to 70 duotone photographs revealing the lives of the canines that call the terrain home. The University Press of Mississippi will release Delta Dogs in June.
The Great Bear Rainforest, conservationist and photographer Ian McAllister’s home, is constantly targeted by energy projects that could destroy the land. McAllister portrays the people and creatures in that Pacific Coast paradise in Great Bear Wild: Dispatches from a Northern Rainforest (University of Washington Press, Oct.).
Veteran underwater photographer Jeffrey Rotman, with writer Yair Harel, turns his attention to the changes in ocean wildlife and how they affect the lives of hunters who depend on it in The Last Fisherman: Witness to the Endangered Oceans (Abbeville Press, Oct.).
Perhaps the shutterbugs learning to master a camera—whether it’s on their phone or thrown over their shoulder—will provide the next books that will inspire, inform, and entertain the masses. Or maybe another technological advance will steer millions toward another form of artistic expression.
Whatever happens, publishers are waiting to serve as conduit to creativity.