Find inspiration in photo books

In our survey we asked photographers where they find their inspiration.

In most cases they find their inspiration in museums. This is obviously not possible at the moment. I think that if we would ask the question today, in the middle of the corona crisis, quite different results would emerge.

Another striking result is the difference between websites and social media. Apparently, social media is too volatile or fragmented to serve as a source of inspiration. A website or newsletter often gives more room, more context and much more depth.

Over 68% of the respondents browse through his or her photo books. This share will probably also be higher in these times. There is more time than before to browse through the photo books at your ease. I notice that I also take more time for that myself. Especially because I spend the whole day at home working behind a screen. In the evening I prefer to sit with a photo book on my lap to admire and analyze the work of famous photographers.

Some of my favorite books at the moment are Magnum Contact Sheets and Present (Stephan Vanfleteren).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is book-magnum-contact-sheets.jpgMagnum Contact Sheets because in this book you don’t simply look at iconic photos, but actually see the whole process of creating that photo. In the Contact sheets you can see all the photos of that specific shoot, and therefore also those that were not chosen in the end. Very educational and interesting.
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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is book-present.jpgPresent, simply because Vanfleteren is one of my favorite photographers and his oeuvre is extraordinary. Really a pleasure to look at and the quality of the book is great.
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I will soon post extensive book reviews later.

So I’d like to know if you have been looking at your photo books more lately. Did you?


  1. Yes. I’m using my books to find inspiration. The quality of images and the attention with which a portfolio is composed is such a good source of inspiration.

  2. Definitely yes.
    When buying a book, in most cases I tend to look at the photos, reading the captions but skipping the introductory texts. It seems time passes by slower these days, which makes it easier to concentrate on books and even read the essays that come with the photographic contents.
    Examples of photographers whose work I particularly like:
    – Neal Rantoul (book: American Series)
    – Thomas Struth (I own a book that is in fact the catalogue of an earlier exhibition in Athens)
    – Andrew Borowiec (book: Along the Ohio)
    – Sally Mann (book: A Thousand Crossings)
    Tip: Hold Still, Sally Mann’s autobiography.
    I can’t provide links because they do not work in this reply, but the photographers aren’t hard to find.

  3. Over the years I have built up a beautiful collection of photo books that I enjoy looking at. And then it always tickles me to grab the camera myself.
    A photo does not stand on its own. It was made by a photographer who was often very consciously working on it and eventually selected just that one photo. I am interested in the creative process involved. For me, the photographer and his work are inextricably linked. That’s why the introductions and essays in the books are at least as important to me as the photographs themselves, and that’s why I always read them.

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