Pure Inspiration

Every so often, if we are lucky and blessed, we will get “photographers block”. We will look at our work and become either bored or frustrated with it. This is a good sign, because it shows that we are moving forward, and that our work and approaches are developing. We may however be stuck for ideas or be looking for inspiration, or new ways of thinking about her own photography and what we do.

Here are a group of books which I have personally found incredibly useful, and which have helped me at different points in my own journey. I warmly and heartily recommend them to you. Please note that if you click on the thumbnail, it will take you to the relevant page on Fishpond, a Kiwi online retailer.

The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh EyesThink of this book is the Buddhist version of “Photography and the Art of Seeing”. The two authors have successfully been teaching people how to develop their own “photographic voice” for over 20 years. This book is a distillation of all their thoughts, ideas and approaches. Every photographer needs a mentor  in order to be able to grow, a well of inspiration from which to draw. The photographs in this book are extraordinarily simple, a result of the authors’ years of studying the Buddhist principle of mindfulness. If you feel that your own photography is dancing to someone else’s tune, then this is a great place to start.


That's the Way I See itFor nearly 60 years, the English artist, David Hockney,has been regarded as one of the leading lights of the global art scene. he moved to a position at a US university even before he had finished his own fine art degree. Since then he has continued to influence all corners of the art world. His brief foray into photography in the mid-1980s produce a remarkable body of work which totally change the way many photographers saw. Be warned: he as opinionated and forthright, but the trouble is he knows what he’s talking about. At the time when I was trying to see the place of my own work within a wider context, this book was, for a time, my artistic bible. I cannot recommend it highly enough for those of you looking to move into a new way of an example, consider this quote:

The moment you cheat for the sake of beauty, you know you’re an artist.
David Hockney

Hockney on ArtThink of this book as a companion to the one above. In this book Hockney talks in greater detail about his ideas on art, trends and movements. In order to understand your own work in a wider art-historical context (assuming of course, that you do), then you need to have some knowledge of the art world.

To my mind this is the next best thing to a formal education in Art History.


You had to be aware that I saw that photography was a mere episode in the history of the optical projection and when the chemicals ended, meaning the picture was fixed by chemicals, we were in a new era.
David Hockney

The Artist's Tao: 44 Principles for an Artist's LifeSometimes the best books are small ones, which pack a powerful punch. Sean Starr i s a practising American fine artist/painter, and in this little book, he has distilled the whole essence of the artist’s journey . The truths is he lays out here are so simple and yet so powerful. Inspired by the Tao Te Ching, The Artist’s Tao is a collection of 44 principles that encourage introspection and reflection for artists. The Artist’s Tao is drawn from hundreds of conversations and correspondences between Sean Starr and other artists around the world dealing with subjects such as fighting discouragement, maintaining balance, and measuring success as an artist.

This is a must-read for anyone looking at their own photographic journey, at making the transition from being a hobby photographer to the way of the artist.

Setting Sun: Writings by Japanese PhotographersBeyond a certain point,inspiration will come not so much from listening to people we know, but from exploring the wider world of photography and art. Essays written by photographers can help us to reflect upon our own photographic journey, upon our motivations thoughts and beliefs, and perhaps use those to develop our own practice.

For some time now it has seemed to me that all the energy in the photographic world is coming from the Far East. For too long we have believed that the Mecca of photographic practice lay in the West. That has changed, and some of the most exciting work today is coming out of Japan, Korea and China. Setting Sun is a collection of writings, of diary entries and thoughts from significant Japanese photographers of the last 60 years. The essays are short but intensely thought-provoking, well worth reading and then using to reflect upon your own photographic journey. Sometimes a word or phrase is all we need to help us on our way…

Photography Speaks: 150 Photographers on Their ArtPhotographers have shared their thoughts from the very beginnings of photography.again, once we reach a certain level in our own practice, hearing what the greats who have gone before us have to say can provide a powerful motivation and sense of direction. This book contains the thoughts of 150 photographers from the very beginnings of the medium in the early 19th century. Reading this book will help you to get a sense of the wonderful journey photography has taken, the various movements and directions within it. The book also contains examples of work by each speaker, and by reading the text in studying the pictures, it is possible to get a sense of our own direction, and our place within the medium.

Photography Speaks will provide much food for thought, and be the sort of book you dip into on a regular basis.

Essential reading.

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