"No place is boring if you've had a good night's sleep and have a pocket full of unexposed film". So said Ansel Adams, and I wonder what he would make of today's image-saturated culture, in which almost everyone in the world walks around with a smartphone, the contemporary equivalent of a pocket full permanently restocked unexposed film. At Five Books we consider the art, the craft and the theory of photography in the books we discuss with our guests. Here we consider everything from photography and reality to the philosophy of looking to practical techniques for photographing nature. Books in the canon include such greats as Susan Sontag and John Berger, but also new voices like Shahidul Alam, Svetlana Alpers and Maria Loh. At Five Books you will find photography books for your reference library, or to give as a gift to the photography afficionado in your family. Browse the archive, or create your own lists of the best books photography books close to your heart, to share with like-minded readers everywhere. Is there a photographer that piques your interest that you don't see on the site? Let us know by getting in contact with the editorial team.
Editor's note, March 2021: there's also a new book about photography out by award-winning critic Geoff Dyer.
The best books on Photography and Reality, recommended by Errol Morris
‘People learn how to read critically and think critically, but I don’t believe we learn how to see critically.’
The best books on World Photography, recommended by Shahidul Alam
The award-winning Bangladeshi photographer and activist Shahidul Alam tells us about the power of images and offers some striking examples of the photographer as artist, witness or activist.
The best books on The Lives of Artists, recommended by Maria Loh
We live in an age obsessed with self-image. Technology has made the ‘selfie’ a ubiquitous form of social currency. Renaissance means may have been very different, but celebrity artists in Medici Florence dealt with many of the issues relating to identity and authorship that we grapple with today. Maria Loh, author of Still Lives: Death, Desire, and the Portrait of the Old Master, talks to Five Books about the curated self.
The best books on John Berger, recommended by Tom Overton
The biographer and editor of John Berger reveals how Berger’s self-characterisation as a storyteller is visible across the numerous genres he writes in.
Rachel Cohen on Writing About Art
Good writing about visual experience allows us to see things we otherwise wouldn’t, says Rachel Cohen. The author picks some of her own favourite books about art.
Bronwyn Law-Viljoen on Extraordinary Art Books
The arts books publisher chooses a book about Rembrandt’s representation of his own nose, and tells the bigger story is about the way in which Rembrandt renders sense of flesh in his prints and his oil paintings
The best books on Myths of War, recommended by Thom and Beth Atkinson
Photographers Beth and Thom Atkinson, authors of the acclaimed photobook Missing Buildings, discuss five books that explore the mythology of war.