Let's face it, we all need a little inspiration sometimes. I don't know about you, but I find that I'm much less self-judgmental when I'm looking at a famous photographer's work in a nice big coffee table book rather than flipping through 600px files on a website. To that end I've put together a list of books that I own and will pull out when I'm in need of some love. Cover images link to the relevant Amazon.com page for your surfing pleasure.
Richard Avedon "Avedon at Work" This behind-the-scenes look by Laura Wilson into Avedon's American West series is a classic. Beautiful prints as well as some interesting stories about dealing with subjects. I especially like the set pictures of his big 8x10 camera setup pointing at a corrugated metal wall on the shady side of a building in the middle of nowhere with 3 assistants required to run it all at the speed he wanted to work. So bad-ass. Amazon Link
Saul Leiter "Early Color" I the 90 year old Saul speak a few months ago. Imagine the cutest great-grandfather type you can imagine, who's also a street photography genius. This small 8x8" book was suggested to me by my friend Cynthia. It can be hard to find and isn't cheap, but the prints are great and the photographs sublime. Amazon Link
William Eggleston "Democratic Camera" This is the companion book to the Eggleston show at the Whitney a couple years ago. To be honest, I was never a big fan of his, then I went to see the show, then I went again, it was amazing. Most of the classic William Eggleston's Guide make an appearance and so much more. Don't feel bad about not having the 'Guide' this one will make up for it. Amazon Link
Platon "Platon's Republic" I have a love/hate relationship with Platon's work. I love the tones of his images and the intimacy he sometimes gets with his subjects, but at the same time I think he repeats himself far too much (I mean, how many really wide angle, heavily vignetted, black and white studio portraits on white seamless can one man take?) That said, if you haven't yet, spend some time watching interviews with him. I've found them fascinating. Amazon Link
Mark Seliger "In My Stairwell" I'm not in love with all of Seliger's work. I think it's all excedingly well done, I just think that they're sometimes a little too contrived and conceptual. This series of 8x10 b/w portraits taken at the top of the elevator shaft in his building here in NYC is pretty great. I love how stripped down it all feels, how he had to work in the tight space, and the fact that it's all lit by the skylight above. Good stuff and I'm jealous that I don't have a location as great. Amazon Link
Henri Cartier-Bresson "An Inner Silence" His 'Europeans" book is also great and includes most of the super-famous shots which everyone has been trying to top for 80 years now. This book is instead a collection of his portraits, for which he is generally less known. They're much more intimate than you would expect for guy who's famous for hunting his photographic prey. Definitely a different facet to such a famous guy. Amazon Link
Dan Winters "Periodical Photographs" Dan is one of those photographers that I aspire to be. His classic montra is that you shouldn't be worrying about where to put light, you should be finding the right places to take light away. I try to emulate his work all the time, failing miserably on most occasions. Not only is he a great portraitist, but he also includes pictures of a space shuttle launch. Enough said. Amazon Link