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How to Read a Photograph: Lessons from Master Photographers Paperback – Bargain Price, January 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Abrams; 1 edition (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810972972
  • ASIN: B0058M699G
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,550,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ian Jeffrey is a superb guide in this profusely illustrated introduction to the appreciation of photography as an art form. Novices and experts alike will gain a deeper understanding of great photographers and their work, as Jeffrey decodes key images and provides essential biographical and historical background. Profiles of more than 100 major photographers, including Alfred Stieglitz, Bill Brandt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Paul Strand, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, highlight particular examples of styles and movements throughout the history of the medium. Each entry includes a concise biography along with an illuminating discussion of key works and nuggets of contextual information. How to Read a Photograph: Lessons from Master Photographers is the third book in Abrams' successful series that includes How to Read a Painting and How to Read a Modern Painting.

Customer Reviews

I think these additional words are one of the strengths of the book.
Robin Benson
The photos are in some cases interesting, and perhaps inspirational for a photographer, but I didn't just want a lot pf pictures.
Madelyn Boudreaux
I think author tries to be very objective - he tries to avoid specific persons' opinions.
Marcin Szymczak

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Robin Benson on March 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
Ian Jeffrey explores the work of sixty-nine of the world's greatest photographers with some thought provoking text about their work. The pages are arranged in a vague history of the medium starting with Fox Talbot and four of his photos over four pages. Some names have more depending on how big their creative contributions were, for instance: Lee Friedlander gets six pages; Kertesz and Paul Strand eight; Ben Shahn, Bill Brandt, Cartier-Bresson and Tomatsu Shomei ten; Walker Evans fourteen.

The two great wars in the last century conveniently split the photographers into three sections with a further division created by the FSA photojournalists, who get a wonderful forty pages and thirty-eight photos. Apart from Europeans and Americans the only others who get a look in are three from Japan.

Everyone gets a biography, an analysis of their printed photographs (one to a page) and additional text with a deeper interpretation of the themes in each photographer's work. I think these additional words are one of the strengths of the book. Jeffrey makes you think about the photos in front of you with suggestions which go further than just looking at the composition and texture. 'How to read' in the book's title should maybe have been 'How to appreciate'.

The 384 photos are well printed (300dpi) on good paper with a simple elegant layout though I found it slightly annoying that the second photo on each spread was too small, usually about a quarter of the size of the main image. There is an index and a bibliography. This listing would have worked better if it was placed with the relevant photographer's entry.

I expect everyone will have a favorite who isn't included (Weegee for me) but overall I thought this was a stimulating overview of photography and the relatively small number of people who created a very accessible art form.

***SEE SOME INSIDE PAGES by clicking 'customer images' under the cover.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Madelyn Boudreaux on January 25, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The photos are all lovely, although I expected... more, somehow. Not more photos, but more depth, more information, more explanation. It's as if someone wrote a book called, "How To Read a Book," and the answer was "Run your eyes over the words and gain meaning from them." I am always looking for better critique of photos - notes on how the light interplays, perhaps how a photograph works within an artist's body of work, what was being spoken by the subjects and artist, etc. I didn't find this here.

The photos are in some cases interesting, and perhaps inspirational for a photographer, but I didn't just want a lot pf pictures. I feel like the title mislead my expectations.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Colin J. Clarke on November 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not sure what to make of this book. I guess because I devoured it, cover to cover, I have to first say that it was worth the investment, and it will stay in my library. Whether it taught me "How to Read a Photograph" is another issue. Reading the Zen of Bicycle Maintenance didn't help me ride up hills faster, either, although I did discover how to make it easier!

In "How to Read a Photograph" I found some really interesting reading about more than 100 photographers, from the first few, to contemporary photographers. The well printed images, together with their details, and the author's thoughts on what transpired at the time the film was exposed gave me a nice insight. As for Ian Jeffrey's selection of 'masters' and their images, it was a fair cross section, I think. No doubt some reader will wish another photographer was mentioned in it. But choosing the best list of 'masters' is pretty much a no win situation for any author. In summary, as a 'photography history' buff, I'd say this is a good buy, and most shutterbugs will be happy with the contents. And I believe every reader will learn something. And did I mention, just buying it to look at the many photographs in this well printed book is alone worth the cover price.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Edwin A. Matzner on June 4, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very good book, but really about the history of photography, with examples of work for each major artist. Not really about "reading" an image.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Marcin Szymczak on November 22, 2011
Format: Paperback
The book is quite big. So big, that I was surprised how many pictures and photographers are omitted without a word. My advise to author: make it titled "part I" and collect feedback from readers regarding part 2. ;)
I think author tries to be very objective - he tries to avoid specific persons' opinions. But that doesn't do any good for this book.
Also, there is nothing about how to NOT read a photograph. Human beings tend to learn by mistakes, right? So, you won't find anything like that here.

Will you know how to read a photograph after reading this book? Absolutely not.
In fact, many descriptions lack anything beyond just an information what is on the picture. Take as an example "Lusetti Family" by Strand. The text attached to it says about a door with wide step, a family and some objects which play nicely with persons below. And that's it. How can that kind of text be useful?
But anyway - if one could find complementary position on the market (like I said, part 2 for instance) - that wouldn't be such a bad idea to buy it.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Pellerine on December 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
The title is wrong, but the book is brilliant.

It, as other reviews have pointed out, the works and contributions of many rewound photographers that have attributed something to the field of photography - either technically or genre wise.

The book is a 5 star for the review it does. It is a 4 star (perhaps 3) based on the title.

So, if you want to read and learn about the works of the real contributors of images - this is an excellent book. I personally love it - and recommend it. I am just cautioning you about the title. As a photographer I think this is one of my favorites on the shelf. Well worth it, a reference more than a read - but a very thorough one.
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