When I look at my journey into film photography, it really all started with being inspired by the work of others, and saying, “I want to create images like THAT!”
And isn’t this so often how the urge to create begins? We see an image, or hear a piece of music that moves us, and we are compelled to create something that might move other people in the same way.
As photographers, I think this engagement with the work of other photographers is so crucial. And while the age of the internet has made entire archives of photographs available for us to view on a screen, to see a photograph on a printed page offers an experience that is powerful and profound.
While we may not be able to afford prints or original pieces from our favorite photographers, there are some gorgeous photo book publications out there that put physical images in our hands, so we can engage with them without the mediation of a screen.
As a black and white landscape photographer, there are a number of photo books that continue to be an inspiration for me as an artist. Here are three of my favorites…
Images of the Seventh Day by Michael Kenna
I put this book at the start of my list, because it is the first photo book I ever bought, and it’s the one that really confirmed and inspired in me a desire to shoot black and white landscapes on film.
Kenna is really the pioneer of black and white minimalist landscapes on film, and his commitment to the analogue process from exposure in camera to darkroom printing is remarkable in the digital age.
The images he creates often resemble paintings more than they do photographs, and it’s his use of a camera to offer a new and profound perspective into a familiar world that makes him so compelling to me.
He has many beautiful publications available (all of which are worth having), but Images of the Seventh Day offers a really nice variety of his images from different times and places. If you’re looking for a place to start with Kenna, this book is it.
Olivier Du Tré is a Belgian born landscape photographer, who now resides in Alberta, Canada, where most of the images in this publication were taken.
His evocative black and white landscapes, and the fact that he is a fellow Canadian are two obvious reasons why this book has been a source of inspiration for my own work.
But in addition to a collection of gorgeous images, Du Tré also includes an introduction to the book, where he shares the integral role his rediscovery of film has had in his own photographic journey.
The way that he describes his love for the process and intentionality of film, especially in his use of large format cameras, is a story that I as a film photographer resonate with deeply, and connects me to his images in a more personal way.
For his story and for his evocative presentation of the Canadian landscape on film, Olivier Du Tré’s Seeking Stillness is a photo book I continually turn to for inspiration.
In the film, Alexandra documents her life living through the Winters alone on a small, craggy island on the Atlantic Ocean, working as the caretaker of a grand nineteenth century hotel.
Alexandra is an artist as well, and uses music and film photography as a way to interpret and express creatively her experience of living a life of solitude miles from the mainland.
The book she published, Small Island, Big Picture includes over 60 black and white film photos, along with Alexandra’s stirring life reflections.
This combination of image and word is so effective, and the intimacy with which Alexandra knows the island makes it sound more like a person than a place.
It’s a moving story, and Alexandra’s use of film images to give flesh to the place she knows so well is breathtaking. All of this is contained in a beautiful hard cover publication that I’ve turned to often for inspiration.