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Inspirational Photography Books—by Blair Gable

Our friend, Ottawa photographer Blair Gable, is a member of CanvasPop’s Pro Community and shares his insights and behind-the-scenes thoughts right here on our blog.  Here are some of Blair’s favourite photography books. 

I have a modest library of photographic books that I have collected over my career and I wanted to share a few that were instrumental in inspiring me to become a great photographer. Everything from pure photojournalism to some of the greatest images ever made in a studio—enjoy!

The Republicans by Steve Simon
Steve Simon is a friend and colleague of mine who’s work never fails to inspire me. He is a Canadian living and working in New York City and The Republicans is one of his four books that I own. His most recent publication, The Passionate Photographer: Ten Steps Toward Becoming Great, will soon be in my collection as well. Even though the visuals of Canadian politics are not nearly as exciting as the ones south of the border, The Republicans is always the book I go to when I need to get my creative juices flowing before a big political event.

Water Light Time by David Doubilet
Even though I have never taken a photo underwater, I knew I had to have this book the moment I saw it. It is the most compelling collection of underwater photography I have ever seen from one of the best photographers in the world. Doubilet has been a contributing photographer for National Geographic Magazine since 1971 and you can bet that I will be reading this book over and over before my trip to Belize this spring.


In The American West by Richard Avedon
Richard Avedon is one of my favorite photographers of all-time and this book speaks to me like no other I have seen before. The body of work is deceptively simple in it’s approach, but the lives and stories of the people Avedon photographed are clearly written on their faces. This is the ultimate example of minimalistic work done right. One camera, one lens, natural light and a piece of white paper attached to various walls around the western-United States. For me, In The American West is the perfect portrait series.





Platinum Collection by LIFE
I think I found this book at Costco a few years ago and it has easily become one of my favourites. It is packed with stunning portraits and amazing moments from around the world, collected by LIFE magazine over the last 70 years. I give this book some serious time whenever I want to be overwhelmed with excellence and the endless possibilities of editorial photography.






Magnum Stories by Chris Boot
This book took me about a year to finish—it’s size and scope is so overwhelming that it is impossible to read it quickly and do it any justice. It contains amazing stories and images from 61 of the best photojournalists the world has ever seen.






Regarding Heros by Yousuf Karsh
It is impossible to live in Ottawa, Ontario and not see Karsh’s imagery everywhere you go and this book contains the best collection of his work that I have found. Karsh was a master of portraits and a genius in the darkroom. He knew exactly what he wanted from his subjects and was not afraid to do what he needed to in order to capture the essence of his subjects. You may be tired of hearing the story of him pulling the cigar from Sir Winston Churchill’s mouth to make him snarl, but there are so many fantastic images that Karsh created over the course of his career that his body of work is impossible to ignore.




Street Photographer by Vivan Maier via John Maldof
I stumbled across the work of Vivian Maier by accident and was instantly captivated by the images and the story around their emergence. An art collector won a collection of film at an auction from an anonymous photographer and was so taken with the work that he spent the next years of his life discovering every aspect of Vivian Maier’s life story that he could. It turns out that Maier was a nanny and amateur photographer who spent her life shooting mostly street photographs in the Bronx, more than 10,000 images on film. The unassuming body of work is like nothing that will ever be seen again because the social environment in which they were made has been throughly destroyed by time.

What are your favourite photography books?


Follow Blair on Twitter (@gablehead) and let him know what you’d like to see here next. Check out his previous posts

Thanks, Blair!