Finding the right place to look for cinematography inspiration can be difficult. Let's limit your gaze to five extraordinary photo books.
I have been a longtime collector of movie books. Whether theoretical or art books that document the phases of the pre-production concept, my TV stand is filled to the brim with them. For reasons unknown to me, however, I never dipped my feet in the sea of photo books. Despite working in the medium and searching endlessly for visual inspiration in Instagram's #shotonfilm community, I haven't bought a single monograph. That changed this year.
Below are five of my current favorites that have been explicitly identified because they ignite the flames of inspiration for aspiring photographers and cameramen who want to emulate raw, naturalistic imagery.
Please note that due to the formatted blog images, some sample photos may not reflect the full composition of the photographer.
1. Where to find myself by Joel Meyerowitz ($ 65)
Joel Meyerowitz & # 39; photo book Where I find myself.
Joel Meyerowitz is one of America's most famous street photographers. Of course, he is also known for his portraits and landscapes. Where I find myself is part of the photo book and part of the biography as it documents his journey through different phases of his career.
While I don't quite like illustration and photo books with pages upon pages of text, Meyerowitz's words help illustrate how he forms a picture and, most importantly, why.
Meyerowitz & # 39; work not only encompasses his artistic endeavors, but also documents various phases of his career. Image via Joel Meyerowitz.
It encompasses all of Joel Meyerowitz's great projects – his work inspired by artist Morandi, his work on trees, his exclusive coverage of Ground Zero, his travels in the footsteps of Robert Frank across the United States, his experiments comparing colors with black and white images and of course his iconic street photography.
-Laurence King Publishing
Meyerowitz is also known for his exemplary street photography. Image via Joel Meyerowitz.
For aspiring cameramen who want to delve into raw and personal imagery, Where I Find Myself is the perfect choice.
2. I Can Make You Feel Good by Tyler Mitchell ($ 60)
Tyler Mitchell's vision of a black utopia that I can make you feel good about.
Unlike Joel Meyerowitz, 'Where I Find Myself, there is no white space outside of the introduction in Tyler Mitchell's "I Can Make You Comfortable". Each page is filled to the brim with Mitchell's works celebrating his vision of a black utopia.
Mitchell uses natural light and a rich color palette to portray his subjects with elegant beauty. Image via Tyler Mitchell.
The book illustrates Mitchell's body from photography and film on 206 pages. Mitchell lives in Brooklyn and works in many genres to explore and document a new aesthetic of blackness.
In his debut monograph, Mitchell combines the body of photography and film from his first US solo exhibition at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York. Every page of I Can Make You Feel Good is fully bled and bathed in Mitchell's signature candy-colored palette. With no white space visible, the design of the book reflects the photographer's broad vision, characterized by the use of glowing natural light and rich colors to portray with intimacy and optimism the young black men and women he photographs .
This book is a treasure trove of visual tidbits for cameramen looking for inspiration in natural light, soft light, and candy-colored palettes.
The raw, intimate perspective of Mitchell's photography. Image via Tyler Mitchell.
3. Girl Pictures by Justine Kurland ($ 50)
Justine Kurland's photo series of teenage girls – Girl Pictures.
The North American border is an enduring symbol of romance, rebellion, escape and freedom. At the same time, it's a deeply masculine myth.
With cowboys and outlaws, it's hard to see why. In Girl Pictures, Justine Kurland turns this trope around with a series of photos of teenage girls taken between 1997 and 2002 on the tattered road of the American wilderness.
Kurland's homage to the fearless freedom of teenage girls on the move. Image via Justine Kurland.
She (Justine Kurland) portrays the girls as fearless and free, tender and wild. They hunt and explore, braid each other's hair and swim in sun-drenched water holes – regardless of the camera (or the viewer). Their world is lawless and utopian at the same time, a border Eden in the wild spaces outside the suburban infrastructure and ideas.
A story unfolds with every picture. Image via Justine Kurland.
With one element of the staging, it often feels as if each photo has still been picked from a feature. Readers follow the composition and wonder what is going on next, or perhaps more pessimistic. Using natural light in natural settings, Girl Pictures is the perfect book to get inspiration for naturalistic cinematography while doing a study of the positioning of compositions.
4. The Atmosphere of Crime, 1957 by Gordon Parks ($ 40)
Gordon Parks' photo book The Atmosphere of Crime, 1957.
Is the Gordon Parks name ringing a few bells but you just can't quite tell? That's because not only was he a powerhouse in documentary journalism, but he was also a film director who held the reins of Shaft (1971) making him one of the pioneers of the blaxploitation genre.
My job: Researching crime across America. A journey through hell. . . It was 1957. I drove through shady areas with detectives, climbed fire escapes, and broke through windows and doors with them. Brutality was rampant. Violent death occurred from morning to night.
Parks drove with detectives to document and challenge the criminal stereotype. Image vi Gordon Parks.
In 1957, Life Magazine asked Parks to illustrate an ongoing series of articles documenting that year's crime. The photos in the book are the result of a six-week journey by parks through New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
The resulting eight-page photo essay, "The Atmosphere of Crime," was notable not only for its bold aesthetic sophistication, but also because it challenged stereotypes about crime that were ubiquitous in the mainstream media. They provided a colorful, cinematic representation of a largely hidden world: violence, police work and imprisonment, viewed with empathy and openness.
Low, natural light captures the grainy feel of real life. Image via Gordon Parks.
It should come as no surprise that the photos are filled with raw images in low light and high keys, ideal for cameramen who want to emulate a grainy image with minimal light.
5. Intimate distance from Todd Hido ($ 65)
Todd Hido's cinematic photos of suburban life and landscapes at Intimate Distance.
Unfortunately, this book is currently out of print and is being sold in the aftermarket at a significant price. So this recommendation may be more of a joke (I'm sorry). Fortunately, I was able to grab a copy for a little more than cover price before the vacation.
Todd Hido is an American contemporary artist and photographer. For the first time ever, Intimate Distance collects most of Hido's iconic images in a single book.
Hido's ability to capture the beauty of a moment. Image via Todd Hido.
Todd Hido is known for his photographs of landscapes and suburban houses in the United States and for his use of bright colors. He takes a distinctly cinematic look at everything he photographs and digs deep into his memory and imagination for inspiration. . . Short interviews with Hido about the creation of each of his monographs are also presented. From the outside in, from surface observations to unconscious investigations, from landscapes to files. This mid-career survey gives insights into the practice of Hido and shows how his unique focus has evolved and shifted over time.
A scary picture taken from inside a car. Image via Todd Hido.
Especially when reading this book, I often asked myself, "How does that look so good?" Especially the shots from the rainy interior of a car. You almost feel like you've paused it during a crime novel.
For the budding cameraman looking for inspiration to isolate subjects in natural light or create moody, muted palettes, this book is a must have.
Find more resources
I would like to say that I was able to recommend these books because my knowledge of photographers is vast and infinite. While I have an acceptable number of photographers to draw inspiration from, these recommendations were taken from an awesome Instagram account called The Cinematographer & # 39; s Archive.
The Instagram account – the cameraman's archive.
It's a report prepared by Jordan Buck and James Rhodes that serves as a glimpse into what's on the bookshelf of the working cameramen. From commercial to feature DPs, there are a variety of collections to search through. Be warned though! Some of the more intriguing photo books are out of print, making them difficult to find and expensive to buy. You may fall into a late eBay rabbit hole chasing the books.
Discover even more inspiration for your next project with these interviews, summaries and much more.