Using quotes and images from well-known photographers as points of departure, Henry Carroll’s book, Photographers on Photography, takes a wide-ranging look at many of the ideas that have been important to the medium. The 50 photographers discussed in the book range from famous masters such as Irving Penn, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Richard Avedon and Lisette Model, to photographers whose work is pushing the medium forward today, such as Laia Abril, Lars Tunbjörk, Wendy Red Star, Leiko Shiga and Roni Horn.
Amalia Ulman’s use of Instagram to create a fake persona is Carroll’s jumping-off point for a critical look at social media’s influence on photography and self-representation. Through the work of Laia Abril, the book asks whether honing a signature style can make images more about the photographer than the subject. A James Welling image “challenges the notion that a photograph has to be ‘of’ anything at all,” Carroll writes. And Todd Hido’s landscapes lead to a discussion of the value of creating parameters to work within. In addition to the quotes, images and short discussions, the book also includes longer interviews with six photographers: Esther Teichmann, Olivia Bee, Alec Soth, Ron Jude, Broomberg & Chanarin. Carroll asks them each about their work, and then ends by asking for their favorite quotation on photography, adding another layer of thoughts and ideas to be explored. In her citation of a Wim Wenders quote, for instance, Olivia Bee points out that the camera, rather than separating the photographer from her subject, is a way to connect. “People often see photography as only seeing the surface, and exploiting our lives, our loves, but Wenders talks about photography helping you love more deeply,” Bee says. “How beautiful is that?”
In his introduction, Carroll calls the book “a brief introduction to the big ideas,” and in that sense it’s a useful starting point for a deeper exploration of the work of the 50 photographers quoted in the book, and for a reader’s thinking about their own philosophy of photography.