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5 Photographer Biographies That Are Worth A Read

By Michelle Bird on July 18th 2014

Take a closer look into the life of some of the most influential and notable photographers in history. Below are five photographer biographies that are worth getting your hands on. These books will give you a new personal insight into the world of Adams, Steichen, Arbus, Cartier-Bresson, and Stieglitz. Once you discover something new about them and their world, the stories behind their photographs might take a new light in your eyes. 


Ansel Adams: An Autobiography by Ansel Adams and Mary Street Alinder

This bestselling autobiography was completed right before Adams’ death in 1984. It’s a lifelong testament that recounts six decades of a legendary career not only in photography, but follows his work as a conservationist, musician, and teacher. Along 277 illustrations, you will see the personal story of Adams as told by this charismatic and charming man, who dedicated his life to capturing the world.


Steichen: A Biography by Penelope Niven

The first comprehensive biography written about photographer and painter, Edward Steichen. This book follows his extravagant life in Paris and New York, how he introduced Modern Art to America, recounts of his photography in World War I and World War II, as well as how he shaped American fashion and portrait photography as a whole while being the chief of photography for Vanity Fair and Vogue.



An Emergency In Slow Motion by William Todd Schultz

An Emergency in Slow Motion reveals the psychological trials and tribulations of prominent photographer, Diane Arbus. She was one of the most noted American photographers of the time, her stunning black and white photos revealed a glimpse of her subjects. It wasn’t after her suicide at forty-eight that her photos revealed a dark past of their own.


Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century by Peter Galassi

Henri Cartier-Bresson is one of the most influential and original photographers in history, who through his work defined creativity within modern photography. In 12 chapters and 300 photographs you will follow the career of Bresson in his days of founding the Magnum Photo Agency– who helped other photographers get work at prominent magazines like Life– his photojournalism during the revolution of the Soviet Union to Stalin’s death, recounts of the United States postwar boom, and his captures on the older generations in Europe being faced with modern realities.



Alfred Stieglitz: A Biography by Richard Whelan and Jennifer Josephy

An extensive biography of pioneering photographer and husband of Georgia O’ Keeffe,  Alfred Stieglitz, who through his fifty-year career incorporated art into the world of photography, founding Photo-Secessionist and Pictorialist photography movements in the United States, as well as introducing European avant-garde artists to America.

 What other photographer biographies do you recommend folks should read?


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Michelle Bird is a Southern California based freelance photographer and writer, with a strong focus on music, editorial and portrait photography. She is the founder and creative force behind the music+culture online blog Black Vinyl Magazine, and can often be found in the photo-pit shooting the latest concerts in town. She has a strong passion for art, exploring, vintage finds and most of all animals. Connect with her through Email,
Instagram , or Facebook

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ravikiran Rangaswamy

    I would recommend ‘Waiting for Robert Capa’ by Suzanna Fortes and ‘Alive and Clicking’ by T. N Satan.

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  2. Greg Faulkner

    This is one of the only things I miss about university. All the books I had access to

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  3. Ian Moss

    I have all of these (and have read them as well). I’d add Don McCullins, ‘ Unreasonable Behaviour’.

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  4. heri purnanto

    you are good

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  5. Michael Giordano

    I’d like to recommend looking up Catherine Leroy as well. My dad was a navy corpsman on the U.S.S. Sanctuary during Vietnam. Catherine Leroy got injured and they worked on her. He said she was very young and lied about her credentials to be able to be there. She ended up being a famous war photographer following soldiers on the battlefield. She was a tough and courageous individual.

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    • Michelle Bird

      Thanks for the input Michael! That’s definitely a great story, I’ll be looking her up.

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  6. Michael Chapman

    I love this stuff – thanks for the article!

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    • Michelle Bird

      Anytime Michael! I’m currently reading Ansel Adams’ Autobiography, which was the inspiration for this list, I’ve learned so much by reading it thought more photogs could benefit as well, and I have to say it’s now one of my favorite books. Feel free to leave your thoughts later on if you read any of these.

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    • Jim Johnson

      I truly enjoyed Ansel Adams biography, but was a great quote about its veracity by one of his friends (I can’t remember which). It went something along the line of: “According to his biography Ansel was always a natural at everything and never had a bad day.”

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