recommend a book on history of photography/photographers?


Mu-43 All-Pro
Nov 16, 2012
Real Name
I'm building up a collection of how-to photography books, but have realized that I know pretty much nothing about the history of photography. I wouldn't mind reading something about the development of different photographic equipment and processes, as long as it isn't too technical (and doesn't go through everything camera by camera, like "In 19xx, Kodak introduced the Name-Camera-Model-Here, which improved significantly on the Previous-Year's-Camera by having the little red button on the left instead of the right. The following year, Kodak offered the exciting Even-Newer-Model, which not only changed the little red button to a big green button, but raised it an eighth of an inch, blah blah blah).

Right now, though, I'd be interested in recommendations for a good, readable overview of photography as an art. I keep seeing references to particular photographers or particular styles/movements. Even though I recognize some of the names, I don't have an appreciation for their styles or an understanding of why they're considered important. (Yes, I've checked into taking an evening course or something, but nothing around here is going to fit into my schedule in the near future.)

Thanks much!

Deleted member 20897

While not exactly "history of photography", the publisher Tashen has a book out called "20th Century Photography" which gives a bio and sample images of photographers you might be interested in knowing. It is a good jumping off point for further research into photographers work you might want to delve further into.


Mu-43 Hall of Famer
May 7, 2012
Puget Sound
Real Name
There are too many to list, but you should probably include Beaumont Newhall's works on your short list. If you have a good library, spend some time looking at their collection.

Good luck,



Mu-43 Regular
Jul 17, 2010
Calgary, Alberta
Gotta agree there are way to many to list.
Here are some I found instructive (from my blog)

Also check out "How to read a Photograph" it's actually a very good survey of the evolution of photography

Eileen Rafferty has a very good video on "Art Movements in Photography" over on the B&H site.

I've got more on my shelves about Art History, composition and design. But the above should get you started.

Deleted member 16340

Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital

This is one of the few photography-related books I own. It goes into the history of photography, as the name would imply, but I'll be honest - I really only bought it because I flipped through it at the bookstore and was seduced by the many, many, fine photos of beautiful cameras. Particularly good if you're into the 19th-century early period of photography and cameras.


Mu-43 Veteran
Jul 21, 2013
The History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present - Beaumont Newhall

American Photography: A Century of Images - Vicki Goldberg

A World History of Photography - Naomi Rosenblum

Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography - Robert Hirsch

A History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present; The George Eastman House Collection - David Wooters and Therese Mulligan

To name a few


Mu-43 Top Veteran
Jun 26, 2010
Key West FL
I don't think that anything that I have read and can recommend is still in print, but if you can find them:

The Aperture History of Photography Series: Each volume is dedicated to a single photographer and contains not only a collection of their images but a good career biography.

If you want to go back into the early history of processes and techniques:

Paper and Light: The Calotype in France and Great Britain, 1839-1870: An excellent history of this seminal process and of the major photographers who practiced it.

Photography: The Early Years by George Gilbert: A history of the major photographic processes in the 19th Century.

Colour Photography by Brian Coe: A history of the various color processes, written and printed in England, hence the spelling in the title.

This one's been out-of-print for over 170 years, but is available again as an eBook from Project Gutenberg:

The Pencil of Light by William Henry Fox-Talbot
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