I’m a book nerd.  I probably stop in a thrift store once a week to peruse the book section, and undoubtedly come home with something to add to my collection.

As a photographer, I’ve discovered that there is no shortage of inspirational photography books out there for me to discover.

But what makes a photography book truly inspiring?

For me it is many things.  The photographs of course, but also the layout and design of the book are important.  As well, the book needs to tell a story, and to move me… Not just visually, but in the content.

The three books on this list are all of these things. Beautiful, well designed, and inspiring. All three are very different in their content & design, but each is compelling, graceful, and moving. What makes them most inspirational for me is that each of these photographers has moved me to become not just a better artist, but a better human and a better storyteller.

 I hope you enjoy this selection of inspirational photography books.


Sebastião Salgado - Otras Americas (Other Americas)

Other Americas, originally published in France in 1986 and designed by Lélia Wanick Salgado, is Sebastião Salgado’s first book. Upon publication it became an award winning photobook classic, establishing Salgado’s reputation as the visionary reportage photographer of his generation. With forty-nine black-and-white photographs taken between 1977 and 1984, Salgado’s distilled survey of a continent includes images from Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico. The images range in subject, capturing spiritual and religious practices, changing rural landscapes, and intimate domestic life. Each photograph shares a sense of sincere connection-connection between the subject and the photographer, between a population and their homeland, and between Salgado and the audience he seeks to engage. In his text, Alan Riding writes, “Salgado has sought out a lost corner of the Americas and he has made it a prism through which the entire continent can be viewed. A philosophy of life is caught in a look; an entire way of life is frozen in a moment . . .”


Irving Penn - Centennial

Irving Penn (1917-2009) was among the most esteemed and influential photographers of the twentieth century. Over the course of a nearly seventy-year career, he mastered a pared-down aesthetic of studio photography that is distinguished for its meticulous attention to composition, nuance, and detail. This indispensable book features one of the largest selections of Penn's photographs ever compiled–nearly 300 in all–including famous and beloved images as well as works that have never been published.

Celebrating the centennial of Penn's birth, this lavish volume spans the entirety of his groundbreaking career. An enlightening introduction situates his work in the context of the various artistic, social, and political environments and events that affected the content of his photographs. Lively essays acquaint readers with Penn's primary subjects and campaigns, including early documentary scenes and imagery; portraits of cultural figures and celebrities; fashion; female nudes; peoples of Peru, Dahomey (Benin), New Guinea, and Morocco; and still life. Rounding out the book are discussions of Penn's advertising pictures and his painstaking printing processes, as well as an illustrated chronology. Irving Penn: Centennial is essential for any fan of this artist's work or of the history of twentieth-century photography.


Brandon Stanton - Humans of New York

Humans of New York began in the summer of 2010, when photographer Brandon Stanton set out to create a photographic census of New York City. Armed with his camera, he began crisscrossing the city, covering thousands of miles on foot, all in an attempt to capture New Yorkers and their stories. The result of these efforts was a vibrant blog he called "Humans of New York," in which his photos were featured alongside quotes and anecdotes.

The blog has steadily grown, now boasting millions of devoted followers. Humans of New York is the first book inspired by the blog. With four hundred color photos, including exclusive portraits and all-new stories, Humans of New York is a stunning collection of images that showcase the outsized personalities of New York.

Brandon has since expanded on this project with a follow-up book Humans of New York - Stories. He has also traveled to over 20 countries around the world (Pakistan, Iran, South Sudan, and more) to gather more compelling stories. As well, he is creating new series like Inmate StoriesRefugee Stories, and much more.