4 Books Every Street Photographer Should Read

Street photography can be intimidating for anyone. Even seasoned street photographer Eric Kim acknowledges the challenge. In this video, he pours his heart out on how he started out as a street photographer, how he idolized masters like Henri Cartier-Bresson, and how his myth of the “decisive moment” was finally broken when he learned the truth behind some iconic images:

Fear greatly discourages taking pictures out on the streets. The thought of pointing a camera toward an absolute stranger can be nerve-wracking. Kim knows this truth and how it discourages most budding photographers from taking up street photography. But he also adds,

“If the street photographer wasn’t scared, if it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be as meaningful and important.”

Books to Improve Your Street Photography

street photography with eric kim

Eric Kim

Kim suggests some very good reads to aspiring street photographers:

  1. Magnum Contact Sheets by Kristen Lubben. Kim suggests this as the most definitive book on street photography. But it’s equally relevant to documentary photography and photojournalism. Kim’s obsession with the “decisive moment” lead him to believe that all the images from the masters of street photography were actually created with a single click. This book changed that perception and convinced him that it was just as hard for them as it was for anyone else. It convinced Kim that in order to make one great image, great photographers often had to make 10, 20, or even 36 exposures.
  2. Koudelka: Gypsies by Will Guy. This book contains Josef Koudelka’s incredible body of black and white work focused on the Roma culture.
  3. Alex Webb: The Suffering of Light by Geoff Dyer. This is a good choice if you prefer color photography.
  4. Wonderland: A Fairytale of the Soviet Monolith by Jason Eskenazi. Eskenazi traveled around the USSR for ten years to create the work in this collection.

“…rather than investing money in cameras, gear, lenses, all that stuff, buying books, not gear, is the best investment a photographer could make.”

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3 responses to “4 Books Every Street Photographer Should Read”

  1. emilio says:

    $2,900 per book for “aspiring” photographers — are you kidding me?

  2. Manuel says:

    I think there is a big misunderstanding (once again) between street photography and documentary photography. And street photography can be considered as “documentary
    Among the books listed by EK, only The Suffering of Light could be considered as SP. All the others are great example of documentary photography (especially Gypsies) and to reduce them to SP is just insulting.

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