Buy at Amazon Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Picador USA, 2001. ISBN: 0312420099.

The seminal intellectual examination of photography and its role in modern life - often pedantic, and often boring, but filled with both maddening and extremely insightful observations about photography and photographers. Available in paperback.

Buy at Amazon Coles, Robert. Doing Documentary Work. Oxford: Oxford Press, 1998. ISBN: 0195124952.

The compilation of a series of lectures the Harvard psychiatrist and documentarian gave at the New York Public Library. The lectures explore the ethical, intellectual, and technical challenges facing anyone who would do documentary work. While photography per se is only a peripheral part of this work, the principles and ideas discussed by Coles apply as much to documentary photography as they do to any other type of documentary fieldwork. Available in paperback.

Buy at Amazon Light, Ken. Witness in Our Time: Working Lives of Documentary Photographers. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000. ISBN: 1560989483.

Interviews with a wide range of outstanding documentary photographers, including Eugene Richards, Mary Ellen Mark, Sabastio Salgado, Donna Ferrato, and others. The photographers talk about their careers, work, and lives in documentary photography. A paperback.

Phaidon 55 Series:

Buy at Amazon Durden, Mark. Dorothea Lange. Boston: Phaidon Press, 2001. ISBN: 071484053X.

Buy at Amazon Stephenson, Sam. W. Eugene Smith. Boston: Phaidon Press, 2001. ISBN: 0714840351.

Buy at Amazon Bowden, Charles. Eugene Richards. Boston: Phaidon Press, 2001. ISBN: 0714840254.

Buy at Amazon Hagen, Charles. Mary Ellen Mark. Boston: Phaidon Press, 2001. ISBN: 0714840467.

Each in the Phaidon 55 series (don't panic, they're $7.95 each); each of these little paperbacks - with surprisingly good photo reproduction - explores in an essay, in the captions, and in 55 images, the career of a different photographer. Lange is best known for the propaganda work she did during the depression for the Farm Security Administration; Smith, a somewhat mad, constantly maddening, genius, is credited with 'inventing' the modern photo essay; Richards, often called the intellectual/artistic heir to Smith and an even earlier generation of documentarians, is known for his stunning photo projects focusing on the most at risk in our society; and Mark is one of today's leading documentary photographers and teachers of photography.

Buy at Amazon Phaidon (eds.). The Photography Book. Boston: Phaidon Press, 2005. ISBN: 0714844888.

The miniature version. This Phaidon paperback provides an introduction to the work of many of the leading names in the history of photography. And it's only $9.95.

Buy at Amazon Page, Tim, and Faas, Horst. Requiem: By The Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina. New York: Vintage/Ebury (Random House), 1997. ISBN: 0224050583.

Requiem is the seminal collection of photojournalism of the Vietnam War, and the entire collection consists of work by photographers, including many North Vietnamese photographers, who died while covering the fighting in Indochina.


Buy at Amazon Salgado, Sabastio. Migrations: Humanity in Transition. New York: Aperture, 2000. ISBN: 0893818917.

Buy at Amazon Salgado, Sabastio. Workers: An Archaeology of the Industrial Age. New York: Aperture, 1993. ISBN: 089381525X.

Two of the major works by this economist-turned-photographer who has set out to document the impact of Western economies and geopolitics on lives and living conditions of those in the Third World. The work is so outstanding from a photographic/artistic standpoint that it has been criticized for beautifying poverty and suffering to the point where the horror is lost in the beauty.