A visitor views the first ever Tom Hunter photographic exhibition at the National Gallery in central London. (Photographer: Graham Barclay/Bloomberg News)

The Perfect Shot: Photographers On Their Favourite Books 

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Josef Koudelka, Lee Friedlander and Helmut Newton are among the legends that have influenced some of India’s best-known photographers across genres. BloombergQuint speaks to them to find out the books that have shaped their aesthetics.

Raghu Rai

He is one of the country’s best-known photographers who has chronicled the story of independent India. His photos of the Bangladesh war and refugees, and the Bhopal gas tragedy won him acclaim. Impressed by Rai’s work, the legendary photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson nominated him to Magnum Photos, the world’s most prestigious photographers’ cooperative. Here are the books he likes the most:

1. The Decisive Moments By Henri Cartier-Bresson

The Decisive Moments is the title of the English edition of Cartier-Bresson’s photobook Images à la Sauvette (Images On the Run), published in France in 1952. In the book, Cartier-Bresson describes his conception of photography and touches key aspects of colour, technique, composition, and sequence.

2. Exile By Josef Koudelka

Koudelka captured the soul of nomadic life in the years he spent wandering through Europe after leaving his home in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

3. Genesis By Sebastiao Salgado

The Genesis project, along with the Salgados’ Instituto Terra, captures the planet in its original beauty. He took the photos over 30 years by foot, in the air and the sea, through extreme heat and cold.

Mahendra Sinh

Mahendra Sinh has chosen the following books that have influenced his photography. In writing on photography, he holds in high regard, the late John Szarkowski, who was a long-time director of the department of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the man who changed the course of modern photography. The other books listed here are the works of his favourite photographers.

(Image courtesy: Mahendra Sinh) 
(Image courtesy: Mahendra Sinh) 
Arezzo, Italy, 1979. Photograph by Mahendra Sinh.  
Arezzo, Italy, 1979. Photograph by Mahendra Sinh.  

1. Looking At Photographs: 100 Pictures From The Collection Of The Museum Of Modern Art By John Szarkowski

John Szarkowski investigates the aesthetic, formal, social and historical issues of 100 photographs selected from Modern's collection. Szarkowski’s incisive comment on these photographs from known and even many unknown photographers illustrates innumerable facets of photography’s characteristics and the evolution of photographic styles over the years. He does this with tremendous precision and economy of expression.

(Image courtesy: Mahendra Sinh)
(Image courtesy: Mahendra Sinh)

2. Friedlander: The Museum Of Modern Art

Image courtesy: Mahendra Sinh 
Image courtesy: Mahendra Sinh 

Considered one of the greatest living photographers today, Lee Friedlander gave a new meaning and turn to street photography with his supple intellect and extraordinary way of looking at things around us. He is a most versatile photographer. He has photographed nature, landscapes, modern urban chaos, monuments, portraits with that unmistakable Friedlander vision.

This volume is the catalogue of his retrospective show curated by John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern art. Friedlander rarely gave interviews and only 13 interviews that are listed at the end of this volume also lists my interview done with him in 1984 : “I love collecting a lot of junk in my pictures !"

3. Rajasthan: India’s Enchanted Land By Raghubir Singh

Raghubir Singh was considered one of the leading colour photographers in the world. Metropolitan Museum New York recently held his major retrospective. This volume of pictures from the land of his birth Rajasthan he considered one of his  favourites. His use of colour, detail and his unique way of looking made him stand apart among Indian photographers.

Image courtesy: Mahendra Sinh 
Image courtesy: Mahendra Sinh 

4. Photographer By Henri Cartier-Bresson

Cartier-Bresson influenced a whole generation of photographers in some way or the other till the 1980s. His way of capturing the moment which he called the ‘decisive moment’ made him the most loved photographer in the world. He has also done landscapes, portraits and photographed some major events in the world including in India. I too was greatly influenced by his work on the streets.

Image courtesy: Mahendra Sinh
Image courtesy: Mahendra Sinh

5. Winogrand: Figments From The Real World By Szarkowski

Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander, the two giants of American photography, were also great friends. Both brought a new freshness to photography by their very strong personal styles. A most prolific shooter, Winogrand’s take on Cartier-Bresson’s Decisive Moment was totally his own and it had an electrifying immediacy about it. Both Winogrand and Friedlander gave a new meaning to street photography the way they saw the theatre of everyday street life in their own way.

Image courtesy: Mahendra Sinh
Image courtesy: Mahendra Sinh

6. The Democratic Forest By William Eggleston

William Eggleston changed the meaning of colour photography for ever with his exhibition at MoMA “William Eggleston’s Guide”. The practice of colour photography altered totally and Eggleston is credited and acknowledged for it.  He too, like many of his contemporaries, shunned the established norms of ‘composing’ a photograph. In fact he deliberately avoided the obvious in the frame. He took pictures of abject banality around him with the most refined sense of colour in a way that was never done before.

Image courtesy: Mahendra Sinh 
Image courtesy: Mahendra Sinh 

Dabboo Ratnani

Dabboo Ratnani, a fashion and celebrity photographer, is known for his annual calendar. Since 2000, he has created a trend of collectible celebrity calendars in India, modelled after the Pirelli Calendar. He was recently awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke award.

(Image courtesy: Dabboo Ratnani) 
(Image courtesy: Dabboo Ratnani) 

1. Physionomie By Mark Seliger

Mark Seliger's award-winning photographs of musicians, actors, politicians, authors, comedians, and athletes bring to life the celebrities who mattered in the 1990s.

2. Work By Herb Ritts

This landmark retrospective presents the full range of Ritts’ work for the first time: 235 signature images in all, including many that have never before been published. In these pages, one finds the most unforgettable portraits of celebrated world leaders (Reagan, Mandela, Gorbachev) to visual artists (David Hockney, Keith Haring, Agnes Martin), musicians (Bruce Springsteen, Dizzy Gillespie, Aretha Franklin), and sports figures (Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan).

The Perfect Shot: Photographers On Their Favourite Books 

3. Hotel LaChapelle By David LaChapelle

Almost all the photographs in this book were conceived of and made in hotels.

The Perfect Shot: Photographers On Their Favourite Books 

4. A Private View By Sante

An album of more than six hundred colour and black-and-white photographs record the life and career of one of the world’s preeminent fashion and celebrity photographers, in images from magazines, travel souvenirs, and personal notes.

Atul Kasbekar

Atul Kasbekar is an Indian fashion photographer.

1. Hotel LaChapelle By David LaChapelle

Almost all the photographs in this book were conceived of and made in hotels. According to an excerpt from the afterword by LaChapelle, “When you stay in a hotel, you’re living for one day in a place where you don’t normally live.” That feeling can be true with photographs too. He says, “There’s a cotton weave sterility hotel sheets offer that makes all my daily transgressions slip away. Then I can fall asleep peacefully.”

2. An Autobiography By Richard Avedon

Nearly 50 years of work is presented in a retrospective by the famous photographer, including well-known images of Marilyn Monroe, Chaplin, and the Warhol Factory, as well as many previously unpublished photographs.

The Perfect Shot: Photographers On Their Favourite Books 

3. Before They Pass Away By Jimmy Nelson

This historic volume showcases tribal cultures around the world, set in some of the most pristine landscapes.

The Perfect Shot: Photographers On Their Favourite Books 

4. Sumo By Helmut Newton

This is a homage to fashion photographer Helmut Newton and covers every aspect of his outstanding career.

Isaac Kehimkar

(Image courtesy: Isaac Kehimkar)
(Image courtesy: Isaac Kehimkar)

Kehimkar is a naturalist and nature photographer. Former deputy director (natural history) at the Bombay Natural History Society and chairman and director of iNaturewatch Foundation, Kehimkar has written books on nature, including Moths – an Introduction, Common Butterflies of India, Incredible Insects, and Common Indian Wild Flowers.

1. With A Camera In Tigerland By Fredrick Walter Champion

This is a collection of black-and-white photographs of Indian animals taken by the author. Perhaps his greatest contribution was pioneering the technique of tripwire photography and the amazing photographs he managed to take of tigers, leopards, hyenas, bears. Issac says that this is one of the most remarkable books on photography because of the sheer amount of equipment that had to be handled at the time. “Now everything is digital.”

 A Gaudy Baron as photographed by Isaac Kehimkar  
A Gaudy Baron as photographed by Isaac Kehimkar  

2. A Company Of Birds By Loke Wan Tho

This is a collection of bird photographs, ornithological notes and a semi-autobiography by Loke Wan Tho. Tho was an industrialist from Singapore who later worked very closely with Indian ornithologist and naturalist Salim Ali.

 A Common Jezebel as photographed by Isaac Kehimkar  
A Common Jezebel as photographed by Isaac Kehimkar  

Tejal Patni

Tejal Patni graduated from the JJ School of Applied Arts and started out as a still photographer. He has shot for brands like Harvey Nichols, Chanel, Levi's, GQ, Grazia, Harper’s Bazaar, to name a few.

1. Beneath The Roses By Gregory Crewdson

The images that comprise Crewdson’s new series “Beneath the Roses,” are taken in the homes, streets, and forests of unnamed small towns, capturing their beauty and drudgery.

2. Selected Work 1996-1998 for my friend Franca Sozzani (Black Leather Case for Photography) By Peter Lindbergh

Peter Lindbergh is one of the most talented photographers of his generation. This collection features Lindbergh's most celebrated photographs and never-before published images from the past three years of his work.

3. Work (Multilingual Edition) By Helmut Newton

This book captures the entire range of the most-striking shots of high fashion photographer Helmut Newton.

4. Portraits By Richard Avedon

Spanning the artist's entire career, from the late 1940s through his most recent work, "Richard Avedon Portraits" offers a superb selection of his photographic portraits.

The Perfect Shot: Photographers On Their Favourite Books 

Shivani Gupta

(Image courtesy: Shivani Gupta)
(Image courtesy: Shivani Gupta)

Shivani Gupta captures performing, staged and live art.

1. Matters of Light and Depth by Ross Lowell

This is an amazing investigation into the wondrous world of light. Its a great book for students as it has many technical exercises and light setups with diagrams that can be tried.

The Perfect Shot: Photographers On Their Favourite Books 

2. Girl On Girl: Art And Photography In The Age Of The Female Gaze

Girl on Girl is a collection of the works of 40 female artists from 17 countries. It is a study of identity, femininity, sexuality, beauty and bodies.

The Perfect Shot: Photographers On Their Favourite Books 

3. The Lure Of The Local, Senses Of Place In A Multicentred Society By Lucy R. Lippard

In the Lure of the Local, Lucy R. Lippard, one of America's most influential art writers, weaves together cultural studies, history, geography, photography, and contemporary public art to provide a fascinating exploration of our multiple senses of place.

The Perfect Shot: Photographers On Their Favourite Books