The Best Photography & Art Biographies To Read This Christmas

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Last week we published a comprehensive list of The Best Photography and Art books of 2016 and it proved very popular, so much so that some extremely vast social media sites compared it to Time’s – a compliment indeed. Today, we have published The Best Photography & Art Biographies, these we believe you will enjoy too. Sometimes, we like to look at the photographer/artist behind the imagery and this is a great way to switch off and indulge, if you have the opportunity over the Christmas break. I do hope you enjoy this.

If there are any others that you have read, that you think should be included, please add your comments below.

A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney

David Hockney is possibly the world’s most popular living painter, but he is also something else: an incisive and original thinker on art. Here are the fruits of his lifelong meditations on the problems and paradoxes of representing a three-dimensional world on a flat surface. How does drawing make one ‘see things clearer, and clearer, and clearer still’, as Hockney suggests? What significance do different media – from a Lascaux cave wall to an iPad – have for the way we see? What is the relationship between the images we make and the reality around us? How have changes in technology affected the way artists depict the world? The conversations are punctuated by wise and witty observations from both parties on numerous other artists – Van Gogh or Vermeer, Caravaggio, Monet, Picasso – and enlivened by shrewd insights into the contrasting social and physical landscapes of California, where Hockney lives, and Yorkshire, his birthplace. Some of the people he has encountered along the way – from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Billy Wilder – make entertaining appearances in the dialogue.

£14.86/$16.44/Amazon

Paul Nash: Outline: An Autobiography

Paul Nash (1889-1946) was one of the most important British artists of the twentieth century. An official war artist in both the First and the Second World Wars, his paintings include some of the most definitive artistic visions of those conflicts. This new edition of Nash’s unfinished autobiography, Outline, is published to coincide with the Tate’s major Paul Nash retrospective and incorporates the previously unpublished ‘Memoir of Paul Nash’ by his wife Margaret. Nash started writing Outline in the late 1930s, but it was left incomplete on his sudden death in 1946. Nash had struggled to complete the book, finding that he could not get beyond the beginning of the Great War. Outline is, nevertheless, one of the great English literary works of the period, for Nash was a gifted writer. His autobiography offers considerable insights into to the young life of the artist himself, and the development of his personal and very distinctive vision. When eventually published in 1949 his incomplete memoir was supplemented by letters that Nash wrote to his wife during his period as a junior infantry officer and then as an official war artist on the Western Front in 1917. This new edition, published nearly a century after Nash’s time at the Front, includes these letters for the vivid insight they give into Nash’s experience of the war. The third element of the new edition is Margaret Nash’s revealing (and previously unpublished) 1951 memoir of her husband. What emerges through these different narrative voices and perspectives, enhanced with photographs of Paul and Margaret Nash and reproductions of key works from throughout Nash’s career, is a fascinating portrait of a major figure in Modern British art.

£24/$45.59/Amazon

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War

War photographer Lynsey Addario s memoiris the story of how the relentless pursuit of truth, in virtually every major theater of war in the twenty-first century, has shaped her life. What she does, with clarity, beauty, and candor, is to document, often in their most extreme moments, the complex lives of others. It s her work, but it s much more than that: it s her singular calling.

Lynsey Addario was just finding her way as a young photographer when September 11 changed the world. One of the few photojournalists with experience in Afghanistan, she gets the call to return and cover the American invasion. She decides to set out across the world, face the chaos of crisis, and make a name for herself.

Addario finds a way to travel with a purpose. She photographs the Afghan people before and after the Taliban reign, the civilian casualties and misunderstood insurgents of the Iraq War, as well as the burned villages and countless dead in Darfur. She exposes a culture of violence against women in the Congo and tells the riveting story of her headline-making kidnapping by pro-Qaddafi forces in the Libyan civil war.

As a woman photojournalist determined to be taken as seriously as her male peers, Addario fights her way into a boys club of a profession. Rather than choose between her personal life and her career, Addario learns to strike a necessary balance. In the man who will become her husband, she finds at last a real love to complement her work, not take away from it, and as a new mother, she gains an all the more intensely personal understanding of the fragility of life.

Watching uprisings unfold and people fight to the death for their freedom, Addario understands she is documenting not only news but also the fate of societies.It s What I Dois more than just a snapshot of life on the front lines; it is witness to the human cost of war.

£16.59/$11.94/Amazon

Camera Girl

The inspiring life story of Fleet Street’s first female photographer. Doreen Spooner’s remarkable journey of glamour, heartbreak, and loss, through to adventure, success and a working mum’s determination to make it in a man’s world… With a compelling mix of real-life dramas including a marriage in crisis, children to support, impending financial ruin and bereavement, while managing a challenging career as Britain’s first ever female national newspaper photographer, Doreen Spooner’s life has been extraordinary. Through the now familiar dilemmas of living in sin, working mum’s guilt, a male dominated workplace, socially acceptable roles for women and a growing celebrity culture, Doreen is a true pioneer. Fast-paced, creative, noisy and very exciting the newsroom of a national newspaper is not for the faint-hearted, nor usually for a woman. But Doreen Spooner the first staff camera girl on Fleet Street, found herself at the centre of news and culture in London through the Swinging Sixties. After picking up a career that had started in the 1940s, she went on to capture key events and personalities, while also juggling tormenting issues in her personal life. Doreen’s memoir brings you right into the heart of popular culture and news through some of the most exciting times in history, while telling the all-too-familiar story of a woman balancing family expectation, a stormy personal life and a successful career. Leaving her children and domestic dramas at the front door each day, Doreen entered a world of political scandals, glamorous superstars and cultural sensations shooting stars by day, cooking fish fingers by night. It’s an uplifting and touching story, and a hugely enjoyable portrait of postwar Britain. Front-page scoops, royal indiscretions, stroppy celebrities they’re all part of Doreen’s unforgettable, and beautifully photographed, journey.

£9.99/$10.20/Amazon

Here I am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer

Tim Hetherington (1970-2011) was one of the world’s most distinguished and dedicated photojournalists, whose career was tragically cut short when he died in a mortar blast while covering the Libyan Civil War. Someone far less interested in professional glory than revealing to the world the realities of people living in extremely difficult circumstances, Tim nonetheless won many awards for his war reporting, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his critically acclaimed documentary, Restrepo. Hetherington’s dedication to his career led him time after time into war zones, and unlike some other journalists, he did not pack up after the story had broken. After the civil war ended in Liberia, West Africa, Tim stayed on for three years, helping the United Nations track down human rights criminals. His commitment to getting the story out and his compassion for those affected by war was unrivalled. In Here I Am, Alan Huffman tells Hetherington’s life story, and through it analyses what it means to be a war reporter in the twenty-first century. Huffman recounts Hetherington’s life from his first interest in photography and war reporting, through his critical role in reporting the Liberian Civil War, to his tragic death in Libya. Huffman also traces Hetherington’s photographic milestones, from his iconic and prize-winning photographs of Liberian children, to the celebrated portraits of sleeping US soldiers in Afghanistan. Here I Am explores the risks, challenges, and thrills of war reporting, and is a testament to the unique work of people like Hetherington, who travel into the most dangerous parts of the world, risking their lives to give a voice to those devastated by conflict.

£9.99/$7.49/Amazon

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio lived the darkest and most dangerous life of any of the great painters. The worlds of Milan, Rome and Naples through which Caravaggio moved and which Andrew Graham-Dixon describes brilliantly in this book, are those of cardinals and whores, prayer and violence. On the streets surrounding the churches and palaces, brawls and swordfights were regular occurrences. In the course of this desperate life Caravaggio created the most dramatic paintings of his age, using ordinary men and women – often prostitutes and the very poor – to model for his depictions of classic religious scenes. Andrew Graham-Dixon’s exceptionally illuminating readings of Caravaggio’spictures, which are the heart of the book, show very clearly how he created their drama, immediacy and humanity, and how completely he departed from the conventions of his time.

£9.99/$3.56/Amazon

Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama

‘I am deeply terrified by the obsessions crawling over my body, whether they come from within me or from outside. I fluctuate between feelings of reality and unreality. I, myself, delight in my obsessions.’ Yayoi Kusama is one of the most significant contemporary artists at work today. This engaging autobiography tells the story of her life and extraordinary career in her own words, revealing her as a fascinating figure and maverick artist who channels her obsessive neuroses into an art that transcends cultural barriers. Kusama describes the decade she spent in New York, first as a poverty stricken artist and later as the doyenne of an alternative counter-cultural scene. She provides a frank and touching account of her relationships with key art-world figures, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Donald Judd and the reclusive Joseph Cornell, with whom Kusama forged a close bond. In candid terms she describes her childhood and the first appearance of the obsessive visions that have haunted her throughout her life. Returning to Japan in the early 1970s, Kusama checked herself into a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo where she resides to the present day, emerging to dedicate herself with seemingly endless vigour to her art and her writing. This remarkable autobiography provides a powerful insight into a unique artistic mind, haunted by fears and phobias yet determined to maintain her position at the forefront of the artistic avant-garde. In addition to her artwork, Yayoi Kusama is the author of numerous volumes of poetry and fiction, including The Hustler’s Grotto of Christopher Street, Manhattan Suicide Addict and Violet Obsession.

£12.99/$16.57/Amazon

On the Front Line: The Collected Journalism of Marie Colvin

Veteran Sunday Times war correspondent, Marie Colvin was killed in February 2012 when covering the uprising in Syria. Winner of the Orwell Special Prize ‘On the Front Line’ is a collection of her finest work, a portion of the proceeds from which will go to the Marie Colvin Memorial Fund…

Marie Colvin held a profound belief in the pursuit of truth, and the courage and humanity of her work was deeply admired. On the Front Line includes her various interviews with Yasser Arafat and Colonel Gadaffi; reports from East Timor in 1999 where she shamed the UN into protecting its refugees; accounts of her terrifying escape from the Russian army in Chechnya; and reports from the strongholds of the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers where she was hit by shrapnel, leaving her blind in one eye.

Typically, however, her new eye-patch only reinforced Colvin’s sense of humour and selfless conviction. She returned quickly to the front line, reporting on 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza and, lately, the Arab Spring.

Immediate and compelling, On the Front Line is a street-view of the historic events that have shaped the last 25 years, from an award-winning foreign correspondent and the outstanding journalist of her generation.

£18.99/$17.96/Amazon

Van Gogh’s Ear: The True Story

On a dark night in Provence in December 1888 Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear. It is an act that has come to define him. Yet for more than a century biographers and historians seeking definitive facts about what happened that night have been left with more questions than answers.

In Van Gogh’s Ear Bernadette Murphy sets out to discover exactly what happened that night in Arles. Why would an artist at the height of his powers commit such a brutal act? Who was the mysterious ‘Rachel’ to whom he presented his macabre gift? Was it just his lobe, or did Van Gogh really cut off his entire ear? Her investigation takes us from major museums to the dusty contents of forgotten archives, vividly reconstructing the world in which Van Gogh moved – the madams and prostitutes, café patrons and police inspectors, his beloved brother Theo and his fellow artist and house-guest Paul Gauguin. With exclusive revelations and new research about the ear and about ‘Rachel’, Bernadette Murphy proposes a bold new hypothesis about what was occurring in Van Gogh’s heart and mind as he made a mysterious delivery to her doorstep that fateful night.

Van Gogh’s Ear is a compelling detective story and a journey of discovery. It is also a portrait of a painter creating his most iconic and revolutionary work, pushing himself ever closer to greatness even as he edged towards madness – and one fateful sweep of the blade that would resonate through the ages.

£13.99/$13.73/Amazon

The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait

Published in its entirety, Frida Kahlo’s amazing illustrated journal documents the last ten years of her turbulent life. These passionate, often surprising, intimate records, kept under lock and key for some 40 years in Mexico, reveal many new dimensions in the complex personal life of this remarkable Mexican artist. The 170-page journal contains the artist’s thoughts, poems, and dreams–many reflecting her stormy relationship with her husband, artist Diego Rivera–along with 70 mesmerising watercolour illustrations. The text entries, written in Frida’s round, full script in brightly coloured inks, make the journal as captivating to look at as it is to read. Her writing reveals the artist’s political sensibilities, recollections of her childhood, and her enormous courage in the face of more than 35 operations to correct injuries she had sustained in an accident at the age of 18. This intimate portal into her life is sure to fascinate fans of the artist, art historians, and women’s culturalists alike.

£12.99/$15.81/Amazon

Ansel Adams: A Biography

First published in 1996, Mary Street Alinder’s biography of Ansel Adams remains the only full biography of one of the greatest American photographers. Alinder is a respected scholar, and also had a close connection to Adams, serving as his chief assistant in the last five years of his life. The portrait she creates of him is intimate and affectionate; it is also clear-eyed. She takes on his difficult childhood in San Francisco, the friendships and rivalries within his circle of photographers, his leadership in America’s environmental movement, his marriage, his affairs, and his not-always-successful fatherhood. Enriched by her uniquely personal understanding of Adams the man, she explains the artistic philosophy that, paired with his peerless technique, produced an inimitable style. Her biography is likely to remain unrivalled.

This new edition will bring the classic up to date and includes research that reveals new information and a deeper understanding of his greatest photographs. It will also include thirty-two pages of reproductions of Adams’s work and snapshots of the artist and close friends.

£14.88/19.38/Amazon

Steichen: A Biography

Not since 1929 has there been a biography of Edward Steichen, photographer, painter, and a pivotal yet enigmatic figure in twentieth-century art and culture on two continents. Steichen, who died just short of his ninety-fourth birthday, was fifty and internationally famous when Steichen the Photographer was written by his brother-in-law, the poet and biographer Carl Sandburg. Now Penelope Niven, whose highly acclaimed biography of Sandburg appeared in 1991, has written the first comprehensive biography of Steichen.

Here, she illuminates the full story of Steichen’s avant-garde life in Paris and New York and his roles in introducing modern art to the American audience, in shaping aerial reconnaissance photography in World War I and navy photography in World War II, in revolutionising American fashion and portrait photography through his years as chief of photography at Vanity Fair and Vogue, and in creating the unprecedented photographic exhibition The Family of Man, which has touched a global audience of millions since it opened in 1955.

Searching the world over for Steichen’s letters, paintings, and photographs, Niven has reconstructed his major, pioneering achievements. Steichen’s enduring contributions to the fine art of photography have not been fully recognised because they have not, until now, been fully documented and placed within the context of his times and his turbulent, romantic, and often tragic personal life.

With the help of public and private papers and interviews, Niven builds a compelling portrait of the charismatic, complex, very human man behind the camera. We explore Steichen’s gardens and his artful love of nature, manifested in his obsessive achievements a master breeder of delphinium. We step inside his intimate, private world–and view his passionate attachment to his mother, his sister, and his two daughters; the heartrending battles of his first marriage; and his alleged and actual love affairs. This biography also explores Steichen’s catalytic relationships with August Rodin, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Alfred Stieglitz, Gertrude and Leo Stein, and Carl and Lilian Steichen Sandburg.

“Steichen was a rebel, stubbornly independent and largely self-taught, who also believed passionately in the fundamental intersections of art and life, ” Penelope Niven writes. As this biography reveals, Edward Steichen’s life, like his art, was brilliantly original, dramatic, and unforgettable.

£24.99/$29.95/Amazon

An Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner Life of Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus was one of the most brilliant and revered photographers in the history of American art. Her portraits, in stark black and white, seemed to reveal the psychological truths of their subjects. But after she committed suicide in 1971, at the age of forty-eight, the presumed chaos and darkness of her own inner life became, for many viewers, inextricable from her work.

In the spirit of Janet Malcolm’s classic examination of Sylvia Plath, The Silent Woman, William Todd Schultz’s An Emergency in Slow Motion reveals the creative and personal struggles of Diane Arbus. Schultz veers from traditional biography to interpret Arbus’s life through the prism of four central mysteries: her outcast affinity, her sexuality, the secrets she kept and shared, and her suicide. He seeks not to diagnose Arbus, but to discern some of the private motives behind her public works and acts. In this approach, Schultz not only goes deeper into Arbus’s life than any previous writer, but provides a template with which to think about the creative life in general.

Schultz’s careful analysis is informed, in part, by the recent release of some of Arbus’s writing and work by her estate, as well as by interviews with Arbus’s psychotherapist. An Emergency in Slow Motion combines new revelations and breathtaking insights into a must-read psychobiography about a monumental artist-the first new look at Arbus in twenty-five years.

£18.99/$20.99/Amazon

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century

Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) is one of the most influential and beloved figures in the history of photography. Released to accompany an exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, “Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century” is the first major publication to make full use of the extensive holdings of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris including thousands of prints and a vast resource of documents relating to the photographers life and work. The heart of the book surveys Cartier-Bressons career through 300 photographs divided into twelve chapters. While many of his most famous pictures are included, a great number of images will be unfamiliar even to specialists. A wide-ranging essay by Peter Galassi, Chief Curator of Photography at the Museum, offers an entirely new understanding of Cartier-Bressons extraordinary career and its overlapping contexts of journalism and art. The extensive supporting material featuring detailed chronologies of the photographers professional travels and his picture stories as they appeared in magazines will revolutionise the study of Cartier-Bressons work.

£47.99/$60.82/Amazon

Snowdon: The Biography

Anthony Armstrong-Jones was born to a Welsh father and English-Jewish mother. Creative and inventive, he attended Eton and then Cambridge. The engagement of this motorbike-riding freelance photographer in 1960 to Princess Margaret was a bombshell.

Friends privately predicted disaster. And so it proved. But meanwhile in the 1960s, mixing with actors, artists and pop stars, they were the epitome of stylish and unstuffy arts-loving Royals – and one of the iconic glamorous couples of that era.

Tony continued to work and both began to have affairs. They divorced in 1978. Snowdon married again but this marriage collapsed after the birth of a secret love-child and the suicide of his mistress of twenty years.

His low boredom threshold and waspish cruelty are balanced by his fabled charm and genuine concern for the disabled and underprivileged. One of the great British photographers, at 76 he now suffers from a recurrence of childhood polio. But by any standards he has had an extraordinary life.

£9.99/$17.95/Amazon

Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs

A revealing and beautifully written memoir and family history from acclaimed photographer Sally Mann.

In this groundbreaking book, a unique interplay of narrative and image, Mann’s preoccupation with family, race, mortality, and the storied landscape of the American South are revealed as almost genetically predetermined, written into her DNA by the family history that precedes her.

Sorting through boxes of family papers and yellowed photographs she finds more than she bargained for: “deceit and scandal, alcohol, domestic abuse, car crashes, bogeymen, clandestine affairs, dearly loved and disputed family land . . . racial complications, vast sums of money made and lost, the return of the prodigal son, and maybe even bloody murder.”

In lyrical prose and startlingly revealing photographs, she crafts a totally original form of personal history that has the page-turning drama of a great novel but is firmly rooted in the fertile soil of her own life.

£25.42/$15.07/Amazon

Walk Through Walls: A Memoir

This memoir spans Marina Abramovic’s five decade career, and tells a life story that is almost as exhilarating and extraordinary as her groundbreaking performance art. Taking us from her early life in communist ex-Yugoslavia, to her time as an a young art student in Belgrade in the 1970s, where she first made her mark with a series of pieces that used the body as a canvas, the book also describes her relationship with the West German performance artist named Ulay who was her lover and sole collaborator for 12 years.

Abramovic has collaborated with stars from Lady Gaga to Jay-Z, James Franco and Willem Dafoe. Best known for her recent pieces ‘The Artist is Present’ and ‘512 Hours’, this book is a fascinating insight into the life of one of the most important artists working today, and the woman who has been described as ‘the grandmother of performance art’.

£13.60/$12.95/Amazon

Unreasonable Behaviour: An Autobiography

‘He has known all forms of fear, he’s an expert in it. He has come back from God knows how many brinks, all different. His experience in a Ugandan prison alone would be enough to unhinge another man – like myself, as a matter of fact – for good. He has been forfeit more times than he can remember, he says. But he is not bragging. Talking this way about death and risk, he seems to be implying quite consciously that by testing his luck each time, he is testing his Maker’s indulgence’ – John le Carre

£10.68/$2.78/Amazon

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