Only a fool would go online, look for used photo books that are well-talked about but seem unappealing and order them. Well, maybe I am a fool, but this is something I tried once, intend to repeat, and will now try to convince you to try.
The concept is quite simple: it’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone. We all think we know what we like and we tend to hunt those books down. But this leaves little scope for discovering new things, being surprised, challenged and catalysing personal growth.
I’ve found that the books I was not initially inclined to buy, but did, got leafed through quickly at the beginning and then sat on the shelf. Until I came back to them that is. It’s a bit like visiting Les Rencontres d’Arles. There’s a lot of photography there that does not appeal, no matter how many times you view it, but quite a bit that surprises you. Its the process of working through your thoughts and feelings that’s so rewarding. I think its such a useful growth process that I believe the only way not to buy photo books is to select only material you love and know well. Where is the challenge in that?
Even if you do firm up your opinion on a monograph and find that it is unfavourable, this helps frame your view on work that you appreciate. Most importantly, it helps direct your future efforts by allowing you to explore and experience without leaving your armchair. Used books with a few tatty edges or tears are cheap, so why not try it?
PS Libraries can be helpful, but I find the process takes time. Besides, with each experience you change and therefore so does the way you see the images the next time you open the book. I prefer to ‘live with books’.