I have recently come across a couple of 'best ever', 'must-have', 'unmissable' lists that have given me food for thought... quickly resulting in indigestion. The first of these is a list of the top 10 photo-journalists of all time and the second, a list of the 26 (nice random number) books every photographer should own.
This kind of thing is definitely not confined to the world of photography, as anyone who has spent an evening watching TV in the UK will know. I don't particularly like these top-10-50-100s, but I generally still succumb to the urge to see who comes out on top, even if only to then dismiss the thing completely. And so I did go through the top-10 photojournalists of all time and shortly afterwards went to find out what the 26 holy grails of books relating to photogaphy might be. And despite being promised some sort of photographic enlightenment, the experience just left me feeling depressed.
I don't really want to argue the merits of calling Robert Frank a photo-journalist or ranking Zoriah Miller above Don McCullin and Eugene Smith. And I certainly am not running to my nearest photo-book store to grab the last remaining copy of Galen Rowell: A Retrospective. In fact I would like Lindsay Adler to consider what planet photography would be like if every photographer owned those 26 books that she picked out.
Instead I want to make a plea to any photo-bloggers or journos out there who are wondering what to write about next. If you have a big stack of books at home that you recently arranged into order of preference, or simply have absolutely no inspiration whatsoever, just put down that keyboard. Instead why not go out and discover one photo-book or one photographer that will blow your mind and look at their photographs for hours on end before writing the greatest eulogy ever, or think about what the hell this thing called photography is all about now that newspapers and magazines are dying and digital is replacing everything else and everyone has tiny little cameras that they use to photograph everything all the time, or even go outside into the world and take a photograph, just the one.
With most of the posts that I publish, I'm never sure whether they are adding anything except another voice to the cacophonous mix. But I am sure of this: we do not need another list.