I've mentioned before that I find 'hobbyist' photography magazines to be too concerned with selling you gear and showing you how to take photos that look like thousands of others. I'd much rather read how photographers work to get inspired. In the distant past I have bought the BJP but found it too much aimed at the commercial side of photography (fashion, advertising et al) although the website is worth checking out. So it was quite a surprise for me to find the April 2011 issue of Professional Photographer to be an excellent read. Far from one dimensional, I read everything in it and enjoyed it all. I'll be looking at it again next month.
Still seeking reading and looking material I ordered a couple of books from Amazon. The first to arrive was The Making of Great Photographs by Eamonn McCabe, who writes well on photography. Although I've not read it from cover to cover yet I do think it is an excellent book. The brief story behind each photograph is accompanied by a short biography of the photographer and a third box gives you hints how you can achieve a similar result.
This last box I can live without, but it probably makes the book appeal to a wider readership. I like to take my inspiration in a more nebulous fashion, so it is quotes from photographers and explanations of working methodology that interest me most - even if I have no inclination to copy them. I've also learned a few things I wasn't aware of, including a little about one of my favorite photographers, André Kertész.
On the subject of great photographs and great photographers I've been musing for some time about the reputations of certain photographers, and wondering if they have been built purely on the subjects they have had access to. Primarily I'm thinking of those who have photographed celebrity icons. I get the feeling that Eve Arnold is known because of her photos of Marilyn Monroe. I found here Eve Arnold's People book disappointing, with a handful of exceptions, when the work moves away from Monroe. And looking through the new Linda McCartney book on-line I got a similar feeling that it is the subjects that are interesting rather than the photographs. The images being compelling because of who the subjects are rather than for any photographic reasons.
Recently I have been doing a lot of 'shooting from the hip' (something I did many years ago) while walking around local towns. Basically this is pointing a camera at something and firing the shutter without using the viewfinder. You get a lot of misses, but when you do get something in the frame (and in focus) bits get cropped that you would normally have carefully included, angles get used that you wouldn't normally choose, and because you don't raise the camera to eye level the viewpoint is lower than normal. I like the way all this adds a tension to the images - when it comes off - among other influences it can have on the shots.