The Best Street Photography Books to Start Your Collection
The Americans by Robert Frank
This list covers the spectrum of many of the most important photography books in street photography history. While books are not presented in order (as that is so subjective), and it by no means is able to cover every incredible street photography book, the goal is to create a starting list for anyone looking to begin or improve their photography book collection.
The list includes twenty-eight books of street photography works and six books on street photography education.
Top Street Photography Books
The Americans by Robert Frank
While many of his contemporaries were capturing the optimistic post-war U.S. of the 1950s, the Swiss-born Frank set out throughout America to capture a much darker and more realistic view of the country at the time, creating arguably the most influential photography book in history. He captured everyday subjects and subjects on the fringes of society. This book is the bedrock of a photobook collection and continues to influence a generation of photographers to this day. Amazon.
The Decisive Moment by Henri Cartier-Bresson
Originally published in 1952 and back in print, this collection of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s best work from his early years became one of, if not the most famous photobook of all time, cementing the term ‘Decisive Moment’ into everyday photographic language and influencing a generation of photographers. With a cover design by Henri Matisse, the book is large, gorgeous facsimile of the original. Amazon.
Eggleston’s Guide was the first one-man show of color photographs to be presented at the Museum of Modern Art, and the book created from the show pushed color photography to be seriously considered as an art form for the first time.
The photographs, captured in Memphis and Tennessee, are quiet, mysterious, and eerie takes on these suburban and rural areas of the country. Amazon.
Subway by Bruce Davidson
Subway is the classic book of New York subway street photography, captured throughout the system in the 1980s at the height of its grit, mystique, and glamour. Amazon.
Minutes to Midnight by Trent Parke
In 2003, Parke set out on a road trip around his home country of Australia, culminating in 90,000 km covered in two years. The book created from this project shows a nation struggling through growing pains as it sought to find its identity in a rapidly changing world. The photographs shown are dark, eerie, uneasy, romantic, and nostalgic. Amazon.
Exiles by Josef Koudelka
A dark and unsentimental book, yet one that shows a profound connection to his subjects, Exiles is a self-portrait of Koudelka’s exiled and nomadic life, shown through intense photographs that capture both the physical and spiritual state of exile. These photographs were captured mostly from Koudelka’s exploration through Europe and Great Briton. Amazon.
Sleeping by the Mississippi by Alec Soth
Soth’s first and most widely acclaimed book, Sleeping by the Mississipi captures a road trip from Soth’s home state of Minnesota all the way to New Orleans along the route of the Mississippi River. The book is full of fascinating portraits and landscapes all tied together by the River (which is never shown itself).
The landscapes and portraits are both complex and intimate, capturing hidden places, both forgotten and special. Amazon.
Early Color by Saul Leiter
A seminal work in the world of color photography, Leiter’s painterly photographs of New York beginning in the 1950s show an elegant and romantic view of the city. Early Color is as gorgeous as a photobook can get. Amazon.
The Last Resort by Martin Parr
The book that Martin Parr is most widely known for, The Last Resort focuses on the past-its-prime beach town of New Brighton. It captures the leisure activities of the working class in the environment of a run-down beach town. The photos mix humor with cutting commentary. Amazon.
The World Through My Eyes by Daido Moriyama
A broad study on the work of one of the most famous Japanese photographers. Moriyama’s work holds nothing back – using grainy, dark, edgy, provocative photographs, his work shows the growing up of Japanese post-war society as it struggles to find a new identity in a fast-changing and increasingly uncertain world. Amazon.
Helen Levitt by Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt set out to capture the ‘living room of New York,’ documenting the ordinary, the immigrants, and the poorer people of New York, particularly on the Lower East Side and Spanish Harlem, through decades of photography beginning in the 1930s.
This book, released in conjunction with a retrospective at Germany’s Sprengel Museum Hannover, shows her most iconic work mixed with her previously unseen color work. Amazon.
MET Exhibition Catalogue by Garry Winogrand
The godfather of classic NYC street photography, Winogrand defined daily life in the optimistic post-war New York. His fast-moving photographs were energetic, spontaneous, witty, and powerful.
This book is a detailed retrospective of Winogrand’s work done in tandem with a Metropolitan Museum of Art show. Amazon.
Life is Good & Good for You in New York by William Klein
One of the most influential books in the history of street photography, Klein’s photography of New York blurred the lines between classic beauty and raw, unfiltered critiques. His work portrayed a grainy, gritty, imperfect world. Amazon.
Wonderland by Jason Eskenazi[This hard to find classic is currently being reprinted in March]. Eskenazi shows us the fairytale of the Soviet Union, blurring the lines between reality and the mystique of the utopian USSR. Amazon.
America by Zoe Strauss
America shows us unflinching views of marginalized people and places that exist on the outskirts of society. The photos show a mix of tenderness, love, understanding, and sheer uncompromising reality. Amazon.
A Day Off by Tony Ray Jones
A book about English people on holiday by one of the most important British photographers. His work blends humor and sadness with a deep understanding for the people in his photographs. Amazon.
This book is an incredible education, showing the contact sheets behind some of the most celebrated Magnum photographers and their most famous photographs. The book lifts the veil behind the scenes as powerful and iconic photographs are captured. Amazon.
The original book that introduced the life story and work of Vivian Maier, the nanny who photographed from the 1950s-1990s and leftover 100,000 photographs to be found by John Maloof after her death.
Maier’s life story may be fascinating, but the work behind her story is a testament to the art of street photography and both an understanding for herself and the people in her photographs. Amazon.
The Urban Prisoner by Matt Weber
A stunning book of New York City photography by a taxi driver turned street photographer. Weber drove more miles than any photographer around the gritty ’80s in New York and saw so many fascinating things that he decided to purchase a camera to document them. We are very lucky that he did. Amazon.
The Suffering of Light by Alex Webb
This comprehensive monograph guides us through the career of Magnum Photographer Alex Webb through his world explorations. Webb’s work captures a mixture of unbelievable, complex compositions, searing color and use of light, unflinching moments, and a nuanced view of the people and places that he explores. Amazon.
Where I Find Myself by Joel Meyerowitz
The first major retrospective of one of America’s most important photographers, covering his entire career through a variety of subjects and projects, including New York street photography, Ground Zero, Cape Cod, and his U.S. road trips following in the footsteps of Robert Frank. Amazon.
Sidewalk by Jeff Mermelstein
A series of fascinating, disturbing, and humorous color street photographs made in New York City. Amazon.
American Prospects by Joel Sternfeld
Originally published in 1987, American Prospects, is the culmination of eight years of photography around America with an 8×10 view camera. The book is a cannon of American color photography books with suggestive and often mysterious narratives. Amazon.
MOMA Catalogue by Lee Friedlander
A large retrospective of Lee Friedlander’s work capturing the American social landscape through a large variety of locations and subjects, with an unflinchingly sharp wit and style. Amazon.
Uncommon Places by Stephen Shore
Originally published in 1982, Shore’s large-format color work around America influenced a generation of photographers and helped to push color photography to be accepted as a valid artform.
The photographs show a realistic and uncompromised view of the American social landscape. Amazon.
Grim Street by Mark Cohen
Mark Cohen’s Grim Street shows us a fascinating world through what he describes as ‘grab shots,’ often-too-close, stark, surreal photographs of Wilkes-Barre, the Pennsylvania mine-town where he was from. One of the most complex bodies of street photography work, with a harsh and often humorous view of middle-America. Amazon.
American Photography by Walker Evans
Originally published in 1938 and quickly becoming a seminal work in the history of photography, Evans pioneered the path for capturing everyday America. Amazon.
Personal Best by Elliott Erwitt
A retrospective on the career of Elliott Erwitt as he captured America with style, class, humor, and often harsh-takes on American society. Amazon.
Top Educational Street Photography Books
Bystander: A History of Street Photography by Colin Westerbrook
Originally published in 1994 and recently reprinted, Bystander is often thought of as the bible of street photography, covering the history of street photographers from the early masters to the modern-day contemporaries. Amazon.
Street Photography Now by Sophie Howarth
This book covers the work of 46 contemporary street photographers from around the world – it gives both an education and examples of the wide variety of fascinating work being done around the world. Amazon.
Originally released in 2012 and updated in 2020, The Essentials of Street Photography and Street Photography Conversations gives a photography education that covers the spectrum from beginner to advanced topics.
This book explores in-depth both the conceptual and the technical, while Street Photography Conversations interviews nine street photographers with diverse content, styles, and ways of working. eBook.
Street Photography and the Poetic Image by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb
An educational manual by the renowned photographer couple, this book puts their workshop experience into written form. Amazon.
The Street Photographer’s Manual by David Gibson
David Gibson masterfully takes the reader on an education in the art of street photography, covering a variety of fascinating and necessary to understand topics. Amazon.
Street Photography: The Art of Capturing the Candid Moment by Gordon Lewis
Gordon Lewis takes us on a broad education through the world of street photography, from the essentials skills necessary to the different styles of street photography. This book covers a wide variety of important topics on the genre. Amazon.