52 minutes | May 6, 2021

Speaking in Dialect: How-to Books and the History of Popular Photography, with Kim Beil

This is one of the most enjoyable chats on photography we’ve had in­ a while, and our subject is the history of amateur and popular photography as understood through photography how-to books and manuals. Joining us on the B&H Photography Podcast is Dr. Kim Beil, professor at Stanford University and author of Good Pictures: The History of Popular Photography, and with Beil we not only speak about what is and has been considered a “good photo,” we specifically talk about her collection of photography how-to books and camera manuals, which act as a guide to this “good photography” over the years. A sense of the collection can be found on her Instagram page, and we discuss examples from various decades, as well as those aimed at certain disciplines and those written by popular instructors and well-known photographers, such as Ansel Adams and Gordon Parks. We also talk with Beil about certain trends in popular photography, including ideas as simple as cropping and the many techniques born of technical and artistic innovation. The role that Kodak played in the early years of amateur photography is touched upon, as is that of Polaroid instant photos of the 1970s. Beil has her favorite type of instructional book and we discuss authors who insisted on a prescriptive style of photography rules and those that were more “amateur to amateur.”  We find out how she acquires books and also how YouTube tutorials are affecting the genre. Finally, we talk about digital photography trends and what Beil considers a "good photo". Join us for this wide-ranging conversation sure to please any lover of photography. Guest: Kim Beil Photograph © Kim Beil
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