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4 of the Best Picture Books About Photography

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This list of picture books about photography was originally published in our kid lit newsletter, The Kids Are All Right. Sign up for it here to get kid lit news, reviews, deals, and more!


Over the weekend, I got a chance to read an advance copy of Picturing a Nation, the newest book by legendary National Book Award-Winning author Martin W. Sandler. It doesn’t come out until October, but I just had to put it on your radar! It is all about the US Farm Security Administration’s sweeping visual record of the Great Depression, and it’s packed with more than 100 full-color and black-and-white photographs. It gives the history of photographers that were a part of this team and their thoughts behind various images.

It got me thinking about books featuring photography, and since Picturing a Nation won’t be available until October, I thought I would round up some other favorite picture books featuring photography.

Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee!

Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! by Andrea J. Loney and Keith Mallett

James Van Der Zee loved taking photographs, saving enough money as a young boy to buy his first camera so he could take photos of his family, classmates, and anyone who would sit still for a portrait. By the fifth grade, James was the school photographer and unofficial town photographer. Eventually he moved to New York City to work, but was told that no one would want their photo taken by a Black man. So James opened his own portrait studio in Harlem. He took photographs of legendary figures of the Harlem Renaissance and ordinary folks in the neighborhood too.

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford and Jamey Christoph

Gordon Parks is most famous for being the first Black director in Hollywood, but before he made movies and wrote books, he was told by his teacher that he would only get a job as a waiter or porter. Instead, Gordon bought a camera and taught himself how to take pictures. He ended up working for the government, documenting segregation and becoming a part of the US Farm Security Administration’s visual record of the Great Depression.

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill and Francis Vallejo

How did a group of the most beloved jazz musicians end up being photographed together for an Esquire magazine issue saluting the American jazz scene in 1958? Graphic designer Art Kane had insisted on setting up the shoot in front of a Harlem brownstone, but he wasn’t sure if he could pull it off. Would any of these jazz greats come? Roxane Orgill, in a series of beautiful poems, bring to life the musicians’ mischief and quirks, their memorable style, and the vivacious atmosphere of a Harlem block full of kids on a hot summer’s day.

Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression by Carole Boston Weatherford and Sarah Green

One of the most iconic photos from the Great Depression was taken by Dorothea Lange. But before she traveled the country for the US Farm Security Administration, Dorothea Lange took photos of the downtrodden, from bankers in once-fine suits waiting in breadlines, to former enslaved people, to the houseless sleeping on sidewalks. Traveling across the United States, documenting with her camera and her field book those most affected by the stock market crash, she found the face of the Great Depression.

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