Through an Expert Lens: Gerry O’Leary’s Must Read Photography Books

hospitality and hotel photography

My top book recommendations for budding photographers.

With over 30 years’ experience in my chosen career of architectural photography, I sometimes get asked what books I’m reading and what I have read in the past that I consider valuable resources for anyone interested in a career in photography, or even those who have a passing interest in photography as an art form.

On my own journey to becoming a professional photographer, I pored over magazines, books and anything I could get my hands on in the pursuit of knowledge about my chosen industry. That desire still remains – I enjoy staying on trend and admiring the work of both architects and other photographers in the field.

Here’s a selection from my bookshelf that may pique your interest.

1. Follow the Sun: A Field Guide to Architectural Photography in the Digital Age by J Ewing

A bible for younger photographers. This is a comprehensive guide that takes you through the history of architectural photography from dark rooms to present day. It isn’t just a practical manual, there are brilliant diagrams and example photographs that help you develop as a photographer.

Merging the traditional skills of a professional photographer with the new tools on offer in the 21st century has been an exciting journey for me, and this book demonstrates how we can use technology to enhance our mastery of the lens.  I also enjoyed the insightful interviews with prominent architectural photographers such as Peter Aaron and Elizabeth Felicella to get a peek into their experiences and how they mirror my own.

2. Momentum of Light by Francis Kéré and Iwan Baan

Light is the most important element for us architectural photographers, however travel and different landscapes are also passions of mine, which helped draw me to this book.

Through these pages we see the genius of Francis Kéré unfolding in a project that pays homage to age-old African architecture of his home country, Burkina Faso. He collaborated with Dutch photographer, Iwan Baan, who also documents the interplay between light and space beautifully. I appreciate the striking contrasts of the imagery here, the glimpse into another photographer’s journey from his childhood, and the representation of an African country not often viewed through this type of imagery.

3. Photographing the Late Modern by Emily Bills and Wayne Thom

Although the expert photographer of buildings, Wayne Thom, is a few decades older than me, I have always identified with him. I too have risen before dawn to capture a dazzling hotel image, managing reflective surfaces and towers that rise into a dizzying metropolis.

This book features Thom’s work over the first 20 years of his career, in particular his photography of the changing cityscape of Los Angeles during that period of staggering growth. As I have seen Dubai grow, I’ve been able to document a changing urban landscape and have enjoyed working with architects of great stature. This book shows exactly what can happen when creative minds meet – great architects and the photographers who capture the brilliance of their designs.

18 Degrees: Capital Gate - Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi: The Ultimate Diagrid book”, photo by Gerry O’Leary
18 Degrees: Capital Gate – Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi: The Ultimate Diagrid book”, photo by Gerry O’Leary

4. 18 Degrees: Capital Gate – Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi by Pierre Martin Dufresne and Jeff Schofield

This book has pride of place on my bookshelf due in part to my involvement with its creation, but also because I find the building fascinating. It is the world’s farthest leaning tower, almost four times more than the leaning tower of Pisa, believe it or not! As you can imagine, that is an astounding feat of design and engineering, and the form of the building is simply stunning.

18 Degrees: Capital Gate – Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi is written by the chief architects of Capital Gate Abu Dhabi, Pierre Martin Dufresne and Jeff Schofield, and it explores the technical challenges and records broken as they persevered to create a building that can truly be called iconic.

It’s a book that students of architecture, photography and even ex-construction managers like me will enjoy as it an exploration of an award-winning, innovative design and building.

A library of photography books and magazines

I’ve been building my library for decades and now it is both eclectic – with books on topics as varied as high fashion and brutalism. From ancient tomes to contemporary masterpieces, I love reading about art and photography. It is simple to think that everything that goes into an image happens on the day, but in fact it is also informed by what I’ve learnt over the years.

I encourage everyone to study and read about what they love. For those interested in architectural photography, it is important to understand structure and design, so I advise perusing books in that area.

I offer professional architectural photography in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and across the Middle East.  If you’d like to learn more about my professional photography, please get in touch.