The book, Photographers’ Sketchbooks, shows the creative process of photographers from around the world.

A Glimpse Into the Sketchbooks of Professional Photographers 

A Glimpse Into the Sketchbooks of Professional Photographers 

Behold
The Photo Blog
Feb. 1 2015 11:16 AM

A Glimpse Into Professional Photographers’ Sketchbooks

soth
Alec Soth, Broken Manual.

Copyright Alec Soth

To many, it might seem that the art of photography is simply a matter of going out and snapping pictures. But there’s a lot more to it, and there’s ample proof in the scribbles, diagrams, and other materials found in Photographers’ Sketchbookswhich was published last year by Thames & Hudson.  

“You often hear that everyone’s a photographer these days, which is true and wonderful and I love it. But what sets these photographers apart is all the time they spend not taking pictures,” said Bryan Formhals, a photographer and writer who created the book with Stephen McLaren. “They spend so much time editing and thinking and writing and researching. It’s not just about pressing the button on the camera.”

maclean
John MacLean, Hometowns.

CopyrightJohn MacLean

pannack
Laura Pannack, The Walks.

CopyrightLaura Pannack

trevor
Paul Trevor, In Your Face.

CopyrightPaul Trevor

As the nearly 50 international photographers and photo-based artists and curators featured in the book show, the creative process can be just as diverse as the final product. While many photographers, like Alec Soth, work with film, contact sheets, and traditional notebooks, others, like Peter DiCampo, work digitally, using Instagram, blogs, and other online media for inspiration and organization. Indeed, the “sketchbooks” in the book are only occasionally photos of actual sketchbooks; other times they’re a picture of the photographer’s studio or a screenshot from a website. Always, however, there is some visual component to their thought process.

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Those images—often improvised, messy, and full of quick scrawls and edits—do much to highlight the doubts and uncertainty involved in an artist’s life. While finished projects, especially from the best of the best, can look as though their path from conception to completion was a straight line, Formhals said, a behind-the-scenes look in a studio can easily prove otherwise. 

sassen
Viviane Sassen, Sketchbooks.

CopyrightViviane Sassen

mollica
Mimi Mollica, Terra Nostra.

CopyrightMimi Mollica

kranitz
Stacy Kranitz, Appalachia.

CopyrightStacy Kranitz

“The projects don’t come out of this magical place. Every photographer struggles with the same questions: Do I have enough good material? Is this idea strong enough?” Formhals said. “Seeing that really made me more reassured that the challenges and troubles I’m having go all the way up to the top photographers in the world.”

Photographers today, using the free, easy tools of social media, arguably have more means to document and share their artistic process with viewers than ever before. Still, Formhals said, there are always more ways for artists to provide context for their work and help others appreciate the tremendous amount of work that goes into it.  

“I hope other photographers are continuing to be transparent with their processes and developing new ways to share that instead of just saying, ‘Here are my 20 best pictures.’ I hope people learn from the book and pick up some tips. We all win from that, I think.” 

leiter
Saul Leiter, Sketchbooks.

CopyrightSaul Leiter

goldberg
Jim Goldberg, Candy.

CopyrightJim Goldberg

klimas
Martin Klimas, Synthesizer.

Martin Klimas

werning
Irina Werning, Back to the Future.

Irina Werning

Jordan G. Teicher is the associate editor of Slates Behold blog. Follow him on Twitter.