Artists often describe themselves as self taught, which I generally assume to mean never having attended formal training at an art school or through an apprenticeship.
I describe myself as a self taught photographer. I have set my own curriculum plan over the years, and it has been quite intense. Certainly more chaotic and circular than I would have received at any school, but I prefer it that way.
At the heart of my self taught education is a continuum of reading everything I can get my hands on concerning the aesthetics of photography. If someone asked me how to become a photographer, I would say do three things.... (1)Take pictures of something (anything) everyday,(2) obsessively study the work of other photographers, and (3) read photography essays.
Essays, not photography manuals! Once you have a basic understanding of shutter speeds, apertures, ISO, etc, there is little need to read technical manuals, unless you are heading towards commercial photography. You will learn everything you need to know about technique by taking pictures everyday, learning from your mistakes and your victories.
But essays about aesthetics and vision and meaning are what feed us intellectually as artists, and push us in new directions. Most of my favorite essays are written by photographers whose work has had the most profound influence on my own work. The following list is what I consider to be the five best photography essays of all time, and I have read each of them dozens of times.They are about the subjects and concepts of photography that can't be taught, but must be felt and slowly absorbed through the skin through years of working with a camera. I will continue to read them over and over again, as each time I do they reveal something new to me.
The Camera Mind and Eye by Minor White
Photography at the Crossroads by Berenice Abbott
Understanding a Photograph by John Berger
The Reappearance of Photography by Walker Evans
Seeing Photographically by Edward Weston