A photobook or a book with photos?

I came across an interesting article here. Francis Hodgson argues that there is now an artificial and not very clear divide between ‘photobooks’ and well-made books of pictures. In summary he argues that:

  • Photobooks have been separated and placed in a niche beyond comparison with — or competition against — photographically illustrated books;
  • To be classed as a photobook it must “self-consciously take a position within the issues of photography itself” and so become a niche book that excludes other types of illustrated books no matter how good they are.

Hodgson goes onto argue that although the photobook industry is booming he wonders whether many will stand the test of time and be thought any good in years to come. He cites the example of Donovan Wylie and argues that his work has moved from “His raw, brilliant, 32 Counties” that told a story in a uniquely Wylie way (where he clearly had something to say) to then collaboration on book about new age travellers, and then routine typologies such as the Maze prison and watch towers. The damming view of Hodgson is that :

“the fire to tell a story had been dampened down, replaced by a more self-conscious positioning  of himself within the history and the debates about photography […] Instead of bursting to tell a story, he now coolly plots the next research project”.

So we have a definition of a photobook as being a book with photos that speaks about photography as well as the subject matter and this seems to be looked down upon by Hodgson for this reason. He also thinks photobooks work best when people have something important to say rather than just being the result of a project.   

By Hodgson’s definition my book will clearly be a photobook as it is both a discourse about impairment and disability and a commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of photography to make clear statements, while above all, being my response to living with paralysis for over 37 years. However, I’m not sure I will have anything I want to say photographically after that though….


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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