From There to Here: The Photobook and Place

Three varieties of a sense of place in photography

Geography

  • I would offer some others – spectacle where the photo creates a spectacle from the vista, or gestalt where the photo framing creates the form – eg Gursky’s The Rhine
  • Then there are those sociological approaches where the geography is clearly Man made. I am thinking here of the New Topographics approach.

Autobiography

  • Road trips, diaries, relationships with place and communities

Metaphor – aren’t all photos metaphors?

Photos can render the familiar strange as well as feign cool detachment. As I looked through the numerous examples of photobooks a couple of things jumped out at me.

1) Many photobooks use full bleed imagery right up to the edges of the page

2) Many – though it appears less and less now – are shot in monochrome with a very stark approach eg images clipped.

But yet while I made this points in reference to the images in the book, when I compared them to online versions the results were very different. For example Gian Butturini’s London looked like this below in the photobook.

image

Whereas on the website here the images where much more gently processed with quite a different – less personal, more documentary evocation.

image

Thoughts
This section drummed home the issues of choice and trends in production values. So many of the books shown are very different – more ragged and personal – than the photobooks I am used to viewing. For example, my colleague Keith produced a wonderful book and website looking at the East End of London and focussed on its history and changes since the Victorian era.

The book was produced via Lightroom and Blurb with single images surrounded by white borders and juxtaposed against the comments made in Booths survey into life and labour in London (1886-1903). Keith’s approach seemed to me to balance the issue of photo as document and as picture as he took rather mundane scenes but shot them at twilight and so invested them with an aesthetic quality that worked both in terms of making interesting pictures and evocating a sense of looking back.

image

But again what I find interesting is the differences between the book and website. I naturally see the book as holding primacy and the website being a facsimile – but Keith has never said this – rather it’s what I have invested into the forms. 

My last thoughts have turned to the values I want to invest in a book. I will need to think of the approach I adopt – personal, standardised or not etc. 

One clear thought is that as I am not using notes by the images the chapter headings are more important as that is the only direction offered save for the images. So I will play particular attention to them in my next draft.

 


G. Badger, and M. Parr, (2014) The Photobook: A History Volume III Published by Phaidon Press

About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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