Overall thoughts regarding photobooks

There are so many issues and points that this review has triggered that it’s difficult to know here to begin.

Badger and M. Parr’s The Photobook: A History Volume has, along with the work I have been doing experimenting and developing my book, made me think a lot about production values as it included so many photos of photos in books. Never did the authors show the image alone but always in its context. This was good. It made me think hard about the issues involved in presenting my images in a book and related issues such as whether such an approach should be accompanied or supported by a website. For example, I need to decide whether a website should be a set of images made for that or a representation of the book on the site.

This research into the photobooks has also reminded me just how powerful the book is. The self-contained nature of the book allows the producer to create a visual discourse in a way where the book’s own values support the work. Thus photobooks can express popular, fashionable or classic values – and everything in between. I have begun working on this by exploring issues of cover, chapter images and fonts but still have some way to go, but the research has definitely made me see my photobook as the primary expressive source of my discourse.

Photos in books seem to arrest moreso than images on a screen. But I suppose that view carries its own danger in that any photo can be imbued with gravitas and importance by being placed in a book in a way that is very different than being posted on a website. I thought about this when looking at Andrre Kertez (2001) and The Great War (2013). The books could be seen to take the ordinary and inject them with a gravitas not originally offered but I don’t think that is the case. Clearly the production values and curation have enhanced the images evocation but they have not made good photos from bad photos or interesting photos from uninteresting images. Rather they have drawn out the values from within the images. I thought about this when looking at the work of Robin Maddock where the images on his website did not seem to resonate in the way a book of his images would.

Scale plays a massive part in the values a book expresses. For example, it would be easy to think that bigger is better and there is no doubt that the larger the scale the greater the gravitas evoked in some ways. But books like the Kertez one have a type of power of their own. image

The review has also made me much less concerned about using Blurb or another self-publishing route for my work though as it appears to be much more acceptable to do this now. Indeed issues of variety and consistency seem key to producing a good book and using some templates can help with this. For example too much variety and the book doesn’t hand to together and speak with a single voice , but too little variety and the book become monotonous and dangerously repetitive.

One last thought is in relation to my own work. Nowhere in this volume did I find examples of work that references disability. Again I feel as though the subject is just invisible to most unless it is represented through some other prism such as poverty, impairment, age, or illness. This omission seems to suggest to me that my approach is more important than I would have otherwise thought because I don’t feel I am creating work that will contribute to a movement, rather I feel like I am creating work that will challenge the artistic world’s massive blind spot. Indeed reviewing the photobooks I am minded of Paul Darke’s article I reviewed here. All this exploring has really crystallised my focus and energised me to create a book and make that my primary artistic output from this work. Of course I will explore other formats but I am now set clearly knowing why I want to create a book and how I will do it whereas up until now it’s been one option amongst four (website, exhibition wall mounted images and video).

This work deserves a big round happy face Smile

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

Bourcier N. (2001) Andre Kertesz (Phaidon 55’s) Phaidon Press Ltd

Holborn, M. (Ed) (2013) The Great War, Published by Jonathan Cape


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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