An early train ride into Bristol after a few pieces of toast; I forget the porridge in my hurry.
Meet David Solo from the States who advises me to start at “The Three Shadows” when looking at photography in Beijing. This is both a gallery space and a centre for research that should be able to point one in the right direction.
The first talk is “Between you me and the Wall” with a witty Ken Grant who thinks photo-education is changing and that it needs to. He has no “selfie” to post only a “shelfie” which is a bookcase of his favourite photobooks which includes The Pond by John Gossage, Love on the Left Bank and People by Tom Wood. He has spent a lot of time looking at photobooks including dummies. He does not know why he knows what works and what does not. One needs nourishment; he has found it in Dutch photobooks.
Jose Luis Neves is a PhD student studying at Ulster who has also studied at De Monfort University; he has focused on the photobook. His talk is “Artist’s Book or Photobook Where do we draw the line?”
He references The Book of 101 Books by Andrew Roth (2001) as well as the Parr Badger trilogy published 2004, 2006, 2014. There are of course others such as The Open Book (edited by Roth). The Dutch Photobook originally published 1989 and since republsihed by Aperture. Another volume is the 1999 fotogratia Publica – Photography in Print 1919-1939 about creative autonomous forms and the photographer.
Neves is aware of a minefield of terminology in determining what these books considered photobooks might be referred to as; a photobook is just one word. Badger defines a photobook as where the work’s primary message is carried by photographs which does seems fairly straightfoward yet Neves considers that a proper definition is more complex. A photobook can be considered as a piece of sculpture, a play or even a film might be. Dick Higgin’s says a book is done for it’s own sake not for the information it contains; photographs become parts of a whole. This is not as simple as it might sound yet another definition helps to clarify this; the photobook is a medium in itself rather than a vehicle for a medium.
What makes a photobook a photobook? A collection of August Sander portraits for instance, Walker Evans’ “American Photographs”, the “Ravens” Japanese photobook and other well known works … can these really be considered photobooks? A literary quality is another example. Mike Brodie’s “A Period of Juvenile Prosperity” is also considered. One makes a photobook, one does not write them.
Ed Ruscha’s 26 Gasoline Stations is considered the first art photobook! However, although Ruscha did not think that the photographs themselves were important at the time, he now he sells them as individual prints.
Michael Snow’s Cover to Cover (New York, 1975), William Klein’s Life is Good for You and Good for you in New York (1956) are early examples of photobooks that used features like full spreads similar to those in fashion magazines
Photobooks can be any size or shape, different papers might be used as well as different types of printing that lead to different reader experiences. Other photobooks held up or consideration are Cathedrales by Aegerter (Paris, 2014) that shows changing light on the cathedral and involves rephotography, Karma by Monzon (Paris, 2013), Holy Bible by Broomberg and Chanarin, The PIGS by Carlos Spottorno … one can question the nature of photobooks, an attempt to define what makes a photobook. Many photobooks use appropriated images.
The information in a photobook not solely important rather the book is itself.
This Talk by email@example.com, an Iberian academic from University of Ulster in Belfast is interesting yet there is not really time to absorb some of the information; arguably, his most interesting comments came at the begining when he used quotes about what a photobook might be but these needed more time to understand.
Martin Parr is not academic in approach preferring to work from gut instinct. For some people who make photobooks, photography is not that fundamental. Publishing as an artistic practice also needs considering. This talk has been about defining the nature of the photobook; a painting by Carl Spitzweg called Der Bucherwurm (1850) is projected and shows a gentleman at the top of a ladder in front of a vast bookcase with a couple of books in hand.
Corinne from Holland is an important photographer and teacher at The (Dutch) Royal Academy of Art; she introduces Bart also from Holland who is a photographer. They met each other through work in the 1980s and discovered they had similar ideas about photography and the need for it to change thinking that it needed to focus more on society and the era we live in rather than get too personal. Corinne encourages students to find their own way in their projects without becoming too personal; she tries to get students to distance themselves from their original starting point without loosing sight of it.
Examples of student books, some of which are for sale upstairs, are WassinkLundgren by Thijs grootWassnink, Ruben Lundgren’s “Empty Bottles” emerged from a visit to China; Communism and Cowgirls is another … this book is described on the Amazon site as “A scarce book by one of the finest young documentary photographers to come out of the Netherlands in recent years. Printed and published the old-fashioned way (rather than as a print-on-demand book), Hornstra’s first two books sold out quickly.Communism and Cowgirls was done as a graduation project at the Academy of Arts in Utrecht in 2004. It is a riveting documentary focusing on the first generation of young people to grow up after the fall of the Soviet Union.“
Often it is not just about the making of a photobook but making them available, involving people.
Bart, a Dutch photographer, focuses on industry and has made a number of photobooks around the subject and plans to do more. One book is “Factories without Chimneys” and is about the electrical industry. He is fond of keeping and later using news clippings. He suggests bookmaking to management as a worthwhile goodwill gesture to employees, making a book being a small cost in regard to the immense costs in closing down a factory; he favours documenting factories that are going to close. Uses a 4by5 camera and photographs all the products as well as the building, machinery, people etc Photographs all the colleagues. Did a book about a nuclear power plant in Holland (mentioned in Parr and Badger Volume 2) photographing all the employees often in groups. Collects photobooks especially company photobooks; likes to honour old masters! “Delft Kabels” is a beautiful Dutch company book he came across and is trying to get republished. “Have you a trumpet handy?” is another book he likes. Collects books as they are good for ideas. A lot of young people no longer know what factories are! Photographing factories closing down gives the photographer more freedom as the company is unlikely to be worried about their image at this point. He has done a book about a cigar factory closing down in which management were dissappointed to see their staff smoking cigarettes rather than cigars. Has made 8 of these books to date and plans to do more.
Corinne talks again, about photobooks she has loved such as Cuny Janssen’s “Macedonie”, Vivianne Sassen’s work, On Loving Animals by Isabella. She loves good photobooks like she does good stories. She thinks photobooks are about showing work to others.
“How Terry Likes his Coffee” is another photobook she recommends; in this case, the photographer hired a designer, invested in the production of work.
What we wear (mentioned in Parr and Badger Volume 3) is a concertina style book. The photographer realised he could not find an audience directly so he found publisher. A second edition is possible if he gets enough interest; the first edition sold out. The work focuses on the textile industry and the manufacture and trade of cheap clothing hence it is topical and relevant to today. There is some text at the end.
Niels Blekemolen author (can one use that word in this context?) “Once a Week” works in care. photographs of old people often from behind. Book that needs to be read quickly
“Now will not be with us forever” is a collection of booklets. One is about his father. Sold out but will be presented in Arles. Made everyday moments interesting and commercialised it. Not a marriage photographer rather creating memories for people of living spaces.
Book about cancer. Photos of mother and sister also typed details of illness.
I small like rain by Verena Blok. Diaristic which is rather too common these days.
Talk about their on ideas on the photobook.
Paul Seawright formerly of University of Newport and Donavon Wylie, a Magnum photographer; “Between the book and the wall” is introduced by Ken Grant.
Donavon Wylie studied at Farnham thirty years ago when photobooks were starting to gain interest but it did not form part of the student’s curriculum. Mentions Jem Southam’s book “Red River” which is about a journey. Thinks a lot about the gallery space not just the book.
Paul Seawright was inspired by books from an early age as well as music.
More space to move around when in gallery rather than book which is a restricted space with a more ordered way of viewing owing to page turning.
A photobook is different; can be conceptually constructed and may not work on a gallery wall. Paul Graham’s work ‘A shimmer of possibility” did work both ways.
A book needs to work conceptually. For instance, the book about the Maze prison, which is a system to keep people imprisoned, needed to convey this sense of imprisonment. Photographing almost everything. Not an easy book to structure. Made diagrammatic drawings about page layout; worked over this many times. A lot went into the production. Of the book about the Maze prison that eventually became three books, Amazon carry the following text; “Between 2002 and 2003 Donovan Wylie spent almost a hundred days photographing inside the Maze prison. Through its history of protests, hunger strikes and escapes, this prison, holding both republican and loyalist prisoners, became synonymous with the Northern Ireland conflict. After the Belfast peace agreement in 1998, inmates were gradually released, but the Maze remained open. Wylie was the only photographer granted official and unlimited access to the site, and when the demolition of the prison began, symbolizing the end of the conflict in 2007, he systematically recorded its demise. The photographs which document this period are divided into four sections, each depicting a layer of the prison: the internal walls, the various modes of fencing, the H-blocks and, finally, the perimeter walls, which reveal the external landscape. Eventually this once-enclosed space is reintegrated with the outside world. First published in 2004 to critical acclaim, this new edition of Maze comes in three volumes: Maze 2002/03, Maze 2007/08, and The Architecture of Containment.”
Choice of good photographs, paper, sequence etc sometimes breaking the order bringing experience of bookmaking to the gallery wall.
Looking at print outs of book sequence rather than images on screen as in Lightroom Book module.
Photoedit – Grant wrote about Wylie’s book Scrapbook. He put it together in 1996 during a personal crisis with photography. Uses appropriated photographs.
Another Wylie book is British Watchtowers again published by Steidl. Trying to make good books that don’t cost too much and are accessible. Others in series called Outposts North Wartime. Excited by idea of a book series.
Volunteer by Paul Seawright is another book for consideration. The book and the show can be very different in nature.
After the talk, a view of the bookshop upstairs where several people are vending and I buy afew books at discount prices. A break for lunch at a nearby pub called The Imp where a small boy vomits over the carpet amidst much crying. Mike from the OCA is with me. We hurry back for the next talk which starts late. Mike from the OCA informs me that one can spend time in British Library Reading Room researching but need a card.
Empire by Jon Tonks is a body of work about which I have heard. An interesting project that became a book and has sold out but due to be reprinted; always intended to be a book. Sold 3,000 copies in a few months. Martin Parr helped with editing process. The front cover is photograph of a sheep under a Union Jack flag.
Tonks studied product design. Started this project in 2007, looking into elements of Empire. The end pages are maps which shows where Ascension Island is. Intrigued by the idea of an island controlled by the military requiring a special flight. Hit by barren landscape on arrival and spent a week researching the area, looking for stories. Met one or two individuals who belong to the island but will have to leave eventually owing to the military presence. Tonks went searching for a missing cow for instance that later died – the last picture of the last cow on the island. Photo of Noddy with gigantic fish; Noddy has also died. Photograph of airport which is owned by Britsh and Americans,each having one part.
Next trip was to St. Helena Island. Also photographed tourists visiting on a cruise. Analysed time spent drinking and eating. After 5 day cruise reached island, went around looking for stories. First visit only 8 days so needed to revisit and gradually found material in some of the people living there. Tonks has photographed the people there, some of whom seem quite eccentric.
Amazon say about the book; “Jon Tonks spent up to a month at a time in each territory, travelling 60,000 miles around the Atlantic via military outposts, low-lit airstrips and a long voyage aboard the last working Royal Mail Ship. Some 400 rolls of film, 24 flights and 32 days at sea later, the resulting work creates an insight into these distant places that resonate with a sense of Britishness which is remarkably recognisable yet inescapably strange. Tonks has photographed the people, the landscapes and the traces of the past embedded within each territory and through short texts, which combine history and anecdote, he tells the story of these remote and remarkable islands. His motivation is neither political or nostalgic, the images arising primarily from his curiosity about the lives of these distant lands that remain very firmly British.“
When doing the book, Tonks became preoccupied with text and image.
Spent 7 days of boredom on another boat on way to Tristan de Cunha Island. Again photographed people such as only policeman for over a thousand miles around. Photographed young couple; they had to build their own house. Photograph of abandoned lifeboats swept inshore.
Tonks did a lot of research beforehand yet easier once he got to the locations. Forging locations with people also important. Did not start photographing immediately as some people were shy.
Also went to The Falklands about which he had a preconception. There is a road called Thatcher Drive after the British P.M. as she helped liberate the island.
Tonks came away with an enormous group of images and a lot of stories which he wanted to incorporate.
Images are well composed with obvious symmetry.
Due to be a touring exhibition following on from the book. Not something originally intended. I can’t help but feel a sense of humour to this work, the kind of humour that made British Empire.
“Self-Publish, Be Happy” with Bruno.
Self-publishing involves a lot of things … photographing, designing, marketing etc
exploring, looking more closely at things
finding worthwhile images in world around us e.g. within home
Fourth Wall about India
documentary approach but using different methods to build story
text of emails
arranged marriages, love commando shelters for people from different castes who need protection; shelters
sequences of photos like cine reel to show progression of situations honestly
background to situation of love marriages
LoveCommandos.org texts from net
images from Mumbai portrait studio; don’t have money to buy nice clothes so stand behind photos of them
mass Christian wedding
appropriation of prints from studio images that were never claimed
supported Europalia in Bruxelles
Untitled by Anouk Kruithof
about love-hate relationship with photography
Not everyone wants to self-publish; some artists happy to hand over the process to others.
Is the book worth cutting down trees for??!
Too many bad photobooks – photographers don’t know why they are making them.
photobook market quite small with limited numbers of buyers ?!
Desert Island Photobooks
Stephen Bull interviews Joachim Schmid
arranged by Photoworks
Stephen Bull has interviewed 10 photogaphers for Desert Island Pics; now he is doing Desert Island Photobooks with Joachim Schmid, a found photographer which means he uses photoraphs he finds. Made a lot of photobooks from these appropriated images.
JS has no collection of photobooks, not a collector, but does get books he needs then gets rid of them. He buys books he likes but has no idea of making a collection. Allowed 8 books on his Desert Island which he finds an acceptable number; choosing 8 photos to take would be much harder if not impossible.
Marshall Mc Luhan; the medium is the massage (1969) did not find it until late 1977; about text and image; important compilation of his work; photographs in the book mostly by unknown photographers, stock images but some cedits at back. JS admits to owning this book and keeping it. Discusses different covers. Originally, medium is the message but a typo lead to it being called the massage. Kind of book you can pick up and read anywhere. Mac Luhan also author of Understanding Media.
Tach, Mao1 (Hi Mao!) by Hilga Eibl. Post card size, about 25 images over 50 pages, all taken from the Press. Images of different people meeting Mao.
Jurgen Becker, a German writer, awarded a prize for his literature. He also has done a photobook. Images of ordinary everyday views with a little text inserted such as a phrase … “no one knows exactly”. Only one edition printed in 1971. Likes the way a writer decides to play with another medium.
1981 book discovered in 1994. Appropriated photobooth photographs that have been ripped up by owners and now put together again for others to view. Began in Brighton in 1968 by Dick Jewell when he found some discarded photos by a photobooth. We don’t know who are in the photos. Significant moment in found photography. Listed in Parr and Badger, The Photobook, vol. 2, p. 222.
The Lost Pictures by Alexander Honory (mentioned in Parr and Badger Volume 2) who works with tiny snapshots but only text about images. Photographs trigger memory but they are not memory. Got his wife to sew copies together. Honory is a friend of Schmid! people who work with snapshots tend to work with images of their family but JS does not advise this.
Sophie Calle’s true histories is a book JS likes very much. It is a work of fiction containing photos and textual anecdotes, the veracity of which is hard to determine. Other Sophie Calle books are mentioned in Parr and Badger’s history of the Photobbok.
Autoportrait by Martin Parr (2000) is free of vanity; JS would never allow himself to be photographed as such.
JS’ final book is called The American War (2006) by Harrell Fletcher. Photographs from conflicts that show horros committed by the Americans. Also a reflection on role of photography. The captions vary. Appropriated photographs.
Photo books have been presented in sequence that they came into JS’ life; all the books are small in size.
Storing photobooks not easy. How would JS store them? In a plastic bag he can carry around with him!
Which is the one book he values most? He avoids replying to this by saying the one he could grab hold of first.
Click HERE for Day Three
Click HERE for Day One