Ken Schles On: The Photo Book Club Process

First off I want to thank Matt and Wayne for taking on Invisible City for the Photobook Club. They didn’t have to do it. But I’m glad they have.

Photo Book Club and Ken Schles' Invisible City

The project of the Photo Book Club interests me: it’s about photography books, something I’ve been interested in and engaged in as part of my practice as a photographer for over 25 years. But there is something else that piques my interest here as well. You see, making lists of importance and photography share a common thread—one I also connect to the writing of history as well. All are activities to seek out and present hierarchies of importance. We do it all the time, in the choices we make, how we focus our attentions. When we gravitate towards something, I don’t think it’s necessarily about popularity. And even when it is, it’s almost always about something else as well. At their best, these attentions, these choices are about significance. And the question of significance interests me deeply.

©KEN SCHLES

Significance is something that this blog takes aim at and something photography targets at as well. Flusser calls photographs “significant surfaces” —they are two-dimensional surfaces that signify something. And significance is very much of importance to us humans. We are signifying creatures. It’s what we do. Maybe it is because every one of us operates from a unique and insignificant point in the universe: a deep subjectivity that we struggle to overcome through social activities. We are compelled to ‘discover’ what is significant and share our discoveries: for survival’s sake, certainly, but also for what nourishes us.

©KEN SCHLES

We can take someone else’s word for what is important or significant, which of course, we do all the time, but do those opinions have as much meaning as when we investigate and make these evaluations for ourselves? For me photography has always been about that kind of questioning. I test images against ideas, I test ideas through the work I do with photography, rather than simply accept what I am presented with. I don’t tend to let images ‘wash over’ me. I search for meaning.

And I believe that’s the project of the Photo Book Club as well. The Photo Book Club evaluates significance and relevancy, expanding our insight into the possibilities of what specific photo books can offer. That is why I am keen for this Photo Book Club process.

– Ken Schles

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