Two posts I authored are on the College Book Art Association ‘Art Theory Blog’ found here. The first talks a little about the importance of remembering the multiple histories that the photograph and the page have, and the second introduces some thoughts around interactivity and the photobook. While they are only brief sections of much larger research and writing, they, like the other posts on the Art Theory Blog might well be of interest.
While it may have limited crossover in its totality, a short article recently written for the ‘Academic book of the Future’ by UCL Press and the British Library touches a little on some of the pedagogic considerations behind the PBC and thus may be of interest. The full post can be found here.
Perhaps counter-intuitively the photobook – a form which is expensive to make, buy and distribute, not to mention time-consuming – is experiencing something of a golden age (Crager, 2014), which to others seems an unhealthy cult (Bush, 2016). This phenomenon, linked to both post-digital pragmatism and oppositional reaction has lead to a landscape in which there is firstly an abundance of new works, and secondly (in relation to the first) an absence of considered discussion around the merits of new works or the hailing of classics. This presents a problem to the student of the photobook – including the formal academic student, as well as the photographer, designer, binder and publisher. Fundamentally the The Photobook Club looks to one of the most overlooked agents in the life of the photobook – the reader.
A book I made 2 years ago. I think it is important and will help raise awareness and contribute to a discussion about the state of the photobook. So i’ve only made 5 copies and each is £100. I will consider it a success if they all sell or it ends up on a list #jobdone.
An extract from page 7
“…there are works that deceive – the book that seeks to change attitude, vocalise an unknown issue or empower a community. We have seen them, we have bought them and we have likely appreciated their attempt to affect real action. We have been convinced by glue, paper, thread and beautiful imagery – perhaps also by the heartfelt introduction or accompanying essay written by the author who just wants the work to be seen, the story to be heard. Unfortunately, as product in part of a community which rewards production-as-outcome and in part due to selfish desires, this book falls flat on it’s face. The book is on all our shelves, it has sold out, it still falls flat. The book enters top ten lists, the author is asked to judge next years competitions, the book still falls flat. Likely, it is gathering dust on our shelves, at best, of the 500 people who actually bought it as apposed to being given it, only half have ever really read it – the rest keeping it safe in case of astronomical rise in fame or the photobook being accepted as a currency. So 250 people read your book – 250 people who… are politically liberal and agree with your ideas or are similarly frustrated by what you show… So reach a real readership. Don’t kid yourself that you are doing any good… your book’s worth making, worth looking at and ultimately enriching, thats great, but that’s it, no more.
An extract from page 9
“This is not to discourage publishing at all – it is an individual experience and can serve multiple purposes but be realistic with your intentions… Just tell us you were proud of the work and felt that others might find enjoyment or interest in it – tell us this. If you want to speak about something – I mean really speak – to people, not book people – then think about why and how you make your book. It would be fair to suggest anything intended for a mass audience should be online but this would ignore the role of anonymity, memory and credibility we assign to the book. So a book may be the thing, but the £45 hardcover with pullouts and Dodo feathers is pointless. Think about squeezing the collectors to pay for the non-buyers – don’t see the non booklover as an annoyance but an untapped revenue stream. Not fiscal revenue but attention/interest/change/action revenue. Ultimately, the defetishisation of the photobook, a refocussing of energy on readerships and the life-beyond-publication could move us from the golden age of the medium to an altogether more worthwhile steel age.”
A huge thanks to all 178 people who took part in the photobook survey I have conducted over the last few months some fantastic responses have come through and a number of interesting trends are presenting themselves. I will look to publish some results in the future but for now my gratitude for so many spending considerable time giving thoughtful answers to questions around photobook readership.
Further research with particular individuals is developing some of the difficult-to-answer questions about our reading of books new to us and those we are already familiar with. Already a number of interview sheets with non-linear response diagrams have been sent out – if you would like to be involved in this also pop me an email.
I have a small chapter in a new publication looking at the book within a somewhat confusing digital (or rather post-digital) era. The piece is titled ‘The Photobook Club; a Pragmatic Response to Hierarchical Conversation and the Photobook as Capital’. The book features some great pieces from really insightful minds and positions, have a look at more info and a press release below…
A new bookRoom press publication edited by Danny Aldred and Emmanuelle Waeckerlé. With a foreword by Alessandro Ludovico and endnotes by John Warwicker.
Code X brings together a selection of personal histories of the current ‘transforming’ and ‘expanding’ of the book medium with the aim to challenge the very notion of what it could be(come) in today’s complex information era.
The design of Code—X within codex form represents a playful and daring twist of ink imitating pixel to render composition and design. The content is seen as a continuous scroll, cropped where screen meets paper edge. We celebrate both camps by highlighting dichotomies of edge to scroll, sequence to time and image to place.
Featuring essays, interviews and works by
Delphine Bedel, Simon Cutts, Sebastien Girard, Hans Gremmen, Andrew Haslam with Rose Gridneff & Alex Cooper, Alec Finlay with Ken Cockburn, Alessandro Ludovico, Silvio Lorusso, Katharine Meynell with Susan Johanknecht, Grégoire Pujade-Lauraine, AND Publishing, Colin Sackett, Jodie Silsby, Paul Soulellis, Stefan Szczelkun, John Warwicker (Tomato), Eric Watier, Maria White, Beth Williamson, David Lorente Zaragoza.
276 pages. RRP £20.00 – ISBN 978-0-9576828-3-2
The book launched in October 2015 at Winchester School of Art.
While ‘Food for Thought #1‘ focused on Power’s broader photographic projects to date, this post highlights a few resources linked specifically to ’26 Different Endings’.
Select quote: “Travel to the end of the road with Mark Power, who has made a determined mission to expose what lies hidden within these apparently cultureless outposts of British civilisation, that might trendily be referred to as terrains vagues or non-places.”
‘Temporal Landscapes’, A Thesis by Shelley Jacobson (PDF link)
For those who want to cut to the chase, you can do so by searching for ’26’ in this paper for comment on Power’s images, but if you have the time, this is an interesting thesis including the work of Burtynsky, Maisel, Baltz and a heap more.
Select quote: “Drawn by the magnet of memories lightly softened over the years and fully expecting to enjoy sneering at some tasteless attempts at gentrification, I was confronted instead by a deeply depressing vision of neglect: peeling paint, overgrown garden, rubbish piling up by the garage my Dad had expertly built himself. And to complete the picture, a similarly weathered ‘For Sale’ sign that looked as if it had been there for a generation.”
This ‘Food for Thought‘ post is for those unfamiliar with Mark Power’s work and will give a variety of links to his projects, interviews, videos and so on. For those who are more interested specifically in ’26 Different Endings’, the following ‘Food for Thought‘ post will focus on this photobook.
Power has an extensive archive of images from a variety of projects, all of which can be found on his excellent website. His work has documented all manner of subjects here in the UK, in Europe and further afield.
A few highlights in the archive are:
- The Shipping Forecast (1993-6)
- Asylum (1998)
- Miyazaki (2000)
- The Treasury Project (2000-2)
- 26 Different Endings (2003-6)
- The Sound of Two Songs (2004-10)
You can find most of the essays connected with Power’s projects, and featured in his photobooks on the Mark Power essay page.
If you are after an interview with the man himself then head over to ‘Photojournalism Love Story‘ to find a solid interview covering a variety of Power’s work and processes.
Over on ‘Ideastap’ Power talks a little about his process and gives advice for aspiring photographers. It is a short piece but a worthwhile read.
If you enjoyed looking at ‘The Shipping Forecast‘ then the video below gives a whole new dimension, especially for those who have never heard the foreign language that is the shipping forecast on radio…
He also took part in the Guardian’s ‘Best Shot’ feature and talks about the image below:
Recently Power collaborated with poet Daniel Cockrill to create the project ‘Destroying the Laboratory for the Sake of the Experiment‘, it is well worth a look (video).
Power has also embraced new ways of working and regularly shoots very short moving images, all with a static camera (and silent). They have the same aesthetic feel as his images with the addition of movement. You can check them all out on his Vimeo profile as well as see one below:
And to finish, here is the quote which accompanies Power’s Magnum profile:
“Now that everyone in the developed world seems to own some form of camera, a different space has opened for documentary photographers. It’s a space free from specific events, where there are different expectations, where it is first and foremost about ideas. Now we can all take pictures, with varying degrees of consistency, more than ever before it’s about what we do with photography.”
You gotta love the kind folk at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Not only did they put on a fantastically rich retrospective of Graham’s work just last year, but they put together a great little education resource for anyone interested in his work. The PDF is geared towards those who are completely or relatively new to Graham and includes questions and tasks to complete.
If any readers are teaching young students, this could be fantastic to use, and on that note, if any readers do fall under this category, let me know (email@example.com) as I would love to support the learning of photography and photobooks here (more on this very soon).
Click on the image to download the PDF:
And if you haven’t seen the book yet…
Food for Thought #1 looked broadly at Graham and his extensive archive with some videos, interviews and reviews. This second version is more focused on the ‘A1: The Great North Road’ publication in particular.
Firstly, while it is no substitute for the real thing, you can see a selection of images from this book on the Paul Graham Archive website. Seeing as this book is upward of £350 I will be uploading a video of the book shortly (I have it on loan from the local Uni Library and as a warning, let’s just say it has been ‘well loved’).
You might also want to check out a few of the links below:
Simon Roberts references the book when he heads back down the A1 after his ‘We English’ project in 2008.
“The photographs are a mournful document of a grey nowhere land in a country moving too fast to stop for a cup of tea”
David Chandler wrote a nice little piece on the book found at the bottom of this page on ‘Self Publish be Happy’.
“And it represents what Paul acknowledges as the spirit of new wave, the punk ethos that enabled young people to create things for themselves, on their own terms…”
On the road itself there is a site dedicated to all things ‘A1’ run by Biff Vernon here. It’s quite niche and a little geeky – but I like that.
There are also a few quotes regarding the road on this page by Oliver Merrington.
“Now let me make a statement, in plain truth, of this road – betwixt Biggleswade and Buckden. As a road of fine gravel it is unequalled” (John Byng 1974)
Plenty more comment and inspiration coming, if you want to add your thoughts on the book, or any of the links and thoughts shared, do so in the comments section or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
And if you haven’t seen the book yet…
Paul Graham is by no means an obscure artist and so there are a bunch of places online to find out more about him, his work and his publications, I am just going to highlight a few.
For starters, Graham’s website is great – featuring a good selection of images from each of his projects:
- A1: The Great North Road
- Beyond Caring
- Troubled Land
- New Europe
- Television Portraits
- Empty Heaven
- End of an Age
- American Night
- A Shimmer of Possibility
There is also an interview with Richard Woodman on the site here, it’s well worth a read but might not tell those familiar with Graham, much more information.
A much more detailed interview with Paul Graham, conducted by Aaron Schumann can be found on seesaw magazine’s website.
“That type of photography had its time, and those types of social concern are still relevant, but we’ve just got to find a fresh language to express ourselves. Today, we don’t write books as we did in 1952; authors now explore the structure of a novel and what writing now means, as well as their subject matter” (PG)
Here, Peter MacGill of Pace MacGill Gallery discusses the work of photographer Paul Graham (Focusing on ‘A Shimmer of Possibility).
Alternatively, Graham himself talks us through one of the narratives from ‘A Shimmer of Possibility’
And for those who didn’t get to see the retrospective (or mid career survey as Peter MacGill would have me say) of Graham’s work as it toured Europe, here are some reviews of his output 1981-2006:
Alastaire Sooke of The Telegraph
“The secret behind their success is that they fuse an essentially American idea with a drizzly British sensibility”
Wayne Ford of Wayne Ford!
“Graham’s work remains faithful to its documentary origins – a commitment to life as it unfolds before the photographers lens”
Jonathan Dodds of The Illiterate Knife Rack
“…the photographs strike at the feelings and rage being experienced and expressed by a whole new generation of working class people in this country.”
Gerry Badger writing for the BJP
“He never repeats himself, never stands still and, while he has certain concerns revolving broadly around the nature of the photographic document (although he rightly hates the “D” word, as he calls it), treats each new project as a beginning, approaching the medium each time from first principles”
Liz Joney of The Guardian (Review of catalogue)
“”Without the energy to interrogate yourself, you’re dead,” Graham once said, and one of his strengths as an artist is his mutability. He is constantly testing what photography is capable of.