A really busy and enjoyable month looking at this great book with a whole bunch of contributors to whom I am extremely thankful for making it such a vibrant and lively discussion. As always, you can find the summary of our discussion below, but feel free to continue adding thoughts and questions in.
Today I am pleased to announce the launch of a digital publication looking closely at Ken Schles’ photobook Invisible City. This publication is currently available as a direct download for the iPad but will be available on more platforms shortly. This publication takes on a magazine-style format, inside of which you will find not only the images and text featured in Invisible City, but a variety of personal reflections, commentary on the process of creating Invisible City from Ken Schles and even original notes from a lecture given at New York’s International Center of Photography in 1990.
If you have an iPad, you can download the publication free from the link given below via the iBook store.
The complete forward featured in the publication alongside screenshots is featured below this introductory video.
Forward I set up the Photobook Club in 2010 as a response to both my own fascination and frustration with photobooks. My fascination was born and nurtured as a student spending thousands of hours in the University library choosing books at random by the colour of their spine, or based on recommendations from my peers and tutors. My frustration was a little harder to pinpoint but essentially stemmed from my wanting to learn more about the classic photobooks, those revered and often rare books that held a sense of mystery between their two covers; everyone agreed they were classics but there was little discussion of why.
At the time there was, and still is, a huge interest in photobooks, but predominantly in the new, the self published and the handmade, and so together with partner-in-crime Wayne Ford, I decided to open out my thoughts and learning to a wider community – just as a traditional book club. As well as promoting and facilitating this shared experience online, I was keen to encourage the generative experience the photobook offers us both in spending time with a beautifully crafted artifact, and in sharing thoughts (as well as books) in person.
I certainly hope that (depending on your knowledge of Invisible City), this publication will either introduce you to, or help create a greater understanding of a hugely influential modern photobook. Inside you will find not only the images and text featured in Invisible City, but a variety of personal reflections, commentary on the process of creating Invisible City from Ken Schles and even original notes from a lecture given at New York’s International Center of Photography in 1990.
Regardless of your previous experience with this book, or whether you are a lecturer, photographer, student, book lover or just curious, I would really appreciate your comments via the email address below.
Finally, thanks must of course go primarily to Ken Schles, not only for allowing all to see his wonderful images but also for kindly lending me a copy of the book to work with, and for his enthusiasm towards this project. My thanks also to the contributors listed on the following page who offered their own, personal reflections on the book.
Another awesome month on the Photo Book Club thanks to those who contributed and shared their own thoughts on Sally Mann’s ‘Immediate Family’. I really enjoyed taking the time to get re-aquanted with this book, and found new themes and new images that resonated more than before.
An awesome month on the Photo Book Club looking at Stephen Shore’s masterpiece, a big thanks to all who contributed to the discussion with a special shout to Kurt Easterwood for sharing a fantastic piece of extended writing on one of Shore’s images.
Through March we will be looking at Sally Mann’s ‘Immediate Family’, so as always, if you would like to share your thoughts, get in touch.
You can check out all 16 posts from this month below:
As we look at Stephen Shore’s ‘Uncommon Places’ this month I have been overwhelmed by the amount of great resources online to get your Shore fix on. A few are linked below, these are by no means the only interviews/posts on Shore’s work, but offer a good starting point:
Stephen Shore and Aaron Schuman ‘Uncommon Places’ 2004 (on Seesaw) Select Quote: (reffereing to the original Uncommon Places) “Well, I’m not turning my back on that work. It’s all included in the new edition. It’s just that, the original ought to have been twice the size to include other stuff. That aspect of the project was that aspect of the project. But, it just wasn’t the complete project.”
Photo LA – La Brea Matrix (Part 2)
– Shore joins a panel including Marcus Schaden to talk about the La Brea Matrix project of which he is both the inspiration for, and a part of.
Stephen Shore in Dublin
This short film follows Stephen Shore during a gallery setup in Dublin and it contains a conversation about one specific photo (New York City 2000/2002) between him and John Hutchinson, director of the gallery.
Stephen Shore in Paris 2010
– Phaidon produced this short video primarily concerning Shore’s journey into photography as well as Warhol’s influence on the photographer
La Brea and Beverly (2011) by Blake Andrews
– Here Blake deftly melts together Shore’s original images made at the La Brea and Beverly intersection with a variety of quotes and other artworks made at the site from the likes of Banksy to Dalton Rooney who visited the site via Streetview.
A great month in December looking at Nobuyoshi Araki’s ‘Sentimental Journey’ and a big thanks to all who contributed. This is a rather late roundup of the events from December, but for those on the mailing list, you may have noticed I also thought we were in 2010!
Thanks to all who have contributed to the discussion on Nan Goldin’s ‘Ballad Of Sexual Dependencey’. It has been a great month. We have compiled an archive of the posts below for future reference and will also be listed under the reading list page.
As I have mentioned often in this process we are truly thankful that Ken has taken the time to illuminate us through a book that the majority of readers had never seen in it’s entirety. And one that only gains from Ken’s insightful and open posts. I would like to think that this book has become more accessible in some form to its new audience, it absolutely deserves to be seen.
Below is a list of all posts and reflections that have been shared this past month, which forms the most comprehensive archive we have created yet.
I want to thank Matt Johnston and Wayne Ford so very much, once again, for taking on Invisible City. I hope people not already familiar with IC found something here. For me, this month has been a great ride. The Photo Book Club re-connected me to that challenging time—not only to people I once knew but it also reaffirmed bonds with people I’ve known on through into our current challenging times. I want to personally thank those who wrote so eloquently about their memories and the significance Invisible City had for them: Some of you I’ve met in later years and some I still have yet to meet—and look forward to meeting.
I have to say it’s been extraordinarily good timing for me to revisit Invisible City. It gave me insight on current work, as well as old. Because of this Photo Book Club process, I dug out things I barely remembered I even had. It’s help me with talks I am about to give and it was helpful in organizing the Invisible City images to exhibit at the Bursa Photo Festival. And good timing as well as I consider a reprint in the book’s future.
Over the summer I was approached to produce a piece for Paris Photo by Harper’s Books that worked in relation to Invisible City. And because my mind thinks in ‘book’ form, I put together a maquette of images and text I had originally considered for inclusion in Invisible City but that didn’t make it into the original for reasons about tone and emphasis. To this day I still enjoy seeing and reading this other work: they still share essential poetic qualities that infuse the heart of Invisible City; they still speak about that time and my experience of it. And so I made a small companion to Invisible City—Invisible City: Nightwalk, Fragments and Alternates. Because this is a one of a kind, hand-made thing, I videotaped it before sending off to Harper. I am now happy to share this rarity here with the Photo Book Club members to close out the Photo Book Club/Invisible City experience:
This is a hand-made 64 page book prototype (including covers) composed of material I considered for use in the book Invisible City (Twelvetrees Press, 1988). None of these images appear in the final printed version of the book, however. The images here were scanned from original prints used in a book dummy that was a forerunner to Invisible City. The plates used to print Invisible City were also made from this set of original prints.
The book dummy ends with my original notes for a talk I gave at the International Center of Photography in 1990. The full text, including the excerpt by Kathy Acker, from Blood And Guts In High School, can be seen here.
Other text in this prototype:
Night draws from its body one hour after another. Each different, each solemn. Grapes, figs, sweet drops of quiet blackness. Fountains: bodies. Wind plays the piano among the stones of the ruined garden. The lighthouse stretches its neck, turns, goes out, cries out.
Crystals a thought dims, softness, invitations: night, immense and shining leaf plucked from the invisible tree that grows at the center of the world.
Around the comer, Apparitions: the girl who becomes a pile of withered leaves if you touch her; the stranger who pulls off his mask and remains faceless, fixedly staring at you; the ballerina who spins on the point of a scream; the who goes there?, the who are you?, the where am I?; the girl who moves like a murmur of birds; the great tower destroyed by inconclusive thought, open to ,the sky like a poem split in two … No, none of these is the one you wait for, the sleeper who waits for you in the folds of her dream.
Around the corner, Plants end and stones begin. There is nothing, nothing you can give the desert, not a drop of water, not a drop of blood. You move with bandaged eyes through corridors, plazas, alleys where three vile stars conspire. The river speaks softly. To your left, to your right, ahead, behind: whispers and cruel laughter. The monologue traps you at every step with its exclamations, its question marks, its noble sentiments, its dots over the i’s in’ the middle of a kiss, its mill of laments, its repertory of broken mirrors.
Go on: there’s ‘nothing you can say to yourself. – Octavio Paz, from Eagle or Sun?
Remember when I insulted you? When I vomited all over you?
And when you had to see with these eyes that never close how I slept with that vile hag and talked of suicide? Show me your face,
Where are you? Actually, none of this matters to me. I’m tired, that’s all. I’m sleepy. Don’t these endless discussions tire you?
It’s as if we were a couple who, at five in the morning, with swollen eyes, continues on the rumpled sheets a quarrel started twenty years ago. Let’s go to sleep. Say good night. Show a little courtesy.
You are condemned to live with me and you ought to force yourself to make life more bearable. Don’t shrug your shoulders. Be quiet if you want, but don’t go away. I don’t want to be alone: the less I suffer, the more unhappy I am. Maybe happiness is like the foam of the painful tide of life that covers our souls with a red fullness. Now the tide recedes and nothing remains of that which made us suffer so. Nothing but you. We are alone, you are alone. Don’t look at me. Close your eyes so I can close mine. I can’t get used to your eyeless watching. – Octavio Paz, from Eagle or Sun?
Memory is redundant: it repeats signs so that the city can begin to exist. – Italo Calvino, from Invisible Cities
“The necessary condition for an image is sight,” Janouch told Kafka; and Kafka smiled and replied: “We photograph things in order to drive them from our minds. My stories are a way of shutting my eyes.” – Roland Barthes, from Camera Lucida
At this point Kublai Khan interrupted him or imagined
interrupting him, or Marco Polo imagined himself
interrupted, with a question such as: “You advance
always with your head turned back?” or “Is what you see always behind you?” or rather, “Does your journey take place only in the past?” – Italo Calvino, from Invisible Cities
Mind takes form in the city; and in turn, urban forms condition mind. For space, no less than time, is
artfully reorganized in cities: in boundary lines and
silhouettes, in the fixing of horizontal planes and
vertical peaks, in utilizing or denying the natural site, the city records the attitude of a culture and an epoch to the fundamental facts of its existence. – Lewis Mumford, from The Culture Of Cities
Even when lovers twist their naked bodies, skin against skin, seeking that position that will give one the most pleasure in the other, even when murderers plunge the knife into the black veins of the neck and more clotted blood pours the more they press the blade that slips between the tendons, it is not so much their copulating or murdering that matters as the copulating or murdering of the images, limpid cold in the mirror. – Italo Calvino, from Invisible Cities
I don’t believe people exist whose inner plight resembles mine; still, it is possible to imagine such people—but that the secret raven forever flaps about their heads as it does about mine, even to imagine that is impossible. – Franz Kafka, from Diaries 1914-1923
Thanks to all who have contributed to the discussion on Anders Petersen’s ‘Cafe Lehmitz’. It has been a really busy month! We have compiled an archive of the posts below for future reference and will also be listed under the reading list page.