B*@t of 2011

I shan’t enter into the ‘Best of 2011’ photobook lists* as many people are doing a great job on that already (See Joerg Colberg’s list, Alec Soth’s list, Tom Claxton’s list and Marc Feustel’s list).

But, I did want to point out the #phonar book list, which I have worked on compiling both this year and last, together with Jonathan Worth. Books are selected based on being “notable/ inspiring/ seminal/ provocative, in it’s narrative structure/approach or perhaps in their ‘discussion’ of narrative”.

*I can’t resist highlighting a few of my favorite books bought or discovered/rediscoverd this year:

Watabe Yukichi
‘A Criminal Investigation’

Larry Towell
‘The World From my Front Porch’

Ken Schles

Carrie Levy
’51 Months’

Eric Payson

Alan Berger
‘Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America’

Peter Miller
‘Vermont People’

– Matt

Photo Book Club Zurich and a Homage to the Book

Martin Leggett got in touch the other day, interested in setting up a meet-up in Zurich Switzerland some time in the New Year. Those who are interested in attending, or helping Martin out with the evening can get in touch with him here, or leave a message in the comments section below.

And a little homage to the book I came across today from Richard Kostelanetz:

“The attractions of the book as a communications medium are that individual objects can be relatively cheaply made and distribute, that it is customarily portable and easily stored, that its contents are conveniently accessible, that it can be experienced by oneself at one’s own speed without a playback machine (unlike theatre, video, audio or movies), and that it is more spatially economical (measured by extrinsic experience over intrinsic volume) than other non electronic media. A book allows it’s reader random access, in contrast to audiotape and videotape, whose programmed sequences permit only linear access; with a book you can go from one page to another, both forwards and backwards, as quickly as you can go from one page to the next.”

– Richard Kostelanetz

Writing and Books

David Hempenstall wrote the following piece in response to Sean Davey’s writing on Araki’s ‘Sentimental Journey, Winter Journey’ . It reminds me of a quote by Dick Higgins:

“Most of our criticism in art is based on a work with separable meaning, content and style – “this is what it says” and “here is how it says what it says”. But the language of normal criticism is not geared towards the discussion of an experience, which is the main focus of artist’s books.”

– Artists’ Books: A Critical Anthology and Sourcebook 1985

David Hempenstall

Sean Davey has sat down at his typewriter and opened a vein to chuck some words at Araki-san’s red book. Davey worked in conjunction with the Photo Book Club to put on a fantastic Aussie event a while back (and another coming soon!), and has now furthered the conversation (and injected more enthusiasm) into the undertaking.

It’s a good read. Plenty in there to make you want to run to the shelf (or your favourite book buying website) to grab a copy and sit quietly thumbing through it (using whatever order your cultural heritage dictates or desires). Plenty in there to make you pause at certain pictures, plenty in there to make you take a step back and consider groups of pictures and the book as a whole, plenty in there to get your hackles up when you don’t agree or find an assertion not to your (own) liking – and this all together may be the strength; that he hasn’t reduced it to ‘sad story photobook’ in an attempt to make the writing a short cut to actually sitting with the book itself.

I personally find writing to be incredibly difficult and am always grateful when there are pieces out there that remain accessible, that leave the work discussed intact and at (somehow) arms length – it hands over the gift of directions drawn with a stick in the carpark dirt without the crippling ‘fact’ of GPS and ‘streetview’… you point yourself down the road and make your own discoveries, your own landmarks, your own experience of each bend and curve.

Hats off to those who wield the pen!



Matt Johnston on The Future of Photobooks

Below is a talk I gave at University college London as part the London Design Festival 2011.

The panel included Dr Aquiles Alencar-Brayner of the British Library, Teresa Pereira of Blurb Books and Angus Phillips, Director of the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies at Oxford Brookes University.

We were asked the question ‘What is to become of photobooks?’. I attempted to answer in relation to:

  • The Photo Book Club
  • The book as an object
  • Community
  • Experience

– Matt

Meet-up Map – An update and improved ease of use!

The Photo Book Club Meet-up map has now had over 10,000 hits and a smattering of people adding themselves to the map in order to meet up with like minded ‘photobook-folk’. We also have the first few meetings shown on the map so make sure you check out if they are near you!

Some people have contacted me having trouble with adding themselves onto the map and so in order to make this smoother, I have created a form below and on the Meet-up page which when filled in, will be sent to myself in order to add you to the map.

If you are planning to host or organize a meeting, pop an email to matt@photobookclub.org and we shall add this to the map as well as publicize it on the website.

The map is still public and can be edited by anyone, this public nature also means that the information you provide can be seen by other users. If you would rather, you can provide a website instead of direct contact information, and a rough location rather than your house!

[customcontact form=1]