INVISIBLE CITY

‘Invisible City; A Digital Resource’ – The most Surprising 2012 Photobook Publication

Very proud to see the Photobook Club’s digital publication ‘Ken Schles, Invisible City; A Digital Resource’ make it onto Martin Brinks ‘Top Digital Photobooks‘ list last week and now very happy to read a great little review of the publication in Taco Hidde Bakker’s ‘Photobook Listmania‘.

Alongside comment on lists and photobook consumption which is worth a read in itself, Taco dubs our publication as ‘the most surprising 2012 photobook publication’. You can read the section below but please do head over to the post to hear Taco’s other thoughts.

The most surprising 2012 photobook publication to me has been The Photobook Club‘s free-of-charge e-book: Ken Schles – Invisible City: A Digital Resource. A page-by-page digital representation of the beautifully printed original 1988 book (which is rare and expensive nowadays) embedded within notes around the production of the book, and recent discussions. An excellent example of how valuable older, sometimes overlooked and understudied, photobooks can be lifted out of the shadows and be studied in a public realm beyond the traditional library.

Taco Hidde Bakker

Ken Schles: Invisible City, A Digital Resource

This really should not have taken as long as it has, and for that my apologies. I often stress that accessibility is of paramount importance to me and The Photobook Club so was well aware that in publishing the Invisible City iBook I was both improving access to content for some but excluding a large audience also.

And so here I hope to rectify that by launching ‘Ken Schles: Invisible City, A Digital Resource’ as an enhanced PDF. Provided you have the latest Adobe Reader software (free and available on all platforms) you can download the resource for free below.

About:
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.

Download the enhanced PDF here to view on your PC/Mac/Tablet (File size: 90mb)

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.

Matt Johnston


matt@photobookclub.org

 

Download the enhanced PDF here to view on your PC/Mac/Tablet (File size: 90mb)

If you have an iPad, you can download the publication free from the link given below via the iBook store.

 

The Photobook Club Presents… Ken Schles: Invisible City

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.

DOWNLOAD – ‘Ken Schles: Invisible City, A Digital Resource’ straight from 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.

Matt Johnston


matt@photobookclub.org

 

DOWNLOAD – ‘Ken Schles: Invisible City, A Digital Resource’ straight from the iBook Store

Ken Schles: Four Books

A few months ago Ken Schles spoke at the SPE Northeast Conference in Syracuse, if ever there was a dream-team conference, this was it for me! Ken’s talk was posted online yesterday and I recommend anyone with even a passing interest in photobooks must take the time to view it.

Ken takes us through all four of his monographs, looking both at content and theme as well as the publication challenges and triumphs he experienced. What most interested me is just how much Ken’s books seem ultimately to form chapters in a much larger body of work, his interests and more importantly questions are never repeated, but we are reminded of them constantly.

Ken is proof that Tod Papageorge knew what he was talking about:

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t reading enough” – Tod Papageorge

This talk is best enjoyed with a chilled beverage and note taking device

– Matt

Invisible City: A Summary

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.

– Matt

Posts

Invisible City: Synopsis
Invisible City: The Book and the Images (VIDEO)
Invisible City: The Text
Invisible City: Lecture notes from 1990
Invisible City: Nightwalk, Fragments and Alternates

Other Books by Ken Schles

Ken Schles On: The Photo Book Club Process
Ken Schles On: How Invisible City came to be
Ken Schles on: The rare and unique life of Invisible City (Addendum)
Ken Schles On: Invisible City and Photobook Lists
Ken Schles Appearing In: (Talks, exhibitions and signings)

Personal Reflections

Stan Banos
Jeff Brouws
Jn-Ulrick Desert
Ludwig Haskins
Matt Johnston
Steve Pyke
Nina Seigenfeld Velazquez

 

Matt Johnston on ‘Invisible City’, a personal reflection

The first thing I said upon seeing the ‘Invisible City’ in it’s entirety was simply, “wow”, unfortunately at the time I was across the table from Ken Schles himself who had kindly agreed to lend the Photo Book Club a copy. It was a ‘Frasier-like’ moment when I really wished I had something more intelligent to say.

I also wished that I had a memory of this time and place depicted in such dark tones within Ken’s images, I wanted to layer my own history onto Ken’s page and relive a particular time through different eyes. But I have no memory of Ken’s subject and so Invisible City was new for me, allowing me to search without reference and without the worry of reality or history. It was like reading a book as a kid, each character would come to life and create a movie in my mind. There are books in which the authorial presence is constant and reassuring, in Invisible City I felt I was left alone to wander and explore Alphabet city, a fascinating, daunting, exciting and entirely unfamiliar place to be.

To me, Invisible City is not just a poem to the night (As Jeff Brouws commented) but a poem to the book, a reminder of how powerful the book as a medium can be. Single images are erased from my mind as I follow the darkest black tones from page to page, much like a shadow stretching across the entire spread of images. A photobook is a selection of images, and a good photobook is a fantastically sequenced and edited selection of images. Invisible City is just one, single, poetic image.

– Matt Johnston

©KEN SCHLES

 

 

Invisible City: Nightwalk, Fragments and Alternates

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:

Images in this dummy have not appeared previously anywhere (if memory serves me) with the following three exceptions: image on left at the 2:11 mark, image at right at the 4:00 mark and the back cover image all appear in my book, A New History of Photography: The World Outside and the Pictures In Our Heads (plates 61, 35 and 31 respectively). The back cover image is also in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

TEXT

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 WALK
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

Ken Schles appearing in:

Ken Schles is a busy man! As well as contributing a great amount of his time to this special Photo Book Club month, Ken will be appearing and exhibiting at a number of great events over the next few months. Hopefully our discussions have inspired you to hear more of Ken’s thoughts on photobooks or to see ‘Invisible City’ and Ken’s new book ‘Oculus

A list of upcoming events is shown below:

30/09/2011 – 02/10/2011
NY Art Book Fair PS1 (advance copy of Oculus will be there, and so will I)
Preview of the limited edition at the Charles Lane Press booth Sat Oct.1 at 2pm. A very LIMITED number of copies of the trade edition will be at Dashwood books at the NY Art Book Fair —get there early for the trade edition.

01/10/2011 – 03/10/2011
Platform LA (advance copy of Oculus will be there, but not me)
A limited edition of Oculus can be seen at the Lapis Press booth #121 (I will not be in attendance due to the NYABF, see above)

15/10/2011 – 19/10/2011 (opening 14th)
Bursa Photo Festival: at least two talks –one on my work and one more about the process of making photo books. There will be an exhibition of Invisible City. Probably the largest installation of the work to date.
This is the first showing of Invisible City in 7 years and only the third time it’s had an exhibition print showing (the Museum of Modern Art showed the book as an object in its More Than One Photography exhibit in 1992). I will be giving a talk on my work and a separate hands on talk specifically about making my photo books.

22/10/2011 – 11/12/2011 (opening 21st)
Noorderlicht Exhibition of Oculus and release – The Netherlands

3/11/2011 – 05/11/2011
Society for Photographic Education North East and Mid-Atlantic Conference
Keynote: Alec Soth, Honored Educator: Doug DuBois, Featured Speakers: John Gossage, Mary Virginia Swanson, and Andy Adams, General Speakers Include: Colette Copeland, W.M. Hunt, Paula McCartney, Ken Schles, Tate Shaw, Anne Whiston Spirn, and more…

3/11/2011 – 06/11/2011
The Edition Art Book Fair: (Lapis press will have the limited edition of Oculus –but I will be up at the SPE Conference)

10/11/2011 – 13/11/2011
Paris Photo
3 very definite events in the main pavilion:
1. Harper Books will have the newly created, commissioned for the fair Invisible City inspired project: Invisible City: Nightwalk, Fragments and Alternates (book dummy);
2. there will be a book signing with Schaden.com on Saturday November 12 for Oculus (with the limited edition also available and on view)
3. Markus Schaden is doing this very interesting  project, (for which I contributed a piece).

This year Paris Photo will have a new space dedicated to publishers and specialist booksellers with the presentation of this year’s novelties, but also old books, rare books or limited editions. Book signing sessions on the stands will provide the public with an opportunity to meet the photographers.

The full programme of signing sessions will be posted on-line at the end of September.There is a strong possibility that Noorderlicht will be at the Paris Photo off-print (to be confirmed), in which case, I will do a book signing there as well.