Now it’s just after harvest time, my favorite time of year. The fields are almost cleared and I’m barefoot on my porch with a beer in my hand. I can see for miles.
For over a year now I have been working with Nathan to bring this fantastic project into corporeal existence and with the aid of Akina Factory who who created the book concept and design, the result is beautiful.
One of the toughest elements of editing this work is something Nathan has pointed out in a recent interview with Darwin Magazine – how the projects needed to move away from cliched depictions of the rural midwest but at the same time not disown culture and environment. While the geographical location rooted in the midwest, this project for me has always been about home, about home as a constant for good and bad. For this reason I hope it appeals to many.
I am very pleased to have been working with the great folks at the ‘Hybrid Pedagogy Journal‘ recently on a piece I have written about the Photobook Club and it’s holistic approach to hybridity. My hope is that this piece solidifies some of the disparate themes I have talked about in presentations over the last few years and poses some questions for other people.
Whenever I speak of the Photobook Club project I am acutely aware that I speak, in part, on behalf of an entire community and so I would really love to hear any thoughts from those of you who run Photobook Clubs or attend them – whether you think the piece is fair to your awesome work.
As has been the case for the last few years I have produced this list, I am not really bothered if the books were made in 2013 or not – I just don’t spend a great deal of time with enough books each year.
This years list is made up of books that in one way or another have moved me; created or recalled an emotional reaction. For that reason, ‘The Pigs’, ‘Various Small Books’, ‘The Looking Game’ and ‘Control Order House’ are not included – although they are some of my favorite books of the year…
There are a wee stack of books that I either regret not buying or simply can’t afford right now. I hope that in time I either realise I have little interest in these books, or that they are such a failure I can pick them up for peanuts in a few years*.
(These books have also been selected in relation to the reaction they have caused rather than their merit as an exemplary unit of the medium)
/\ Damn this is great image making and emotionally engaged storytelling. Blok creates something here which taps into a popular aesthetic but brings genuine weight and the ability to move an audience. I wait on the sec on edition to get a hold of this.
In no way whatsoever related to my inability to afford the above, here are some books that are so awesome everyone should own them, and it just so happens I am looking to move them on. They are all my favourite books and I ail cry to see them go blah blah blah.
Truthfully – these books do not interest me anymore but by selling I might be able to get some that do.
Richard Billingham’s Landscapes – Gee whizz this book sucks
Taryn Simon’s ‘Kaleidoscope of Entropy‘ – Actually this is kinda interesting but hey, maybe selling this will buy me a copy of American Index and a few others
There are so many more books I want to move on to better homes but barely seems worth mentioning them here as most can still be bought new for £20 odd. I wonder whether I can tell more about myself and my book-love through these books than through those I think are worthy of elevation to a curated shelf.
Some of these books were bought in regards to some of their parts – I was interested solely in sequence or binding for example, and it turns out that this just doesn’t cut it for me – the book needs to work on a holistic level. Some books, I am ashamed to say were bought as I thought I might like them and was scared I wouldn’t be able to afford them several years down the line. Turns out these books have rarely become collectible and have continued to illicit in me a particularly neutral feeling – fail!
Other books have occupied that desire to collect knowledge and to be interested by ideas and concepts, these books I think of as my ‘studium libre’. I appreciate their position on the shelf as I write lectures looking for strong examples of certain themes, but they rarely make it to the table – perhaps this is the life they are destined to live and maybe I should come to terms with that. I just wonder whether a printed version of a front cover would provide the same effect.
On read through, this is rather a sombre end to a post, and a great year of books so let’s finish with one more great book…
For a while now I have been working with photographer Nathan Pearce to edit his ‘Midwest Dirt‘ project into what will be a photobook towards the Autumn of this year. Nathan is seeking a modest amount of funding to realise the work as a physical artifact in exchange for some awesome Midwest rewards and I would love anyone interested to check out the project in more detail below.
I will have more on the work, and the process soon but for now, enjoy having a look
When I was 18 years old I packed my bags and left rural Illinois. It had been my home my entire life, but I thought in leaving I would find the perfect place for myself elsewhere. In the city everything and everyone I knew was very different from what I knew back home and yet at the same time familiar. The wild and restless days of my youth were in full swing. But when I awoke those mornings I still expected to see my old midwestern life.
Where I was living wasn’t exactly the wrong place for me, and at its core my life wasn’t drastically different, but it wasn’t home. I came back home to live almost a decade later. I still have no idea if this time I will stay for good, I don’t know if that will ever happen. The wild restless days and nights haven’t ceased.
Some nights when I lay down in my bed and close my eyes I fantasize that I didn’t ever return. I dream that I could get right back up and go over to my corner bar in the city and have a drink looking out on the crowded street.
But I’m not there. I’m here. In the country.
Now it’s just after harvest time, my favorite time of year. The fields are almost cleared and I’m barefoot on my porch with a beer in my hands. I can see for miles.
This project is about a time in my mid twenties when I can feel the tension between home and away.
Next week I will be in Amsterdam to talk at the ELIA ‘Preparing the Artist of Tomorrow’ conference in Utrecht and Amsterdam so if anyone else is by chance (and I realise it is a small chance) going to be attending, do let me know.
In other news, a little while ago I mentioned some of my students who had been working with remote participants of the connected class #picbod and who were planning to bring the class exhibition from Coventry and expand it in Santander, Spain. They did of course and it was a great success, so hats off to all of those involved and to Brian Meta who took the opportunity to run a PBC event themed around the photographic representation of the body while in Spain. You can see some of the work and all round good times below:
Those of you who remember (and those of you who do not), last year I mentioned I would not enter into the ‘best of’ bonanza before proceeding to do just that by selecting 5 photobooks that had stood out to me in the ‘B*@t of 2011’ post.
This year I shan’t try to hide the fact that I have made a list but it’s not the regular ‘Best of 2012’ style. I simply haven’t spent time with enough new books this year to be able to give any sort of top ten or top twenty. Instead I will list those that I have enjoyed/been entertained/confused and educated by over the course of 2012 in a few different categories.
NB: It seems a contractual obligation now to trash ones own list or at least belittle/justify it before proceeding with the ‘main event’. I would like to think I started this last year but know that is not true. What I do no to be true – people like to make lists, it is a nice way to step back and perhaps try to learn something from our viewing habits and the themes that are drawing us in. People also like to read lists, it is always interesting to see whose taste is similar or differs wildly and then try to catch some of those books we have missed.
It is also great to see this year that a lot of the books from last years ‘Best’ lists have had very good second editions, most are available again at reasonable prices which offers some hope for this years ‘top books’. I dont think there is anything in my list that is particularly hard to get hold of at the moment but if there is drop me an email and I will loan out the book for free. – Matt
Back to back:
I started by looking back at the books I chose last year. It is always pleasing to find out that the book you were gushing about 12 months ago is one that has continued to entertain and educate/frustrate over this past year. In this category fall two books from last years list:
Redhead Peckerwood made a lot of lists last year and I am sure The Present will make many this year, they certainly both make mine, but it took some time.
Redhead Peckerwood took time only in as much as the curse of the photobook list made it almost impossible to get hold of for a good price until the second edition came out, and by this time I felt I could do without. Seeing it at Paris Photo made me change my mind and it was first in the suitcase. Following it was a book I never thought I would buy (especially after the ‘film‘ debacle) – Paul Graham’s ‘The Present‘ which really must be seen to be believed, the internet does not do justice to this book and this work; subtle and sweet but with a serious undercurrent. I would not be so bold as to say it is a must-own but a must-see for sure.
Two projects here that have had the guidance of Paradox in the Netherlands and are both much bigger than the books mentioned here. ‘Poppy‘ and ‘The Last Days of Shishmaref‘ are books, but they are also exhibitions, online galleries, blogs and educational resources; true transmedia projects that you can, and should get totally lost in. I expect ‘Poppy‘ will find it’s way onto many lists but ‘The Last Days of Shishmaref‘ (2008) has more heart and good intent than you can ignore.
These books don’t try to change the world, nor do they seek to challenge our interpretations of the fluidity and omnipresence of a 2D world (or other such nonsense), instead they tell a small story, one that is engaging from start to finish and one that for a moment at least makes us think a little differently.
Road and Rail Links Between Sheffield and Manchester
Used to be a bit of a bird nut as a kid so maybe that is where my interest comes from but it seems photographers have been turning their lenses on the winged of late too. Three books I have thoroughly enjoyed this year that focus on the bird; there are more, but I have not seen them. The three here are all a bit of fun, at least on one level, Paloma al Aire is just straight up fun from page to page – and it puts a smile on my face to see people take such enjoyment from this ‘hobby/lifestyle’. Bird Watching is a great book and depending on how much time you spend with the book it will give you different messages; personally I don’t like to think too much when I look through this one, I enjoy it as a bird watchers notebook, I just wish the description ‘tags’ were stuck in rather than printed on the page.
A craving for a less concrete life has continued to manifest itself in the books I have been drawn to this past year. You could consider the above category linked in here but the following sum it up a little neater I suppose. I was also drawn to the array of ‘hessian-like’ covers this year on books like Erik van der Weidje’s ‘Superquadra‘ and ‘Reading Ed Ruscha‘.
The book that garnered the most discussion at meetup that I ran this year was, without doubt John Gossage’s ‘The Pond‘. For those that had not seen the work before it tended to be a love or hate kinda relationship (with more siding for love) and produced much conversation on sequencing and pace of photobooks.
As I mentioned up top, this list doesn’t really constitute a best of, more a collection of books I found interesting for different reasons. The books below are on my desk and may have had a brief viewing but no more than that, they are included for the fact that they currently all excite me and i’m looking forward to exploring them more…
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.
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.
A quick update looking at recent events and then looking forward to what’s next on the Photobook Club…
‘The Geneology of the Photobook’
– I wrote a short piece recently for the Shpilman Institute blog on recent adventures into iBook land and some broader thoughts on the possibilities of the photobook regarding accessibility and experience. Head here to read it…
‘The Cat and Fiddle’
– Spent time away from the keyboard documenting the beautiful and deadly Cat and Fiddle road in the Peak District, i’ll be spending more time there later in the year with a view to a publication 2012/13. Found this tree by the side of the road approaching Macclesfield..
Photobook Club Branch Pages
– To keep up with the growing amount of Photobook Clubs around the world, I have started to make branch pages with the help of the respective organizers. These pages can be found under the ‘Meetup’ tab, so far we have…
Photobook Club Madrid on ‘Text and Images’
– Just last week saw the 5th meetup in Madrid focusing on the role of text and image. Juan Cires has offered an extended commentary which can be found here although in Spanish only…
Photobook Club New York ‘Focus on Japan’ – Saturday 14th July will see a great event in New York put on by the Book Club there looking at Japanese photobooks, For more information from the organizers head here or click the image below…
Mark Power’s ’26 Different Endings’ – We will next be looking at the above book although with the ‘Cat and Fiddle’, ePub and more away-from-keyboard time in August we might take a this one at a more leisurely pace!