Sunday, April 5, 2009

Chapter 2 - Photobookworks

The idea of the photography book as “photobookworks.” This term has been introduced by photography historian Alex Sweetman in his article for the book Artist’s Books: A Critical Anthology and Source Book

edited by Joan Lyons (1985). In this article Sweetman states:

“Photobookworks are a function of the inter-relation between two factors: the power of the single photograph and the effect of serial arrangements in book form. Such arrangements may be viewed as worlds which the individual photographs inhabit and, therefore, as their context. Individual pictures may act as expressive images and/or as information; combinations of these can produce series sequences, juxtapositions, rhythms, and recurring themes.”

To consider the context of the photographs in the photobook is to acknowledge that the photographer/editor has a story to tell and a message to convey. For us, the readers, we look for this “story” not just in the individual photograph, but also in the relationship of the one that precedes and follows each photograph. Transcending the individual photographs into sequences becomes a richer experience and provides an alternative means to view the photographer’s work. Thus, we have the photobookworks as a structure to build a photographic aesthetic.

The experiences that we gain from identifying the sequence of images enables the photobookworks to become something greater than the individual photographs themselves. Recognizing this is the responsibility first of the photographer/editor to see beyond the individual photograph when creating the photobookworks. And second, the reader to seek out and decode the message that is within the photobookworks. Sweetman states:

“In a photobookworks, the relations between images may be either systematic or suggestive of system. They may be literal, poetic, public, personal, concrete, abstract, idiosyncratic, obscure, or transparent. I have no doubt that the types of relations formed by linking disparate photographs into singular and complex array in book form, or as any other time-based art, is one of the most distinctive functions and features of the photographic medium. Spatially, the relationship of image to image on a page is important because the positioning of elements within a display is potentially a linguistic operation in which position becomes a signifier. The complementary aspect of temporality is of even greater importance in relation to the phenomenon of the photobookworks and the historical development of vision.”

Has the photobookworks taken hold today as a methodology for presenting a photographer’s work? In the plethora of publications in the photographic market, have we seen this vision of visual art? Has the rush to publish lost sight of this aesthetic for presenting photographic work? Are the photography books appearing in the bookstalls giving us the opportunity to expand the photographer’s message or challenging us to find the deeper meaning of their work? Are the photobooks themselves becoming more than just a container for holding individual photographs? We must look beyond the images to the context. We should ask ourselves if the photographs have increased in meaning because of this presentation in the photobookworks. The photobook, in my view, must be more than the some of its parts.

See: Wikipedia on Artist's book

To be continued …

No comments:

Post a Comment