Photobooks: Inspiration

Types of Photobook

Surveys and catalogues

  • catalogues for exhibitions
  • ‘Survey’ publications draw together a collection of individual images or a group of practitioners working in a similar area. Some surveys seem more didactic or
    directed at the art market, such as 50 Photographers You Should Know (2008), Vitamin Ph: New Perspectives in Photography (2009), reGeneration: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow (2005) and reGeneration 2: Tomorrow’s Photographers Today (2010).

Monographs and artists’ books

Monographs are mass-produced (relatively speaking), but often they are the primary context for the photographic work. A monograph published to coincide with an exhibition of an artist’s work may  draw together several different bodies of work, but it will be devoted to one practitioner alone.

An artist’s book may be produced in editions, but is generally more individual in terms of its design, the materials used and the printing technique or finish. Some may be printed, stencilled, stitched and embossed by the maker themselves. Others will be a collaboration with a professional bookbinder and a graphic designer.

Early photobooks

Many of these were topographic images for travel and tourism.

  • Francis Frith photographs from travels to Middle and Far East
  • John Thomson photographs from travels to Middle and Far East
  • Maxime Du Camp (1822–94)
  • Auguste Salzmann (1824–72)
  • Josiah Dwight Whitney (1819–96) published The Yosemite Book in 1868.

Some developed more innovative design

  • Soviet and Fascist propaganda books with novel design features, such as fold-out pages that extend the dimensions of an image

Inspiration

I have a large collection, but not had time to look through or properly review apart from getting some layout ideas.

Colour

  • Martin Parr: documentary photographer. Some of his works have been mass produced and re-printed (e.g. The Last Resort, 1986 and 1998); others have been limited editions or even more exclusive artist’s books such as Cherry Blossom Time in Tokyo, 2001. See: www.martinparr.com/books/. Layout in Last Resort has one, or very occasionally two, large images per spread, with white margin around and no border. This focuses attention on the content of the socially complex saturated colour images. There is a short introductory text at the beginning.
  • Paul Seawright : Invisible Cities a very large hardback book of colour images. Some images are full bleed crossing the whole spread, sometimes with some space to one side or top/bottom. Other spreads have only one half page image generally placed full bleed to one corner with the rest of the spread as white space. There is a text introduction to African cities at the beginning.
  • Urbex ‘Beauty in Decay’ this has beautiful limited palette images . The book is divided into chapters with some introductory text. But the book is mostly large images with  whitespace. Some images and spreads are on black background. A few text passages are on beige background. Some have black or white boders and vignettes to increase contrast.

Black and white

  • Daido Moriyama  Tales of Tono – small portrait format book of very high contrast black and white images. Full bleed in landscape across a double spread on black background. This makes the abstract flashes of white shapes in the often barely readable images standout. Text is reserved for a narrative section at the end. I like the moodiness of this book and all the images demand close attention in themselves, as well as producing an overall edgy impression as a apparently random narrative.
  • Algirdas Seskus ‘Love Lyrics’ Lithuanian 149 contrasty documentary Black and White images in landscape format. No text except the number of each photo and date. One or two large images per spread. No border with generous white margin.
  • Arunas Baltenas  Vilnius  2007 images from 1987. Small misty sepia images one per spread with no border and lots of white space. Delicate handwritten titles and date. One page introduction in English and Lithuanian at the beginning. No other text. I find the delicate nostalgia of this book really beautiful.
  • Henri Cartier Bresson in India  Thames and Hudson. 1987 with forward by Bengali film director Satyajit Ray. One large black and white photo per page with short caption. Black border on white paper. Occasionally one large and one small. The images themselves are quite low contrast. The black border makes the eye focus inwards.

At the Brighton Photography Biennial I saw a lot of interesting innovative designs, but did not have time to note all the details.

  • David Galjaard Concresco. A book about Albania. Has a brown opening cover with short explanatory text. Then  double page spreads with small white text insert pages. For this and other work see his website: http://www.davidgaljaard.nl
  • Dara McGrath ‘Deconstructing the Maze’  This has two coloured photographs on one side and page of text on the other. The strength here is in the photos. For this and other work see his website http://www.daramcgrath.com/index.html
  • Xavier Ribas  ‘Concrete Geographies’.  Photos of concrete blocks in Barcelona. See his website: http://www.xavierribas.com. This has inside views and links to vimeos of other books like Sanctuary – no text, one photo per spread. Sometimes a cross-over image. But the onscreen resolution is not good enough to really see the images.
  • Alessandro Rota A Neocolonialist’s diary.  Small paisley pattern cover. Coloured photos of sheets in Lusaka. Dark night streets. Lights. See his website . And vimeo of the book. https://vimeo.com/28099164
  • Irene Siragusa ‘Six weeks in Dublin’.   Lots of photos of spattered blood. Small juxtaposed rectangular images. website

Unknown author/title glimpsed over other peoples’ shoulders:

  • Book with glued images folded.
  • Aids (author???).  Small and simple brown cover. Photos of slits one on a page opposite a blank page.

 Sources and overviews

  • The Photobook: A History, Volumes I,  ll and III Gerry Badger and Martin Parr
  • The Chinese Photobook: Martin Parr and Wassink Lundgren from the Photographer’s Gallery exhibition
  • Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and ’70s Ryuichi Kaneko and Ivan Vartanian
  • Channels on YouTube and Vimeo with videos of certain books;
  • Tate video about William Klein which shows his assistant with one of Klein’s early maquettes:
  •  José Navarro discussing OCA students’ photobooks

OCA Student links

Joe Wright

Assignment 5: Perspectives on Kyrgyztstan

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