Thinking about the future of the Photobook.

Paul Graham's 12 book called "a shimmer of possibility"

I've been thinking a lot about the future of the photobook lately. Tonight there is going to be a online chat through Twitter. More info on that here:

There is also an interesting experiment in blogging on the subject on the Livebooks blog, RESOLVE. Their crowd sourced blog collects all the recent posts into one big page. Lots to check out and think over.

All these discussions are an interesting contrast to the Aperture Foundation hosted talk I attended few months ago. The talk featured many different voices. Some of the names on the panel included:

Charlotte Cotton, curator and Head of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department, LACMA, will moderate a discussion with panelists Alex Klein, artist and Curatorial Fellow in the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department, LACMA; Matt Keegan, artist and editor of North Drive Press; David Reinfurt, graphic designer and co-founder of Dexter Sinister; and Denise Wolff, Aperture Editor. Other special guests include special guests Paul Graham, Darius Himes, and Laurel Ptak.

Sadly, the panel never quite got to the meat of a real discussion. After each panelist gave an introduction there wasn't much time left. Maybe this is where a Twitter based chat can work better? We'll see.

NDP #4 (ed. 1000)

I did manage to learn about some interesting work from the panelists - especially, artist and publisher Matt Keegan's North Drive Press. Their hybrid publishing of magazine / book / art object in limited edition batches is an example of where creative art books are headed. As production gets cheaper, artists are more easily able to produce their own larger edition artworks.

In preparation for tonight's first art photo chat, Todd Walker reminded me of this Words Without Pictures piece by Darius Himes and it's a great starting point for thinking about the photobook going forward from 2010. Darius Himes also wrote a post contribution that's worth checking out.

There are two parts to the future of the photobook; one part is technical and the other is creative. New technologies in printing and reading are emerging. How will they change the way we consume photography? What new creative trends will emerge through these technology developments as well those through developments in art production? These two areas are interdependent and each will change as the other does.

Photobooks, and particularly art photobooks, are unlike their book cousin the novel which may suffer massive declines in paperback book sales because of reading devices like Amazon's Kindle. The enjoyment of the novel, and especially a paperback doesn't greatly diminish when consumed on such a device. Many readers swear by them. I have to agree with Darius Himes when he writes in his essay, "Who Cares About Books?":

And while the sensual experience of receiving and holding a Mac AirBook borders on the rapturous (I almost feel like I'm dissimulating when I enter the Apple shrines scattered around the country), it is still not something I want to read a book on-even if it is something I want to use to send an email about a book I just read.

Books are so archetypal for the modern wo/man that we form nearly permanent bonds with them as teenagers and adults. They are the security blankets and teddy bears of the adult world. Most of us cart our books from state to state, from college dorm to rented apartment to newly purchased home, and lovingly set them up on our shelves as reminders of knowledge acquired and courses and degrees completed, and as familiar companions.

I enjoy books for many reasons and the little subjective memories they pick up along the way is certainly one of them. There are two recent books that might be interesting to discuss.

While the consumption of an artistically produced book would lose much of its presence on a downloaded format, there probably will be rare cases where the end design is for electronic consumption. One particular piece I recently came across is made by Eve Susman and the Rufus Cooperation. It's produced by a new publisher started by Schroeder Romero and Winkleman Gallery called Compound Editions called White on White. The edition is sold as a 6-minute video installed on ARCHOS 5 media tablet.

Eve Sussman & Rufus Corporation
Original music by Lumendog
Geoff Gersh - guitar and electronics
Adam Kendall - keyboards & electronics
Christof Knoche - bass clarinet & electronics
Bradford Reed - pencilina
6-minute video installed on ARCHOS 5 media tablet
5" x 0.5" x 3.1"
Edition of 100, plus 10 APs
$450.00 for numbers 1-50; SOLD OUT
$600 for numbers 51-100.

While we can't say for certain what the future of the photobook will be, it's exciting to see artists stretching the boundaries.

SELF PROMO ALERT: While you're thinking about photobooks be sure to check out my artist published photobook:

ten convenient stores
I made the 7 x 7 inch booklet with laser paper on a high end xerox laser printer. It is packaged in various convenient store bags. Produced in an artist edition of 20 in 2005 and a bigger edition of 100 in 2005.

Looking forward to tonight's experiment.