People. Not Pages: Marc Steculorum

Max Zhiltsov
Sep 16 · 6 min read

With the “People. Not Pages” mini-interview series The Phooks invites you to learn more about people who stand behind the medium of self- & indie-published photobooks.

Today we are pleased to introduce you Marc Steculorum, a photographer and curator based in Antwerp, Belgium. Marc joined The Phooks this spring with his “Whereabouts” book published with “Camera Work” in Antwerp.

This “People. Not Pages” interview is still focused on the personality, but also could look like a photobook review as Marc is referring to his book while answering most of our questions. And it makes a lot of sense as the book itself is already full of answers.

“Whereabouts” is a not so typical photo book, as it gives equal importance to images and text. Over 296 pages and 140 photos Marc gives insight into his vision and attitude towards photography.

This is a book to learn a lot from, aimed at both photographers and people who want to know more about the “photographic practice”.


How do you live and make your living?

Photography to me is not a way to make a living, it is a mindset, a way of thinking, of looking at the world, relating to reality.

How did you get into photography?

I was passioned about photography at a very young age. I studied art history, then went to film school. I soon found out that filmmaking was not really my thing.

A spread from the “Whereabouts” photobook by Marc Steculorum
A spread from the “Whereabouts” photobook by Marc Steculorum
“Whereabouts” photobook by Marc Steculorum

As I explain in my book:

“A Bill Brandt exhibition at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels made me realize that photography could also be a means of expression with its own particular strengths and challenges.

“Whereabouts” photobook by Marc Steculorum
“Whereabouts” photobook by Marc Steculorum
“Whereabouts” photobook by Marc Steculorum

What made photography so exciting for me was the relative simplicity of the process, both technically and production-wise. You only needed a camera and a few rolls of film to begin your dialogue with reality.”

That was the start.

What do you value the most in the art of photography?

In my book, I try to express some of my ideas about a very specific kind of photography.

One that shows the vision of one person, uncensored, and unhindered by any commercial or editorial restraints.

“Whereabouts” photobook by Marc Steculorum

The aim is to find beauty and meaning in the everyday world while breaking through the presumptions of habitual seeing. Recognizing the merit of modest places and moments instead of glamourizing the unattainable and the plastic. Showing what is important, what really matters — things of value.

I prefer photos that look effortless, free of formal acrobatics.

Is there something you hate about it?

Hate is a strong word, but I agree with Robert Frank: there are simply too many pictures. And most of them are empty and meaningless.

“Whereabouts” photobook by Marc Steculorum

When Edward Weston, 100 years ago, went to Mexico to mingle with the artistic avant-garde there, he was the only one with a camera and the photos he made in those years were considered special and unique.

Now the situation is completely different: everyone is taking pictures of some sort.

How many books you have and what does your collection mean to you?

Being in Italy, I cannot show you photos of my bookshelf, sorry.

I do not consider myself a collector of photobooks. The books I bought over the years have been important for me though, for my personal development, for recognizing quality in the medium.

In my student days, photo books were my best teachers. In “Whereabouts” I give a specific example:

“For a script set in the North American desert, I bought two photo books: Death Valley by French photographer Jeanloup Sieff, and The New West by Colorado-based Robert Adams.

“The New West” by Robert Adams. Source: Steidl.

While I originally purchased the books as research material just to get the feel of a landscape I had never seen, I ended up being struck by the difference in approach of the two photographers.

Sieff with his wide-angled, red filtered landscapes on steroids, Adams in his more subdued, calm, rather objective style.

In the latter, I recognized some of the qualities I had come to admire in the films of my favorite directors. It was mostly through books that I began to discern ‘quality’ in photography.”

Of course, there were other classics, like: Walker Evans’ First and Last, August Sander’s “Menschen Ohne Maske”, and “An Aperture Monograph” by and Diane Arbus from 1972.

“Menschen Ohne Maske” (Men Without Mask) by August Sander. Source.

These books are milestones and they put everything into perspective.

What should a book be to get into your collection?

A great photo book for me should have great pictures. It can be classic or more experimental in its layout and form, but the quality of the photographs is essential.

The saying goes: “One photo says more than 1000 words”. I would like to add:

“One great photo says more than one zillion bad ones.”

What does it mean to turn your work into a book format?

With my latest book “Whereabouts” I tried something special: to combine text with images.

For a long time, I have thought that images do not need text or explanation. Photographs — at least the photos I am interested in — are better seen unmediated, and without a filter. I was convinced that the power of visual art is silent and wordless. I have come to realize though, that the act of seeing is not a simple process.

This is especially true nowadays — there are just too many images, all screaming for our attention. Look at Instagram and you know what I mean.

Well made photo books can be a sort of antidote.

“Whereabouts” photobook by Marc Steculorum

John Gossage once said that a photo book is a lap medium. You hold it in your lap and you turn the pages. It’s a very intimate art form. And very democratic.”

What you expect people should feel when opening your book?

If there is one thing I would like the book to communicate it is this: great photographs are not only made with the eyes, they are also the product of a mental process, a way of thinking and considering reality.

So do not expect to get a book about technique, about lenses or photoshop.

“Whereabouts” gives insight into photography, into my work, while at the same time guarding the enigmatic character of art.



The Phooks

On the culture of self and independent photobooks and zines publishing

Max Zhiltsov

Written by

Photography enthusiast, Brand & Marketing strategist. Founder of ThePhooks.com Open photobook library & marketplace. Personal website: www.maxzhiltsov.com

The Phooks

On the culture of self and independent photobooks and zines publishing

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