Antics with The Photobook Club on World Photobook Day 2015
by Evan Merner for #PHOTOGRAPHY Magazine
October 14th was World Photobook Day and Photobook clubs all over the world met up to discuss and share their favourite books. The Photobook club, created and coordinated by Matt Johnston, promotes the photobook format and allows for anyone to get involved with the discussion — photography geek or not.
One of the best things about The Photobook Club is the opportunity it provides to look at rarer and more influential photography books not available in the standard stores or on the average bookshelf.
We celebrated World Photobook Day in Coventry, where The Photobook club is based, meeting up with students and lecturers. The latest ‘box of dummies’ was also in attendance, which meant that overall we were treated to more than 30 amazing books to enjoy on the night.
The box of dummies was formed in 2013 at the Le Photobook Fest dummy award in Paris. It features 12 amazing dummy photobooks that were shortlisted at the awards. Over the course of each year the box makes it’s way around the world, travelling over 30,000 miles and stopping off at different Photobook Club branches along the way.
The box of dummies is a really great opportunity to discover completely new bodies of work and for those that get easily excited by beautiful new books, there’s something brilliant about unwrapping the dummies from the bubble wrap and turning to that first page. It’s also a really great way to view photobooks that don’t follow the more traditional structure. Thunder, for example, by Emiliano Biondelli has been concertinaed rather than bound along each page edge, which means that all of the pages can be extended outwards and read from both sides and directions.
Another standout book from the box was Plànētes by Birgit Krause. This was favoured by a lot of us in the group because it’s one of those books that at which you must take a second-glance. In Krause’s pictures we see places we instantly recognise as foreign planets that none of us have visited. Whilst some of the images are printed on white paper, they are interspersed with matte black pages devoid of content. After discussing this with each other and eventually researching the concept behind this book we realised that the empty pages represented the sparse emptiness of space. Printed onto some of the black pages are also portraits of statues of Greek gods which can only be seen when the page is angled to hit the light. The experience is to quote the author herself, “You take a walk through the cosmos, and sometimes you see a god.”
Whilst we were all excited to open up the box of dummies, the meet up also allowed us to show people what we were interested in individually. One of the highlights from the selection of books that other people brought in was Ernie: A Photographer’s Memoir by Tony Mendoza. Another favourite within the group, this was a small humorous Photobook that was narrated throughout by both the author and Ernie himself who just happened to be a large Black and White Cat. As a self-confessed Dog-person, even I couldn’t resist the witty charm and personality of Ernie which Mendoza manages to perfectly portray in Black and White shots, documenting their time together.
There was also the appearance of some more unconventional photobooks such as Distant Island by Emmi Jormalainen. This was a small booklet of pencil drawn illustrations — not a single photograph in sight. The majority of the group really liked this book but it led us to question whether we liked it because as photographers, we weren’t used to seeing illustrations. Was it a great photobook or a mediocre illustration book? (I thought it was beautiful either way.)
Admittedly, I couldn’t write this post without mentioning my personal favourite, Gardening at Night by Cig Harvey. This was a book I completely fell in love with and by the end of the night I’d ordered a copy for myself. It can’t come quick enough.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so consumed by a book for a long while. The gorgeous imagery and matching narrative — which in itself was visually appealing — really struck a nerve. An exploration of home life and family, it’s almost dreamlike to wander through the pages.
It was actually a perfect book for me to end the night on, discovering something I loved amongst people who were equally passionate about the books they were discovering for themselves. Browsing through the collection of books we had at our dispersal and scanning the table in order to choose the next book was actually sort of addicting.
Perhaps everyday should be World Photobook day?