Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Photobook - what makes a good book?

In an interview with publisher Michael Mack on today's post from LE JOURNAL DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE, Mack says this: very simply, a great book is something where the quality of the work and the quality of the ideas are sufficiently intelligent to be specifically applied to a book form. My biggest problem with most photography books is that they’re simply catalogues of images. They don’t necessarily need to exist as a book; in most cases it is vanity for the projects to end in a book. To me, the greatest books are the ones in which the relationship between the ideas, the images and the form are brought together to become a work in itself. When it becomes a distinct element of the artist’s practice. When the book is the piece.

Form and content! Ideas, Ideas! Perhaps it's blindingly obvious, but the above is so true. Although judging from the many dull and boring photobooks that get published there are a heap of photographers out there who still have not got the message.

You can read the interview with Michael Mack in its entirety HERE.


Matt Johnston said...

Very true and reminded me of something Alex Sweetman said a while back (85?).

He was referring to 'The Decisive Moment' and 'The Europeans' as well as Avedon and Penn:

"...these elegant presentations of photographs fall short of being bookworks. The art here is the single image, not the expressive action of the whole. And this is true of the bulk of photography books, monographs, and exhibition catalogues which remain merely collections - portfolios between covers."

Zisis Kardianos said...

Not all of the Mack's catalogue is true to the definition Mr Mack gives for great photobooks. Specifically the "Ideas" part. Two recent examples. Anthony Hernandez's book "Rodeo Drive" doesn't exhibit any particular indelligence on the idea behind it. For the most part is "simply a catalogue of (street)images" and that's exactly what makes it great to me.
Paul Graham's "Presence" was glorified by photography critics as an indelligent project but let's be honest, it was just a ludicrous concept. All these assumed investigation of the photographic moment, the "before" and the "after" and the undecisive moment platitude, don't really convince anyone. What was even worst with that book other than its naive idea, are the boring photographs.

Zisis Kardianos said...

Correction. Re Graham's book I meant to write "The Present".