Friday, November 27, 2015

The photobook resurgence, is it an out of control cluster-fuck?

Lewis Bush - European Central Bank sign, Frankfurt

British photographer Lewis Bush writes in his blog Disphotic about his views on today's photobook resurgence. Bush says this: The more I look at photobooks the more I feel that to employ them is often an unconscious attempt to reclaim some token sense of control over what Siegfried Krakeur called the blizzard of images, the raging storm of a visual culture, in his case an analogue one, in our case a digital one. In many ways Krakeur’s analogy is all the more apt for our present, a world of pixels, fragments and reductions, together making up an increasingly incomprehensible whole. To apparently reclaim some control back through reversion to such old fashion forms as book and analogue film is a satisfying and empowering experience for a photographer, but it is an illusory form of control, the equivalent of pulling down the shutters and trying to ignore the raging squall outside. The nature of photography has changed completely, and as much of a pleasant or reassuring distraction from this as books might be they are ultimately an unhelpful diversion from attempting to answer or even just identify some of the huge questions that this shift in the nature of the image presents us with. I am generalising somewhat, and a small and determined minority of book makers use the form in a way which runs exactly counter to the mode I have described above, turning it instead unexpectedly into a way to raise and contest these questions about the status of the photograph. These are few however, often viewed for their progressive tendencies as strange eccentrics or outsiders, by a majority and a ruling circle of photobook insiders lost in anachronistic notions of photography.

In response Nick Waplington replied: I couldn’t agree more, the photo book world now has a set modernist template with a revisionist Japanese wing and a group of ‘stars’ who pick the end of year best of within the confines of the genre. It is one boring out of control cluster fuck and the Cortes within which it exists is totally redundant.

Like Lewis Bush I'm heavily invested in the practice of making photobooks and will not be abandoning that anytime soon. I particularly agree with Nick Wapplington's comments. Yes, it is an out of control cluster-fuck. There are too many books, too many bad books and if you're one of "stars" you could make a book, pictures of your used toilet paper and it would fly out the door. I buy photobooks, lots of photobooks and scour the bookshops when I'm in Paris, London or New York. So often though I come away empty handed because nothing rocks my boat. I see so many books devoid of an idea, books with images that we have all seen before in some form or another and books that are clever and not intelligent.

My book-making proceeds on the basis that I am never happy with what I've done. It can always be done better and the latest book is a stepping stone to the next...

You can read Lewis Bush's full piece HERE and go to his website HERE.

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