This week I have nearly completed my work for Landings 2020. This will take the form of an online exhibition at my Adobe Portfolio website, with a parallel one at my account on Flickr.
The form I have chosen is to take this module’s work in progress, together with a handful of images from the last module, and divide an edited selection into three sections: Water, Earth and Fire. Water means the River Thames as it runs through Oxford. Earth is the modern world of what is made from earth, namely concrete and steel. Fire is what is fired from the earth, namely brick and the old age of coal and the nineteenth century – the age of fire. Thus Fire covers Oxford’s Victorian, brick-built areas and a few remaining old iron structures.
I have converted all the images to black and white, my current mode of expression. I am calling the exhibition Silent City. Photographs are silent, and our cities during lockdown have been unusually quiet. At night they are very quiet indeed. So in a way I have been photographing silence, perhaps even stillness, though still permeated with indications of human presence. The interplay is between presence and absence.
I will post links in a separate journal entry once the Landings 2020 exhibition has started.
The other subject I have looked at this week concerns photobooks and the history of the genre. This is a huge subject but after reading Gerry Badger (Badger 2014 A, Badger 2014 B) three key things have stood out for me.
First, there is the move away from the very formal photography book, which takes the form of a presentation of fine art, often landscape presented as art, and, in many cases, documentary too. Works by many practitioners still take this form. Some photography books by William Eggleston, Sebastião Salgado, Mark Power and Richard Misrach come to mind beyond old favourites like Ansel Adams or the documentarists of the 1930s and 1940s.
Second there is the more recent rise of the diarist model and of questions of identity. These are probably the dominant forms today, especially if one extends identity to include race, gender and equality issues. It summarized by Badger:
‘So two distinct trends emerged in photography. Firstly, there was the diaristic mode – photographers using the medium to make a “diary” of their lives and experiences, not simply to make autobiographical images but utilizing personal photography to reflect society’s experiences through their own. Secondly, the question of identity – both individual and collective – became an important subject for photographers and the photobook (Badger 2014 B, 214).
Badger cites a key photobook here to be Nan Golding’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency of 1986 and its ‘snapshot aesethetic’ (Badger 2014 B, 214). The honesty and lack of pretension of Golding’s work were and remain a hugely freeing gesture.
Third, there is the increasing exploration of the photography book as a physical, tactile object, in the form of all kinds of shapes and sizes, designs, papers, bindings and covers, tip-ins and so forth. This is all part of looking at the image as an object in space, not only through it (in the traditional reading of the image), and it is also all part of seeing the photobook as its own, self-sufficient world and not merely as an adjunct of something else.
Badger cites the influence of postmodernism here, breaking up traditional categories, making art more democratic and moving firmly towards ‘decentring’ and away from the author-centred model and ghastly good taste of a previous era.
When one adds in the enormous amount of experimentation in Japanese photobook culture (Vartanian 2009), the whole subject becomes fascinating and very exciting. These texts have certainly changed my view and understanding of what a photobook is and the possibilities of the genre.
In practical terms, my approach is this: I have ordered a large number of work-in-progress prints from a lab. When they arrive I will attach them to A4 sheets and start on a process of editing and sequencing. Likely everything will be laid out on the floor rather than a wall. I will then fold the result into an Adobe In Design document. This will form the basis of a sample or dummy which I intend to have printed by Saal Digital (Saal Digital 2020). I will try to use good boards and cover material and paper of good quality too. This should provide a reasonably accurate dummy of what a final submission could be like if an online printer is used, the only difference being that the dummy will be about 40 pages instead of 100 or more. This is really a decision on cost grounds because using online printers like Blurb or Saal can quickly prove expensive. I do not plan to rush this. I would prefer to give it my best shot. This I am aiming for a good dummy by the start of the next module but not, say, by the end of next week. There is an awful lot I need to learn in the meantime.
BADGER, Gerry. 2014 A. ‘Photobook’. Grove Art Online [online]. Available at: https://www-oxfordartonline-com.ezproxy.falmouth.ac.uk/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7002254105#oao-9781884446054-e-7002254105 [accessed 16 Jul 2020].
PARR, Martin and Gerry BADGER. 2014 B. ‘Chapter 7 Looking at Ourselves’. In Martin PARR and Gerry BADGER (eds.). The Photobook: A History, Volume III. London: Phaidon, 212–41.
SAAL DIGITAL. 2020. ‘Professional Photo Products in High-End Quality’. Saal Digital Fotoservice GmbH [online]. Available at: https://www.saal-digital.co.uk/ [accessed 07 Jul 2020].
VARTANIAN, Ivan. 2009. ‘Chapter 2. The Japanese Photobook: Toward an Immediate Media’. In Ryuichi KANEKO, Ivan VARTANIAN, Lesley A MARTIN, and Kyoko WADA (eds.). Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and ’70s. New York: Aperture, 11–23.
Figure 1: Mark CREAN. 2020. Splash page for my Landings 2020 exhibition at my Adobe Portfolio website. From: Mark Crean [online]. Available at: https://markcrean.myportfolio.com/ [accessed 15 Jul 2020].