Lecture + Assignment 1: Photobook in the Digital Age

So for one of our lectures, we were looking at the photobook in the digital era and how the sequencing works within the book. So to make it more engaging for the class, we were split into various groups who each had their own book to look at and examine.

So for my group, we were given the book Edmund Clark – Guantanamo If the light goes out. This was an interesting book in itself without looking at the pictures, because it documented Guantanamo Bay for the first time, with Clark being the first person given access to the area.
So when he went into the prison, he was told that he wasn’t allowed to use his usual film camera, but rather had to use a digital camera due to the fact that officials had to see which pictures he could and couldn’t use. With the prison being highly secure, officials couldn’t risk anything they wouldn’t want going out to go without their notice.

Moving more onto the pictures, it was definitely something not expected. Instead of the perceived image from the media of the place being cold and lonesome, the pictures were quite inviting and friendly. With Clark focusing on the homes of the prisoners, guards and others, this homely sense was driven throughout. Yet it was hard to think that this may have been slightly biased towards the fact that Clark was not allowed to focus on any other area at all; this was backed up by the lack of human presence in the pictures (not a single person was seen.)
The sequencing of the pictures though were split into 3 sections, yet the sections were broken up by letters inmates had received. This gave it a slightly more personal touch, but also gave us something to look at as well.

Some of the other books were quite interesting to look at as well. Nobuyshi Araki’s Sentimental Journey, Winter Journey was a personal book from the author, being based on the author meeting his wife and marrying her in the first part, before looking at life afterwards. The book itself is almost like a diary, in the way you have to pull the book out of a cover to get into the pictures; this sleeve makes it very personal and protected.
John Gossage’s The Pond is more narratively driven in comparison. It starts off from a natural point, with the first image being of a pond. But eventually the pictures began to gradually show more man-made objects in the pictures.  What is interesting to note is that when looking at all the pictures, which are in black and white, you notice that they are are quite flat, with a possible reason for this is to allow the narrative to flow by much easier.
Moving onto a complete different avenue is Taryn Simon’s An American Index of the hidden and the unfamiliar. The Layout makes it look like a file, as if it is a classified document. This creates an interesting relationship between text and image, as we when we look at the book, we get a sense of what the book is going to be about before we have even opened the book.
Another book is Paul Grayham’s The Present. What makes this book interesting is that the cover of the book is quite unappealing compared to other photo books we are used to see; it has this quite pale green color, which doesn’t look very nice at all.  However the pictures are much nicer looking; the pictures are of New York on the streets, picking out moments. He challenges the decisive moment compared to what we are used to with the decisive moment. Uses a flip method of showing one picture, but underneath is the same area but with something different happening.

However, the artist I found the most interesting was Alec Soth’s book Niagara. The cover of the book was very appealing; with an eye-catching image on the front that wasn’t gong into much detail about the book. At first there didn’t seem to be a clear sequence at all. However when you began to look into the book it became clear that the letters broke up the book, but give it some context as well to the back story as well.
I was interested in his work so that I looked at some of his other books as well; the one that took my interest the most was his Broken Manual book. This was quite an unusual book in itself as just looking from the front, it seems like it is a closed book. However when you open it, you are shocked to see that there is another book cut into the pages, which holds all the pictures. This I feel is a great way of presenting work as it adds a nice twist.
The pictures themselves were also quite interesting as they represent isolation within the area, which is somewhat similar to what I was aiming for. In the majority of his pictures he focuses on nature with abandoned buildings in the area. These are pointers about the men in the pictures, who have removed themselves from society.

The session overall was really useful, as I got some useful ideas about how to sequence my work, and how I might be able to present my book as well.















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