C/O Book Days – Internet is the new artist book.
Posted on May 27th, 2012
I love photo books. Who does not enjoy skipping through pages and pages of great imagery, preferably printed on large, pages exuding the smell of high quality ink and paper. Who would say no to storing photo book after photo book on their shelves, coffee tables or bedroom floors. It’s like taking an exhibition or maybe even the whole life’s work of an artist to your home, storing, viewing and exhibiting it at a place where you feel the most comfortable.
This being said, I was thrilled to head to the Book Days at C/O yesterday. I skipped through pages of amazing books, wanting to buy (but not carry) them all. It’s interesting to see in which ways photos can be represented in book form, the arrangement, the pairings of photographs on the pages, the design surrounding the imagery, the binding, the look and feel of the book jacket, the choice of the cover. There is so much other stuff added to the pictures themselves and it always seems like a tightrope walk between succeeding to represent the images in a befitting way or losing focus an overdoing it in terms of design. But sometimes even the latter works fine, if a clear decision about the core of the concept has been made and the makers of the book didn’t just go AWOL with the whole thing.
After looking at photo books and walking through the Larry Clarke exhibition, that just opened the day before and is definitely worth a visit, I sat down in the hall of the C/O and listened to a very interesting and inspiring talk by Yannick Bouillis about the Internet as the new artist book. It was just the perfect topic for me, being a concept developer for all things digital with an art history background and a deep passion for photography. Naturally, I had to take down more than just some notes during his talk and added some thoughts of my own, both of which I want to share with you.
To Yannick Bouillis, who is the founder of Offprint Paris and the Amsterdam Art Book Fair, the photo book is the primary space open to photographers to exhibit their art. Since photography is still not as widely exhibited in galleries and museums, as other forms of art, photographers resort to the photo book as their way to reach an audience and spread their work. So it’s only natural, that the most interesting and avantgarde photography would happen in the book. But in the recent years he experienced a shift in this area. The internet is starting to take over the role of the photobook. While a few years ago one would discover new photographers through the book, artists’ websites, blogs and social media are becoming more important by the day.
Additionally, Yannick Bouillis made mention of the future of commercial photography when print becomes less important. He sees a development towards an end of photography as a business. The possibilities of moving images accompanying news items and other content on the web become more important and smartphone photography takes over the place of the photojournalist. The times of Magnum are long gone, not only because agencies are often too scared to send their photographers to areas of conflict, but also because images taken by amateurs with their smartphones often have a bigger sense of reality than images taken by a professional. Accordingly in fashion, the video and moving editorial becomes more and more relevant due to the possibilities of presentation in the digital realm. What stays according to Yannick Bouillis, is the art photographer.
Yet, the (art) photographer has to find new ways to represent his work online. Today, despite the possibilities the web has to offer, most artist websites, portfolios, and even apps or blogs remain relatively static and are often imitating the form of the photo book.
The question that arises now, is how the virtual representation of an artist can become stand out and distinguish itself from other virtual representations and the photo book. Can websites completely take over the role of the photo book and in which ways? What will happen to the photo book itself? People probably won’t stop stacking photo books on their coffee tables and book shelves very soon. I certainly would not. But, what role will the book take within the artistic development of a photographer? Will the virtual come first and then be followed by the physical? How will these representations differ and in what way has the photo book to adapt to the digital? Should we maybe even stop considering the photo book the primary inspiration for artists’ online representations, but rather take a look at museums and galleries? And: what comes after the digital?
These were all issues that popped up in my mind during and after the talk. I am really curious now about how this is going to develop in the future and how my mind will keep on pondering on these questions. I will definitely keep my eyes and ears open and it’s certain, that my long-term plan on publishing my own photo book one day – be it virtual or physical – has been enlivened and inspired by this talk.
Having said all this I have a question for you: What are your favorite online representations of photographers and their work?