December 12, 2009
I've been thinking about the possibilities and the future of photobooks.
My starting point is that I no longer buy art photography books because they are too expensive, and that the impeding arrival of Apple's iTablet, or similar innovative platform of communication, shifts the focus from print to online. Technology has lowered the barrier to entry to publishing images bounded in a cover whilst the Internet has changed the distribution model.
This opens the future possibility of photobooks becoming a more experimental means of extending the reach of a cohesive photographic project, body of work, series of photographs or visual storytelling.
Gary Sauer-Thompson, Coca Cola, Broken Hill, 2009
The reason for my haphazard, exploratory thinking about photobooks is that the bookform is where I want my work to shift to--the next step beyond Flickr steam or the Rhizomes1 photoblog. I'm not that interested in a portfolio, nor the book as an artform per se. 'Tis time for a radical re-think.
Despite the continued existence of the printed book, the future is increasingly online: as a multimedia platform in which you can scroll through the pages, hear audio, click on links, or watch a video. The future is experimental and the nature of the book and publishing is going to broaden and become more diversified.
Gary Sauer-Thompson, Browns Shaft, Junction Mine, Broken Hill, 2009
The DIY possibility using Blurb or any other on-demand publishing website ---as opposed to a traditional publisher ---- offers a good way to test a book project concept. This could be an artists’ book that would be purchased online as an e-book and viewed through a wireless connection, on a big screen TV monitor. A printed book would be on the coffee table. They would be quite different.
Blurb and co demonstrates that they have some way to go to convince professionals in terms of quality. There is nowhere near enough control afforded to you through these sites to be able to get the same result as you do with a printing house where much more fine-tuning is possible. They provide a great affordable and decent quality alternative to lugging a portfolio around with you or to test a book project concept, but for most fine art photographers, this isn’t enough. Perhaps their most important function is to provide amateur photographers or pro-sumers (whatever the hell they are) with a terrific, inexpensive way of experiencing other aspects of photographic practice, such as sequencing, editing, graphic design and production, which is welcome in an age where millions of images are being produced every second.
The testing the book project provides possibilities to move beyond the conservative form of the photo book, which is basically a gallery exhibition on paper; to move to a form in which the book is more than just a collection of photographs and which explores the possibilities to create more sophisticated visual narratives. This would include a LiveBooks blog-- Resolve---recently posted an interesting open question for everyone to attempt to answer: “What do you think photobooks will look like in 10 years? They are crowd-sourcing a blog post about the future of photobooks and they want everyone to chime in.
The struggle is to avoid the book being reduced to a means to distribute my photographs and to think of the oneline book as a stand alone object.