Click on the names below for transcription excerpts from Photo-Bookworks Symposium talks. Click “Read More” to view videos, including an index of works discussed with timestamps.

Adam Bell

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(7:17) The Education of a Photographer, with Charles H. Traub & Steven Heller

(9:28) The Cruel Radiance, Susie Linfield

(16:26) Wanderlust, Rebecca Solnit

(20:50) Landmasses and Railways, Bertrand Fleuret

(27:00) Abendsonne, Mischa de Ridder

(32:46) “When Objects Dream,” Shelley Rice in Writing with Light

Francois Deschamps

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(1:06) / 1,2,3

(1:13) H. A. Rey

(4:44) The Return of the Slapstick Papyrus

(6:25) High Tension, Phil Zimmermann

(7:14) Long Story Short, Phil Zimmermann

(8:05) Martha Rosler

(8:45) Fluxus Year Box 2, various artists

(14:03) A Private Collection … , Keith Smith

(16:57)  / 1,2,3

Jason Fulford

The books that I was reading at the time made the world feel like a mysterious place, full of ambiguous signs and open metaphors . . . So I started to see signs everywhere. metaphor

I often find that whatever I’m reading or whatever I’m thinking about will inevitably, eventually, show up in my pictures. I think that you can probably relate to this feeling. I tend to wander when I travel, and pictures just seem to reveal themselves to me. I don’t really know what I’m looking for, but when I see it, I know. process

I come back from these trips with loads of contact sheets and I ended up developing a kind of system for myself for editing where . . . I would make two sets of contact sheets. One set I would spiral-bind into a book, just as a reference so I could find the negatives later. The other set I’ll cut up into squares that I can then use to edit with. process

Mostly what I’m looking for are relationships between pictures that I hadn’t planned on that I discover in the editing process. You can take these squares and shuffle them like a deck of cards and lay them out and look and see what happens, scoop them up, reshuffle them, and lay them out [again]. process, sequence

One of the first types of juxtapositions that I found in my own work was when I had taken basically the exact same photograph in two different places . . . I found that this is actually the least interesting type of relationship. These kind of juxtapositions for me don’t hold up over time and in fact they kind of cancel each other out. Sometimes there would be a graphic relationship. Sometimes a kind of fictional narrative would come out. Sometimes something totally goofy. I found that the best juxtapositions had a sort of “hovering” quality. sequenceIf you happen to read it from front to back, I put this [circular] image in for a reason. And this is a little theory that I have that I kind of took from Jack Woody, who said something similar, which is, in a lot of books, somewhere around the two-thirds or three-quarters mark, you’ll find sort of a dead spot, where the reader will get a little tired or the reading of the book will start to feel a little sluggish. And often, when I’m designing a book, right around this section I’ll put something in that’s supposed to serve to kind of wake you up a little bit, something that you haven’t seen before or something that’s slightly different than everything else in the book. structure

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(13:50) Sunbird

(17:11) Crushed

(22:45) J&L publishing

(33:34) Raising Frogs for $$$

(37:06) The Mushroom Collector

Myra Greene

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(5:13) My White Friends

(6:03) Character Recognition

(7:00) My White Friends

(11:00) East 100th Street, Bruce Davidson

(15:44) My White Friends

Greg Halpern

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(2:47) Triptychs – Buffalo’s Lower West Side Revisited, Milton Rogovin

(6:40) Harvard Works Because We Do

(10:35) Ray’s A Laugh, Richard Billingham

(16:24) The Solitude of Ravens, Masahisa Fukase

(20:12) Rokytnik, Jitka Hanzlova

(22:30) Thin on the Ground

(27:30) Utatane, Rinko Kawauchi

(30:05) “The Death of the Author,” Roland Barthes

(39:45) Omaha Sketchbook

Ron Jude

[John Gossage’s The Pond] is a book, this is not a bunch of photographs in a book. This is not even something I want to see as an exhibition, this is a book that contains photographs where if I saw them outside of the context of the book, I wouldn’t think twice about them . . . I got this book and it just baffled me the first time I looked at it. I probably opened it up to the middle and saw a picture . . . which, as a student of photography, probably made very little sense to me. And for something that was reproduced in what looked to be a very expensive Aperture monograph, I was just sort of baffled. I didn’t understand it, what the subject was, was it the grass? Sticks? Was it the landscape receding into the background? It was only after probably months of looking and re-looking that I realized that it was about the space between the sticks, it was about nothing. As was this picture. Now, I’ve since come to appreciate John Gossage’s pictures in a way that goes beyond books . . . but at the time, I couldn’t understand a picture like this and the only way I could understand it was in the context of a book. form

A photograph like the image here on the bottom really only makes sense in the sequence of the book, where it follows the picture on the top. The split image in the middle, between the reflection of the tree and the reflection of the sky, leads you through the book in a visual way, as it follows the picture of the contrasting tones in the back of the landscape on the top of the picture. [excerpt video] sequence

The reason I think [these pictures] are so good is because they don’t have any professional photographers on staff. So these aren’t photojournalistic images, they’re images that are taken by the writers, a lot of the photographs are sent in by people, it’s a very small town so this newspaper is sort of a collective of the experience of the town as much as it is reporting on any significant events. archive

The thing that really amazed me is that if you take these pictures out of the context of the story, I mean this is not news to anybody, but, suddenly the photograph loses its narrative. The photograph sort of promises a narrative, and it engages you on the level of narrative, but ultimately it sort of roadblocks you at the end,and you have to go somewhere else with it. narrative

To a certain degree, this became a curatorial project more than anything, but I also felt like by recontextualizing thes photographs and putting them into some kind of order, I could find something new in them, something that had everything to do with my own photographic work. archive

Basically, as consumers of photographs, we want to know the space between the learnable and the unknowable, and I think that’s what all of our photographs are doing in these books, they sort of tell you something that looks like its a documentary photograph, poses to be a documentary photograph, but then takes you somewhere else, it denies you your initial expectation and hopefully delivers something else. genre

One of our ideas for this press is that these are photobooks, they’re meant to be books in which you engage with photography. And I know that sounds simple and obvious, but what we haven’t done so far is we haven’t had any sort of explanatory text or essays in our books. This text in Seneca Ghosts is very sort of basic information, maybe some sort of context for the pictures that you’re looking at. It’s not an essay by a writer explaining the work you’re looking at and how you’re supposed to look at the work. Our idea for this press is that it’s very much about the experience of looking at photographs. image and text

This work is about, again, just like with Alpine Star, trying to truncate narrative in a photograph, building a certain expectation with a photograph and then sort of sliding it elsewhere. narrative

In my mind at least, an artists’ book is something that is a self-contained artwork. It’s not referencing something else, it’s not simply a collection of photographs that are put into a book, it’s something that finds its meaning through the form of the book and doesn’t function as well outside outside of that form. formAperture really wanted [Gossage] to have an essay in The Pond and what he came up with was a short story by his wife that seemingly has nothing to do with the book itself but the spirit of the story runs parallel to the content of the book and is very much in sympathy with the content of the book. image and text

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(3:35) American Photographs, Walker Evans

(3:50) The Americans, Robert Frank

(4:15) Twentysix Gasoline Stations, Various Small Fires, Ed Ruscha

(4:58) The Pond, John Gossage

(8:08) Waffenruhe, Michael Schmidt

(9:37) Industriezeit, Joachim Brohm

(11:03) Ahnung, Volker Heinze

(11:18) Three Soliloquies, ar-i-zo-na, R is for Rock, Todd Walker

(14:27) Reclamation

(15:43) Alpine Star

(19:56) A-Jump Books

(22:25) Alpine Star

(24:42) Moscow Plastic Arts, Nick Muellner

(27:51) Ron Jude: Postcards

(29:15) Seneca Ghosts, Danielle Mericle

(32:56) The Photograph Commands Indifference, Nicholas Muellner

(35:15) The History of Photography in Pen & Ink, Charles Woodard

(37:41) Archive, Danielle Mericle

(38:20) Skydiving, Dan Torep

(38:15) Labrador, Dan Torep & Reuben Margolin

(40:37) Other Nature

(41:50) Emmett archive

(46:10) The Pond, John Gossage

Nathan Lyons in conversation with Alex Sweetman

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(11:52) “Display as Discourse” in JAB 27

(13:22) Return Your Mind to its Upright Position

Stephen Marc

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(3:44) Urban Notions

(7:55) The Black Trans-Atlantic Experience

(19:30) Passage on the Underground Railroad

Cary Markerink and Theo Baart

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(10:08) Bouwlust: The Urbanization of a Polder

Danielle Mericle

And so [Seneca Ghosts] became more about this sort of search, this sort of personal quest to understand this place and understand this history and the deer started to almost function metaphorically.
process, metaphor

Trying to contemplate what this notion of history is, and this notion of place, and how things are constantly shifting. Within the book I did this thing where you’ll see the deer and then a few pages later they’ll run, so again this repeating motif that happens over time that is completely suitable for the book format. form, sequence

[Seneca Ghosts is] very carefully sequenced so you have these moments (again, these are two pages positioned against one another) of the deer escaping, running away from me. sequence

[There are] slight traces of what happened . . . but not much. Again, it’s very subtle, you get a sense of something that’s happened, but you’re not sure what, and for me, that’s very much my experience at these sites. narrative

This is the one moment where you actually get to see what these deer look like, but again, it’s still shrouded. So as a documentary project, it fails, it doesn’t really tell you much about the deer, but it becomes more about this search for knowledge. And I often find the same thing when I look at some documentary work, I just don’t really access what’s going on, or I do so in a very literal way. And so what I was hoping to do with this work is to move away from the literal and get at a different way of knowing, a different way of accessing what our world is about, if you will. genre

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(2:06) “Seeking a Generic Portrait of the Criminal,” Francis Gaulton

(3:14) Thomas Ruff

(5:00) Hi, Roni Horn

(7:02) Stan Douglas

(9:30) Felix Gonzalez Torres

(11:08) After Nature (Things I Know and Things That Happen)

(17:46) History Sighs

(22:48) Seneca Ghosts

(32:17) Archive


Christian Patterson

So as you can see, the story was quite well-documented and parts of it are well-preserved in various archives. But after all my research, I felt that there was plenty of room for me to step into the story and to attempt to reconstruct, then deconstruct, and ultimately fragment or turn this story inside-out. After all, there were only two people in the world who knew what really happened and one of them, at this point, was dead. And so a new vision for the work began to form in my head, the idea of presenting this true-crime story through a mix of photographs, documents, and objects challenging the viewer to sift through the information and to decipher the visual clues to deal with the story in a similar way that an investigator or researcher would. narrative

Digging into the archive was like falling down a rabbit hole. It opened up all possibility in my mind and I saw how all these different kinds of materials worked together to tell a story in a different way and how they related back to what I was doing. And it didn’t matter that these things were produced by different sources, were in different formats, or were from different times. I had to let go of the (my) old way of thinking about photographic documentation, truth, and representation. Everything became the archive, everything became documentation, suddenly it all seemed very fluid. And the only thing that mattered anymore was telling a story visually using my research and calling on my imagination whenever it was needed. archive, process

I eventually reached the point where I felt prepared to attempt layout the plans for a book. And I began this part of the process the old fashioned way: on paper, physically. I made inexpensive, low-quality photocopies of the images and played with their sequence on the walls of my studio, and I moved them around, on and off, for days, weeks, and months. And when I finally felt that I was getting close to something good, I printed a very small, very rough, lo-fi, black-and-white photocopy version of the book, sort of a dummy of the dummy. process

“The photobook is a text in which the principle carrier of meaning is the photographic sequence contained between its covers. If one photograph is a word, it’s by putting it into a sequence with others that sentences and paragraphs are created. Reading a photobook is firstly about appreciating the aesthetic worth of the individual photographs within the book. Secondly, it’s about following the story that’s being told, negotiating not only a trail of facts, but a labyrinth of signs and symbols.” So I think what [Gerry] Badger implies is that while individual images are very important, they can exist not only as individual facts, but when joined together they become something else, something more than what they depict, something symbolic. In essence, a good photobook should function as a concise world within itself, and I personally took this to mean that I could do whatever I wanted without any particular concern over what’s fact and what’s fiction, but with particular concern for telling a good story visually. sequence, narrative

And so over the course of these five years, the story began to disintegrate and fragment and fall away. It never disappeared completely, it was always there, like some kind of floating ghost. But its sole function for me was to serve as a source. Ultimately, I wanted the work to act as a more complex, enigmatic, visual crime dossier, a mixed collection of cryptic clues, random facts and fictions that the viewer had to deal with on their own. narrative

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(2:33) 2 1/4, William Eggleston

(5:48) Sound Affects

(8:22) Badlands, Terrence Malick

(13:20) Redheaded Peckerwood

(15:39) The Romance Industry, John Gossage

(16:20) Redheaded Peckerwood

(23:20) Murder Off Miami, J. G. Links & Dennis Wheatley

(25:13) Redheaded Peckerwood (maquette)

(30:42) “It’s All Fiction: Narrative and the Photobook,” Gerry Badger

(36:45) Redheaded Peckerwood

Irina Rozovsky

So I took a lot of photographs and I came home and I started to put them together and I knew immediately that they would be a book. I had never made a book before and I’m not a book expert, but I just knew that the pictures could talk to each other and kind of express what I was thinking when I was there in a flow, in a sequence. form, sequence

This feeling of being carried by the photographs is very powerful and I don’t know if I’ve been able to access that since, but there’s a certain intuition that came with taking these pictures. And if you look at the book it’s very straightforward, all the pictures are the same size and it’s quite small. I wanted all the photographs to be of equal weight, on the same scale, and they’re all square, which helps, and the design is very simple because there’s so much nuisance and noise going on inside the photographs that I wanted some sort of organizational method to clean it up and make it quiet. process, form, sequence

A question that’s really interesting for me to confront and also really difficult is to avoid any direct political associations through the juxtapositions and sequencing as well as in the making of the pictures. I wasn’t at all trying to make a standpoint or statement about what I was seeing . . . and so when people ask if this is a political piece or what my stance on the situation is, I tend to brush it aside as if this can just exist as some lyrical entity, but I don’t think that’s possible and it’s definitely not true. Because for me it is a political statement in a way, and it’s the most kind of proactive choice I’ve ever made in making a political statement. Just because I’m not choosing a side doesn’t mean that I don’t have a stance. There’s a sort of neutrality that I’m after, but not picking a side doesn’t mean that it’s not political. And the reason that’s impossible is because the politics are larger than me and my camera and larger than their ability to make judgments. Politics are written in the place itself.

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(2:20) One to Nothing

(22:30) Hackney Kisses, Stephen Gill

Alec Soth in conversation with Anne Wilkes Tucker

But much more, to me, than the beauty of the individual images was the way that they fit together, was the flow of them, was the using the Mississippi River and going North to South . . .  the way the bed recurs and the bed’s relationship to dreams, very much the way Robert [Frank] used cars and jukeboxes and Walker [Evans] used culture, etc. metaphor

The relationship between imagery and words: there are times now when I think there are too many words and not enough pictures. I think there are huge discussions about pictures without having ever seen the picture [excerpt audio of anecdote?] There are all these people who are writing about photography without ever having seen the object, or understanding the object, or even ever wanting to know anything about making the object, about the process, the decision-making. image and text

I think in terms of the book always. I would say that there are book-photographers and wall-photographers, and of course you do both things, but one thing tends to be primary and I think for me and for a lot of people, [books] were primary because they were the first thing I was exposed to. If I had lived in New York City and was seeing exhibitions all the time, you know, maybe that style of photography would have come first, but living in Minnesota, I didn’t see the actual prints, I saw the books, which are their own kind of object. And it is really this interesting phenomenon now, where people have so much access to things on the internet that that becomes the primary experience for some people. form

With photography and the book, I’m always struggling with the issue of narrative. I crave narrative, crave storytelling, but it doesn’t always work, it’s like you suggest narrative, but you don’t really tell a story. But it’s this push and pull between how much of a story to tell. narrative

[The children’s book] is the one form that uses text and image in a really easy way, it’s just enough text and the weights of the text and the image can be fairly balanced, so I thought that this is a model for how I could work with the two, use images and stories. [cf. Deschamps] image and text

Like poetry, photography is rarely successful with narrative. What is essential is the voice, the eye, the way the voice pieces together the fragments to make something continuously whole and beautiful. narrative

I look at poetry because I know it functions in a similar way as photography . . I’m jealous of novelists and filmmakers, I’m jealous of that feeling of being carried along by a narrative, and I’ve always said that photography doesn’t do that, can’t do that, and you’re sort of stuck with it. But I’m now at the point where I’m like, screw it, I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna see if I can tell a story. narrative

The art world sort of functions on exclusivity, it’s all about supply and demand and how you really limit the supply so there’s more demand . . . I actually want people to see the work, and that’s always what I loved about books, that it was something that could get out there to a few thousand people rather than just twenty. audience

I mean, since we’re talking about books and thinking about books, for me, it’s how do you shape the thing as a book with a beginning, middle, and end, since you don’t have the narrative line . . . When you start out on a photography project, you have no idea where it’s going it just seems so fragmentary so how are you going to pull this stuff together. For me that’s the big battle and that’s the great fun of it, too. narrative

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(4:40) Hans Namuth

(6:02) The Family of Man, Edward Steichen

(9:50) The History of Photography, Beaumont Newhall

(10:36) Photographers on Photography, Nathan Lyons

(11:50) The Daybooks of Edward Weston, Nathan Lyons

(13:25) Photographs, Harry Callahan

(14:00) The Sweet Flypaper of Life, Roy DeCarava

(14:16) The Woman’s Eye

(16:00) Dorothea Lange: American Photographs, John Szarkowski

(17:30) Czech Modernism, 1900-1945

(21:25) The Americans, Robert Frank

(25:36) Robert Frank: New York to Nova Scotia, with Phil Brookman

(27:48) American Prospects, Joel Sternfeld

(28:46) Sleeping by the Mississippi

(35:30) “First Book” interview series

(36:00) Summer Nights, Robert Adams

(36:30) American Prospects, Joel Sternfeld

(37:50) One Mississippi

(38:43) Sleeping by the Mississippi

(40:25) Niagara

(41:57) Women are Beautiful

(43:20) The Most Beautiful Woman in Georgia

(44:50) The Loneliest Man in Missouri

(44:58) From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America

(45:38) The Brighton Bunny Boy

(46:46) Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Trent Parke

Elisabeth Tonnard

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(1:28) Let Us Go Then, You and I

(4:31) “Speak eyes! En zie!

(6:20) Enduring Freedom

(8:00) The Story of a Young Gentleman

(9:10) A Dialogue in Useful Phrases

(13:06) Oceanus

(17:25) Two of Us

(21:25) In This Dark Wood

(25:50) Mood: Potential

(28:14) Another World

(31:04) The Invisible Book

(35:34) Artists’ Book Cooperative