Book Arts

Symposium: Photography and the Artist’s Book
Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections, Manchester, UK
Friday 21st October

A day full of presentations and discussions of the artist’s book and photography, from national and international speakers.

Sarah gave a talk about her own photographic practice in artists’ books, Imaginary Shadows: fictional documentary photography in artists books

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Artists making books often use photography as a means of recording a narrative of places or their travels, but what if they are documenting something that isn’t actually there at all? A few examples of the artists who inspired me to do the talk are:
Scott McCarney (USA) publishes many books in his biography / autobiography series. As we get older, the more we forget, and for McCarney, the more things he accumulates in recompense. His 2007 edition Photographs, is an empty book, a reproduction of an early 20th Century photography album with text annotations and photo corners with the pictures removed. Dedicated to anyone’s lost family histories.

Kurt Johannessen (Norway) photographed flying rocks for his book flygande steinar. Frans Baake (The Netherlands) travels to islands around the world, to gather photographs for his books. But he cannot always access the land, some are private islands, some impossible to reach, so, in 2004 he produced Never Been There, a collection of islands photographed from nearby or from a distance. As he says, the artist has been to the specific regions in order to say that he hasn’t been there: Wow, how many places he didn’t visit!’ In my own Flowers in Hotel Rooms series, these small photographic books document my actions in tribute to characters in novels I am reading, but these aren’t real events. They involve an impromptu stage set and camera, depending on what I am reading and what I can find to quickly produce a postcard-sized image in a hotel room. Dinner and a Rose was a collaboration with the poet Nancy Campbell, in tribute to Patricia Highsmith‘s Ripley quartet. This included hosting a one-day dinner party for invited guests, at which the meals and drinks mentioned in the books were served. Ripley is neither seen or referred to in the book or the video.

TOAST: A Night on Weevil Lake, a collaborative book and video produced on World Book Night, Saturday 5th March 2011. A tribute to Douglas Coupland‘s novel The Gum Thief, which consisted of an evening of nothing being cooked, no hosting and Chinese food having to be ordered in and eaten off of paper plates from Staples.

And finally, No Dutch Details, Tom Sowden and Sarah Bodman, January 2011. A video-book tribute to Ed Ruscha‘s Dutch Details produced whilst travelling. Produced on an intercity train from Amsterdam Schiphol to Enschede, The Netherlands between 19.47 and 20.00 on Sunday 16th January 2011. The film recreates the zoom-in image format of Ruscha’s Dutch Details, as a chronological tribute to of all his books published between 1963 and 1978, but using only props found or created in miniature that could be photographed on the train. The film, of course fails to produce a faithful reproduction of any of Ruscha’s books, as the end titles indicate.

Download a PDF of the images shown in the talk.