Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Future of Photobooks

Andy Adams of Flak Photo asked me to weigh in on the 'Future of Photobooks' conversation initiated by Livebooks.

Most of what I've read on this topic has centered on technology and it's impact on the process and distribution of photography books. Technology has lowered the barrier to entry and the Internet has changed the distribution model, but does this represent a significant advancement of the concept?

Traditionally, a photobook was a collaboration between photographer, designer, essayist, and publisher. Each brought their unique experience and creativity to the collaboration and the results were some truly remarkable books that managed to transcend the photographs, copy, and design to become singular objects.

Advances in layout software and online publishing technology have removed much of the need for collaboration and reduced the bookmaking process to a series of well defined steps: pick theme, upload images, place text, publish. As a result, many photobooks published today are missing that critical input that helps them become something greater than a sum of their parts.

If we want the photobook to evolve I believe we need to bring back collaboration and, more importantly, evolve the definition of a book. Instead of a mass mentality, where the book is reduced to a means to distribute your photographs, we must return to a place where photographers work with other artists and professionals to conceive and produce unique, standalone objects.

Personally, I would love to work with book artists like Claire Van Vliet, Kathleen Walkup, or Julie Chen who are pushing the boundaries of what a book can be. Here, Kathleen shows off some important examples of books arts:

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