The Open Book.
Photographs by numerous contributing photographers.
423 pp., 404 illustrations, 8x10".
Walking into ICP’s exhibition space for The Open Book show was a bibliophile’s dream. Lining the walls at chest
level was a plexi-glass enclosure containing some of the
finest examples of photographic books from the history
of the medium. Ranging from John Thomson’s Street
Life in London—a handsome publication filled with woodburytypes-
published in 1878 to Mitch Epstein’s Family
Business, released in 2003 by Steidl, the exhibition
meticulously presented the carefully curated examples.
The only drawback was that the damn plexi-glass enclosure
was locked! When seeing a good book, who doesn’t
naturally want to pick it up and hold it? The book
form—as an intimate object to be held—is so deeply
embedded in our collective conscience that locking them
away, especially when we are at
the same time being asked to
learn about and appreciate them,
seems particularly tortuous.
Thank God for the exhibition catalogue.
The first photographs
made their appearance in the late
1830s, and as Martin Parr and
Gerry Badger point out, the vehicle
for their dissemination was, more often than not, a
book. It was a few decades later, however, when it
became possible to combine photographic reproductions
and text on the same printed page, that the era of
the photographic book was truly launched. The Open
Book chronicles the art of the photographic book from
that moment to the present. It presents more than 130 of
the most significant examples of the genre, produced by
such diverse figures as El Lissitzky, Man Ray, Ken Domon,
Christer Stromholm, Esko Mannikko, Nick Waplington,
Sophie Calle, Roni Horn, and Richard Prince. The books
shown here were chosen by a remarkable international
jury: curator Ute Eskildsen of the Museum Folkwang in
Essen, Germany; curator Hasse Persson of the Hasselblad
Center in Gothenburg, Sweden; fashion designer Karl
Lagerfeld; rare book specialist Andrew Roth; media consultant
Christoph Schifferli; Interview magazine editor
Ingrid Sischy; and book publisher Gerhard Steidl. DH
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