Iris Editions Ltd., the collaborative effort of NYC-based Kristopher Graves and London-based Sergio Fernández, has released the first of what is likely to be a remarkable series of luxury edition large-format books. At a scale of about 16x20 in (41x51 cm) and beautifully bound in black cloth with her name embossed on the cover, Laura McPhee's Guardians of Solitude is easily one of largest and certainly among the most lavish photo books I have ever encountered.
Much like viewing an artist's portfolio, the book is "read" by spreading it out on a table and carefully turning the oversized pages. McPhee's photographs in the book were all made in 2008 in three canyons of the White Cloud Mountains in central Idaho, an area that just three years earlier encountered a wildfire that destroyed over 40,000 acres of forest. McPhee focuses her 8x10 camera on this forest and in particular, the somber often blackened trees that still stand amongst the re-growth. The 30 color plates in the book have been given a stunning edit and are printed with an attention to detail that makes it difficult to separate them from exhibition quality prints, perhaps one of the principal draws of the book.
Despite this, I can't help wondering what is lost with the excessive scale. Might some readers find the book's exotic format distracting? Is there a large scale that still provides intimacy? One thing is for sure: this new series of books reminds us of the uncharted possibilities of photographic monographs. They will no doubt woo collectors and captivate book lovers such as myself.
Soon to come from Iris Editions Ltd. are books by Lois Conner, David Hilliard, Abelardo Morell and Matthew Pillsbury.
Shane Lavalette Shane Lavalette (b. 1987, Burlington, VT) is a photographer currently living and working in Somerville, MA. In 2009, he received his BFA from Tufts University in partnership with The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. His photographs have been published and exhibited internationally. In addition, Lavalette is the founding editor of Lay Flat, a publication of contemporary photography and writing on the medium.
www.shanelavalette.com / www.layflat.org