‘The Book of the Future’: Photobooks between disciplines

Fiona Allen, University of Exeter
Simon Constantine, UCL

Daniel Hartley, Durham University

From self-published volumes to digital projects, the twenty-first century has witnessed a renewed interest in the photobook. Indeed, whilst the decision to combine text, photography and archival materials is a product of the nineteenth century, the term photobook is a somewhat more recent invention. This revival has also given rise to an increased scholarly and institutional interest in the topic – developments exemplified by Tate’s recent acquisition of Martin Parr’s photobook collection. In many respects, these events echo a claim made in a 1937 review of Margaret Bourke-White and Erskine Caldwell’s You Have Seen Their Faces: the volume embodied ‘what the book of the future will be like’ – that is, one in which the established hierarchy between text and image has been dissolved. What is less clear, however, is whether the term photobook indicates the realisation of this goal or, as David Campany has argued, an attempt to ascribe a fictive unity to an otherwise plural field.

Although the photobook has generated a substantial body of scholarship, the majority of this material has chosen to focus on its visual components. As such, this panel will explore the possibility of adopting a more interdisciplinary approach. How useful are literary analogies, such as the comparison between the photo sequence and the sentence, when engaging with this material? What type of methodological framework would do justice to the collaborations between photographers and writers which underpin these books? How does literary form affect, imitate or trouble photographic form, and vice versa? By pursuing these (and other) questions, we hope to stage a dialogue on the photobook which brings together scholars from art history, literary studies and other related disciplines.

Speakers

Polaroid, Portrait, Page: Richard Hamilton and the Photobook 
Kevin Lotery (Newcastle University)

The Look of Sound: L’Optique Moderne, a photobook 
Jill Carrick (Carleton University)

‘To inhabit, uneasily, the intersection’: Germaine Krull and the Photographic Book 
Max Boersma (Harvard University)

Cutting In: Gerhard Richter’s Photobooks 
Matthew Bowman (University of Suffolk)

The Book as Stage: Ugo Mulas’s New York: The New Art Scene 
Gloria Boeri (University of Oxford)

Walker Evans’s Physiognomies 
Stephanie Schwartz (UCL)

 

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