Dear PhotoBook Review Readers,
In art, as in life, there is a critical difference between a brilliant idea and the translation of that idea into concrete action or physical form. For the photographer, this process begins with the capture of an idea, of a keenly observed moment in space and time, onto a two-dimensional plane. That single image may turn into a body of work, a series—or simply an accumulation of images that wants to be set loose into the world. This is where the book form excels. As Horacio Fernández puts it in his introduction to The Latin American Photobook (Aperture, 2011), “Photobooks move around even more than photographers do. Sometimes they travel slowly, but they find their way out there in the end.”
I was reminded of the tremendous connective potential of the book when jurying the short list for this year’s Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards. How else would one come in contact with a body of work being made by a collective of artists from Helsinki with a scant international-exhibition track record (Maanantai Collective, Nine Nameless Mountains [Kehrer Verlag, 2013])? How else would I find myself mesmerized by the work of a Spanish artist previously unheard of (by me, in any case), save for his having found the perfect collaborator in a small but determined French publisher (Óscar Monzón, KARMA [RVB Books/Dalpine, 2013])? Yes, the Internet is great for finding a portfolio of images, but to see the work realized, sequenced, and presented on the printed page, with a particular texture of paper, hyper-gloss varnish, or other physical aspect that subtly underscores the artist’s intent, is an entirely different, visceral experience. And it is when that book form effectively elevates a body of work that would not otherwise be immediately accessible, or that amplifies certain underpinnings of the artist’s concept, that one can recognize a really interesting Book Work. Finding that physical form can be an important first step to propelling an artist beyond his or her own studio, friends, and gallery walls. It is both a delicate art of transubstantiation and a factory operation of pure mechanical calculation.
A special thanks to Darius Himes, our guest editor, who suggested that this issue of The PhotoBook Review take some time to meditate on the fine art of making things. Both thanks and kudos to The PhotoBook Review’s now-former associate editor, Brian Sholis; he will have joined the Cincinnati Art Museum as associate curator of photography by the time this issue is released. Congratulations also to design director Emily Lessard, who helped launch The PhotoBook Review in 2011, and who is now leaving Aperture to work as the design director for New York City & Company. As always, the act of publication is one of community and of shared interests. Over to you, the reader, to do your part!
—Lesley A. Martin
Publisher, The PhotoBook Review and Aperture Foundation book program