Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Photo Books In The Age Of The Internets

 Photo: S. Banos

Like so many others, I love photography books, have quite a few, and want so many, many more. That said, I must admit I don't cherish them as I once did. And that kinda saddens me, cause I know they're objects to be treasured. Yes, I do blame the internets (why shouldn't I?) with its ever present pornocopia of photographic imagery galore. No, of course, it's not the same thing as the private, tactile experience of a good book! It's like... it's like having a not so great version of your favorite meal- but the bad version tastes just similar enough, is faster, cheaper, and ultimately ends up diminishing the experience of that once great favorite meal. OK, it's probably not like that at all, but I could give you a half dozen other lousy analogies that don't pay justice to what I'm trying to say that you already surmise anyway. Right? I mean, back in the pre-internet days, there were exhibits, and there were books- case closed. If you couldn't catch the exhibit, your only option was the book. You caressed it, studied it (religiously), learned every nook and cranny of every image, word and page alike. And up until the mid nineties, they were a much rarer commodity- now anyone proclaiming themselves photographer (incl yours truly) can put out a book.

Like countless others, I've sadly become addicted to the continuous and never ending flow of  viewing new work, like some aging, steroid enhanced Barry Bonds moving on to the next photo, the next essay, the next photographer in ever faster, pharmaceutically enhanced quickstep. New imagery, nonstop, every day... while never having stopped to truly appreciate the previous work in all its depth and nuance- and therefore shortchanging the work, the artist, and ultimately, myself. Getting to know and appreciate someone's work means spending the necessary time and making the necessary effort.* That happens less and less every year, and every decade, along with every new technological innovation specifically promising us to save us that time.

Perhaps that's why I, at least in part, have purposely chosen to remain with film. To slow the whole process down some, and actually enjoy a bit of what the hell is going on, and what the hell I'm seeing...

*not to mention seeing it in print  (via Photokaboom)

6 comments:

Gerald said...

I'm also a photobook lover and accumulator - I won't say collector since I buy what interests me rather than having some overall plan. But, unlike you, I find The Internets a piss-poor substitute for books and the immediacy of seeing new work on a continuous basis just doesn't compare to a thougtfully laid out book. Also to have to wade through so much crap to get to images that I like makes it a chore more than anything else.

Stan B. said...

Gerald- Like you, I also would fall under the "accumulator" definition. But the whole point of the post was to underscore just how inefficient the internet is in allowing for the true appreciation of the medium.

Gerald said...

Stan, I did understand your post and read it twice to make sure. I also went through the same experience for a while but just found that there was too much out there to wade through. Also, my eyesight is failing and the images are usually way too small.

In some ways, the internet has provided that platform that evens out the playing field, since getting a book published has a lot to do with your personality - it's a business after all. But at the same time I find that seeing too much work, that at least visually competes with my favourite photographers, diminishes their stature somewhat and I don't want that to happen. I need heroes. As for public sites such as Flickr, I find that it's mainly a stage for hacks. I don't even bother looking on there anymore.

I also returned to film recently and still look at the back of my camera after every shot.

Stan B. said...

The last link provides some interesting insights...

Mark Page said...

Is it not a bit like Concert, Album, Radio? that's how I've always thought of the internet and looking at photos online. It allows me to get snippets of stuff that I can then buy as a book and hell if I think it's worth it go see the show.We photographers are so funny about all this. Painters an other visual artists don't seem to have the same hang-ups they just see it as a great research/marketing tool or sometimes even God forbid as a medium.

Stan B. said...

Painters??? Ah, yes- the pre-analogue chaps!