Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Art of books, books of art

It has been occurring to me that there are possibly conflicting goals in the creation of a book of art, namely the function of serving up the art as the subject and the nature of a well-designed book as an object of appreciation in itself. At some point, one has to yield to serving the other.

As SoFoBoMo approaches, it's a conflict playing out in my thoughts about how to design a book. Until now, I've kept mine pretty simple, directed at serving up photographs in a simple manner: the old-fashioned one to a page, white border approach. But I've been toying with the idea of putting more effort into the design of a book as part of the work itself: spreads, bleeds, multiple images on a page etc. Something that might be more engaging to a viewer. Might that detract from the photography? Or might the photography serve as content to support a wider book experience? And can some fancy graphic and typographic design further enhance that experience?

My own collection of photobooks doesn't help in this regard. They're all pretty much traditional art books - all about the pictures, not the book as product. So they're all simple. And that's good, if you're serving up a collection of art photographs. One exception is the "History of Japanese Photography" which is as much an art history book as a book of art. It has all kinds of chnages in layout, white space around text, insert images, spread, bleeds, different background colours for images. But the overall experience sometimes feels a little forced - design for the sake of it, getting in the way of viewing the pictures. But not by much, I don't feel like I want the wh0le thing as simple text pages followed by simple pages of pictures. A balance to be drawn.

Difficult stuff, this, once you're past the basic mechanics. If I get the right idea, (one of) my SoFoBoMo contribution might be rather more novel than before, something of an experiment.


  1. As one has completed 2 SoFOBoMo books I really understand your concerns and musings.
    I am glad that in some ways other photos books aren't being much help as with creating a SoFoBoMo book, it really should be all about you. Your likes, your views and your ideas.

    I think that having a pre-laid out backup plan for a book design is great (your first idea) as then you can start to experiment when the iamges start to come together. Then if its not working it is easy to revert to backup.

    Do you have a passion or interest that you want others to share? Because this makes it easier to tell a story but even a book of good images is fine all by its self.

    Good luck and I look forward to seeing your book.

    Niels Henriksen

    My Camera World

  2. "it really should be all about you." While I agree with regard to subject matter, I think the whole book experience is about others - a book is a device for sharing, IMO.
    Having done 6 SoFoBoMo books, I'm really wanting to push past a generic book layout this time, while retaining the general forma of a printable book.


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