Photo museum visit

Published 6 February, revised 7 February

This weekend, Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 February 2010, Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam (NL) holds its second photo book weekend; with seminars, presentations, pitches, interviews, demos and a photo book market.

Last year I missed the first event, but this year I marked the weekend and timely bought a ticket for the Saturday. I had an early train to Rotterdam, as I also wanted to see, prior to all the photo book activities, these exhibitions :

–  Nicholas Nixon: The Brown Sisters 1975-2009 | View the photo serie 1975-1995Lees het artikel in de Volkskrant “Altijd samen” van Merel Bem

Kingsley’s Crossing | See the documented passage here :  Permalink Mediastorm

The portraits of the sisters (fascinating and confronting!) had a strong impact on me, as had the story of Kingsley (among many other things, no family photo moments for him anymore…).
Yes, how about equal opportunities…  and comfortable aging…

The talk of young graduate photography Willem Popelier about this soon to be published photo book raised some emotions too. He explained his confusion, struggle and search for fact finding and his need to document, to visualise the abstractness of identity. He showed and told us how his notebooks turned from a photo book dummy into “X and Willem, documented record of a youth“. Also why he chose for a publisher versus being his own publisher. (I think I understand why he wants to share his (twin) identity search and youth story…).

Using an extensive family tree and photography, the narrative is systematically charted and developed. Portraits of individuals are created in the same detached manner as objects from the past, such as train tickets and the many keys to the twins’ various family homes.

A presentation of Hans Schoots was about the biography. I heard about the choice of telling a story with images only or with narratives/explanations, the (strong) relationship of text and visuals and the successful combination of written content and aesthetic photo essay.

The 2,5 book pitches that I joined were equally interesting and informative. Photographers talked about their project and book pursuit (from “Knoet”, “Sint Annawijk Tilburg” to “warm-cold roots & contrasts”). Questions raised by the experts (publishers) were about the why, what, how and the added value of the book as a means. Advice was given about strong editing, design, adding of own “signature” and the need for a matching publisher.

Julian Germain talked how three of his books (Steel, In soccer wonderland, For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness) came about.  The length of the Steel project, his choices and the opportunity to combine his own work with the vernacular photographs that he collects. Also about the collaboration with the designer, the strong needed editing in one book and the joy and freedom of doing scrapbook format in his soccer book, his difficulty with text writing, i.e. to convert Charlie’s answers to his questions into the ‘Charlie story’. Furthermore we heard and saw a bit about his photo presentations (framing) at exhibitions.

The last  =very uplifting= 10 minutes of the day were about the wonderful “Red Balloon / Le Ballon rouge” book. Frido Troost called upon photo book lovers to look beyond expensive, “must-seek-after Parr-Badger books” and upon photographers to do more linear photo book (comics) stories and less conceptual art books ;+)

A photo book as a contemporary business card for photographers. Indeed photo books have become more mainstream and digital printing (on demand) offers additional opportunities. Yet what makes a (good) photo book?  (E-book and e-reader??)

There were also moments for photographers to meet and to talk about photo book projects and photography. Exchanges are useful. We, I, need more of such uplifting, informative and inspiring events. Bring them on!

(I’m reading Wikipedia | publishing)

p.s. Don’t hesitate to share your favorite photo book title (and url).