The photobook world

Artists’ books and forgotten social objects

Paul Edwards
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This volume proposes that the photobook is best understood as a collective endeavour, a confluence of individuals, interests and events. By looking beyond canons and artistic definitions, by factoring in the public and by paying closer attention to the texts and the contexts, the aim of this book is to challenge and ultimately broaden the category of the ‘photobook’. While the market is geared today for photographer-driven books, and is buoyed by the theoretical framework proposed by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, this book casts a wider net, and pays particular attention to anonymous photographers, institutional publications, digital opportunities, unrealised projects, illegal practices, collectives, poets, and the reader. The chapters uncover forgotten social objects, and show how personal histories are bound to broader historical movements. Certain chapters deliberately engage with canonical authors (Claudia Andujar and George Love, Mohamed Bourouissa, Walker Evans, Roland Penrose, the Visual Studies Workshop, for example) to reveal the origination contexts and the ‘biographies’ of the photographs. Together, the chapters examine the North American, British or French photobook from 1900 to the present. The chapters address the ecosystem of the photobook art market; commitment and explicit political engagement; memory and the writing of history; materiality and how material form affects circulation. The contributors are specialists in the history of photography, book studies and visual studies, researchers in sociology, US history, anthropology, critical race theory, postcolonial studies, feminism, architecture and comparative literature, and there are contributions from practising photographers and curators.

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