Roundtable Sessions

Session 1:
Saturday morning, January 5, between 10:45 and 12:15 pm

TRACK 1 - Photobook Digitization for Research
Co-moderators: Emily Weirich and Jen Nichols.

In recent years digitization technology and online presentation tools for art objects have evolved significantly. Digitized photobooks can’t replace experiencing photobooks in person, but some of the new digital tools offer some interesting possibilities for digitized photobooks in research and pedagogical applications. This session will begin with a presentation about current trends in photobook digitization as well as how these digital objects can be found and accessed online. We will review current best practices that have developed both for digitization and for research use of digitized photobooks, and how these practices differ from similar practices for other types of books. We will present an introduction to how digitized photobooks could be useful research supplements as well as some of the limitations and possibilities of digitized photobooks.

This presentation will be followed by a facilitated group discussion about digitized photobooks. We will collectively consider: How can these digital objects be useful research tools for studio artists as well as for those working on scholarly papers about the history, theory, and criticism of photobooks? Using the technology we have today, what elements and features would people need in order to make these digital objects more useful as research tools? Thinking creatively, what technology could be developed that would make these digitized objects more useful in the future? Could it be possible to experience a digitized photobook rather than simply look at it? Finally, what issues would one have to contend with after digitizing photobooks, such as copyright, storage, and online presentation?

TRACK 2 - Photobook/Artists’ book: Media, Art, Design, History, and Reading.
Co-moderators: Clifton Meador and Tate Shaw.

Much of contemporary photobook discourse often starts from the position that photobooks are media first and only contingently material. Books, the thought remains, can be an elegant and relatively democratic means to experience photographs. Contemporary artists’ book practice—amazingly heterogenous though it is—often starts from the position that bookworks are objects rooted in craft and art history with authorial (in the largest sense of “makership”) intent.

Both discourses embrace and exploit the book for its expressive and communicative potential yet they have separate histories and often differ in their thinking about the use and veracity of photographic images, graphic design, and working with other agents for production and publication.

We wish to create a seminar-style discussion and therefore ask participants to come prepared having read several essays and resources and viewed videos of books that the moderators will post well in advance of the session.

Questions and prompts may include:

  • The role of collaboration in book making, e.g., highly-authored work (where the author has control of all aspects) versus multiply authored work
  • Materiality in photobooks and artists’ books.
  • The existence of canons for each discourse.
  • Differences and similarities in how we read photobooks and artists’ books.
  • What role does design play in both areas?

TRACK 3 - Publishing and Disseminating Photo Artists’ Books: Strategies for getting artists’ books with photographic content into the world.
Co-moderators: Mary Virginia Swanson and Susan kae Grant.

Artists’ books based on photography are enjoying a strong market presence due to the variety of options for publication and distribution. In addition to producing handmade limited edition titles, digital printing via local or on-demand services, and independent presses, art and photo book fairs have contributed to the resurgence of interest in photo book-works.

This moderated presentation provides an overview of how artists introduce their photo books to diverse audiences for acquisition. By tracing the evolution of the book prospectus this track illuminates the path to self-promote your titles for direct sale to collections/collectors as well as submission guidelines and acquisition practices of publishers, contemporary collections, dealers and other industry experts. Topics will also examine opportunities for artists to present their work including juried book competitions and exhibitions, photography festivals and book fairs.

Following their presentation, the moderators will lead a round table conversation with the participants while sharing a survey of best practices from educators, book artists and collectors as well as provide a hands-on look at successful artist-produced promotional initiatives that have proven to be a successful path to placement of their book works.

TRACK 4 - The Rise of the Risograph.
Co-moderators: Bridget Elmer, Emily Larned, and {via long distance} Tricia Tracy.

A prominent, popular process to produce photographic artists’ books, risograph printing offers a myriad of ways of thinking about contemporary artistic production and collaboration. This panel will introduce risograph printing and give a pragmatic overview of its technical aspects, while discussing specific aspects of the process through a show-and-tell of diverse risograph printed books. Because risograph printing is easily learned (including by non-printers), the method can become a catalyst for collaboration, and a conduit for experimental, hybrid, and a practical form for publishing. The Risograph can serve as a fulcrum to intersect practices, and as an imprecise, imperfect printing method, it supports experimentation and chance.

Session 2: 
Saturday afternoon, January 5, between 1:30 pm and 3:15 pm

TRACK 1 - The Historical Photobook: Examples, Conventions, and Extensions
Co-moderators: Molly Kalkstein and Joan Lyons.

In this session, we will discuss examples of historical photobooks and “photobookworks” ranging from the traditional to the experimental, and spanning decades of photographic and artistic practice. In keeping with the theme of this year’s meeting, The Photographic Artists’ Book, we invite participants to consider the history of book production and design as it relates to our understanding of photography, and to join us in a conversation about how these works relate to artists’ books more broadly.

Although photobooks may sometimes be associated simply with glossy monographs, there is a long and robust history of thoughtfully designed photographic books that engage both with the particular format of the book, and with the singular characteristics of the photographic medium. Some scholars have even argued that books are in fact the optimal way to view photographs, thanks to their intimate scale, portability, and their suitability for presenting complex and evocative sequences of images.

Some practitioners have also circumvented traditional means of publication to produce artists’ books that use photography for all or part of their content. We will look in particular at such photobookworks produced during the 1960s and 1970s, and at the ways that artists have incorporated photographic images into books, often along with texts and other media.

TRACK 2 - The Visual Literature (and Poetics) of Photography
Co-moderators: Kate Albers and Steve Woodall.

This session will take up the elusive interplay between text and image in a range of photographic books, from historical to contemporary. Dwelling on our favorite examples as case studies, we will look at a variety of forms, from novels that incorporate snapshots, to cinematic narratives built on photographic plot, to poetic accumulations of word and image. In our era of quick visual communication, a time in which the individual and cultural value of photographic chit-chat has never been more widely felt, it is worth asking about the opposite: How does visual narrative emerge, and when does it become literature?

TRACK 3 - Printing Photographic Images Using Letterpress (in two parts):
Co-moderators: Rebecca Chamlee, and Barb Tetenbaum.

Beyond Halftone: New Methods in Continuous Tone Letterpress; Rebecca Chamlee
Continuous-tone images are characterized by gradual transitions between shades and colors and have frustrated letterpress printers for decades. The need for the traditional halftone screen often produces coarse prints, difficult registration and color issues.

Rebecca has extensively explored the possibilities of letterpress as a means for producing successful continuous tone prints. Slides show different approaches to achieve innovative results, shown in chronological order from 2011–2019 that illustrate the development of processes to achieve detail, realism and sensitivity to the source material.

Topics include choosing imagery, image capture possibilities, file preparation for photo polymer plates and strategies for printing in tight registration.

Using Photographic Half-tone Engraved Plates for Letterpress Printing; Barb Tetenbaum.
Barb will speak about the use of the half-tone engraved plate as a solution for letterpress printing photographic images onto paper. Historic background about this process will be covered along with contemporary uses and studio tips gleaned from personal experience.

TRACK 4 - Print-on-Demand Clinic: Ways to Hack the Print Restrictions of Digital POD.
Co-moderators: Clifton Meador and Philip Zimmermann.

In this track, Clifton Meador and Philip Zimmermann describe ways (and show examples) of various ways that artists’ book makers can use devious and not-so-devious ways of getting around some of the format and material restrictions of such companies as Lulu, Blurb, Spoonflower, and MagCloud. Printing two-up, printing extra pages so that company logos can be ripped out, printing bookcloth with POD service and how to use it, removing saddle-stitch staples and hand sewing signatures, plus custom covers (with special materials) substituted for the stock POD originals, and much more. Many examples will be shown.

Participants will be actively encouraged to bring works in progress for suggestions and options for using POD services.

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