The four of us are working away at issue #4 with the last round of work / image making now in full swing. We meet in ten days and I’m three images behind, which serves me right given that my suggested process for this #4 has turned out more challenging than any of us anticipated.
So in the midst of my procrastinating, I continue to read critical essays on photography and look through photobooks. One of the blogs I follow is that of A.D. Coleman. Amongst new writings he also posts some of his critical pieces from the past published elsewhere over the past 50 years (and in quite a wide and respected range of publications). His current series of posts are of a conversation / interview that took place in 1978 regarding photobooks, and I’m surprised at how little has changed in forty years with the way we interact with photobooks. Specifically I’m thinking of the short shrift we give to the photographic sequences themselves:
The idea that the book itself, or a sequence of photographs itself, is a thing … You can make a sequence into something that is greater than the sum of its parts, and it’s important to experience images in a particular order, in a particular rhythm, and it’s important to sit with it at a certain tempo, slower than that which we are usually used to approaching photographs maybe, to get into the idea of spending an evening with a book of photographs. Experience them at a slow enough rhythm that you could actually get involved in the space between the images, as well as in the images themselves. This is still a foreign thought, even to most people in photography.
Yes, still a foreign thought, and it occurs to me I should also write “mea maxima culpa”. Just before reading Coleman’s observations I had looked through a friend’s copy of “In My Room“, images by Saul Leiter and published by Steidl. And looked through it far too fast. In fairness, the sequence is not Leiter’s own although he had intended to publish something like such a book in the 1970s but didn’t do so (for his own reasons, I surmise). After registering Coleman’s observation, and in essence being reminded of why I love photographic sequencing, I went back again through “In My Room” and much, much more slowly.
So is it harder today to sit with a sequence of images – as opposed to a series of images, which is a different animal entirely? And if interacting and responding to a photo sequence is a learned response, is there something about all this that makes it particularly difficult to acquire and practice?