Friday, 21 December 2012

Gifts, Greetings and Books (of the year)

Oculus © Ken Schles



This holiday month finds me hard at work finishing up two books for Steidl now scheduled for late 2013/early 2014, so I will not be publishing my usual essay of inquiry into the nature of images and photography. However, I do wish to share these recent notices. Doing so seems a fitting celebration for a year-end entry.

There seem to be a plethora of "photobooks of the year" this year. Perhaps this niche of the photoworld is making up for lost time, when photobooks were not recognized as a near perfect vehicle of photographic expression. It's interesting to note the new appreciation for photobooks has come mostly after the explosion of digital media. Digital media has emphasized the material qualities of the book as idea embedded in a form and contained in an object. What digital media tells us is that books as embedded experience are indeed something to value.



This year my co-authored electronic book, Ken Schles' Invisible City: A Digital Resource, has made it onto two end-of-year "best" lists. One, by the sometime FOAM photography critic Taco Hidde Bakker, could be well noted to be a kind of anti-list, He says, "The most surprising 2012 photobook publication to me has been The Photobook Club's free-of-charge e-book: Ken Schles - Invisible City: A Digital Resource, a page-by-page digital representation of the beautifully printed original 1988 book (which is rare and expensive nowadays) embedded within notes around the production of the book, and recent discussions. An excellent example of how valuable older, sometimes overlooked and understudied, photobooks can be lifted out of the shadows and be studied in a public realm beyond the traditional library. But I encourage you to read more, as Mr. Bakker does have some interesting things to say on photobook-listmania. And I'll also draw your attention to Martin Brink's site, which is totally devoted to the bourgeoning phenomena of digital photobooks. There he places Ken Schles' Invisible City: A Digital Resource in his Top Digital Books of 2012. Available for the iPad and for computers and other digital readers in an enhanced pdf format. (Please note the pdf version is a very large download due to embedded videos, which stream on the iPad version.)
Not to be outdone, my acclaimed book effort of 2011, Oculus, also made it onto one of the "best photobook" book-lists this year. And this is the second year running on that list's spot! That's what you hope for in a good book: staying power. See Matt Johnston's B*@t of 2012. And you can take a look at his entry from last year here.



Oculus, which Melanie Light in a round-up of significant books of the season by Le Journal de la Photographie called, "a unique book that will speak to Every Man at every level...beautifully crafted ... deeply satisfying ...This fourth book marks Ken Schles as a true master of his art and culture maker of the highest caliber." I would like to offer a signed copy of the book free of shipping charges in the US. And I also offer the limited edition slip-cased copy for a reduced rate world-wide before a January 1st price increase. Those of you in Europe, I encourage you to buy the book from my beleaguered publishers, even if their distributor, Idea Books, is mistakenly telling people that the book is sold out.

And as for staying power, Invisible City will be celebrating its 25th anniversary of publication in 2013. This week, my book Invisible City, shares Photo-Eye's weekly auction with first editions by Robert Frank (The Americans), William Klein (Moscow) and Ed Ruscha (Then and Now). Eric Miles calls Invisible City, "Perhaps one of the greatest portrayals of nocturnal urban life of the 20th Century, certainly keeping equal company with Brassai's Paris de Nuit." Watch the full presentation, Invisible City comes in at the 3:10 mark. The auction only has two days left (as of this writing), and the estimate on the book is one of the lowest I've seen. So get your ass over there if you'd like to bid. Invisible City was exhibited by the Museum of Modern Art and listed in Auer and Auer compilation of significant photobooks, but you can learn all about it for free with the aforementioned Ken Schles' Invisible City: A Digital Resource.

Steidl will be reprinting Invisible City, and schedules it for the fall 2013/spring 2014 catalog. To kick-off the 25th anniversary year, I will be having a five-month exhibition of the work at the Center for Photography in Berkeley, California, run out of Berkeley's School of Journalism. It will be the first time I've exhibited the work in the United States in 17 years. The exhibition opens January 15th and runs through May 1st, 2013. I've made all new prints for the show, working from scanned negatives. They are the best prints I've made of the work and those scans were the foundation of the coming reprint by Steidl. The work just arrived in California and I'm excited to be showing it again.
And if you can read simplified Chinese, do catch my interview on digital photobooks and the use of new media in the January issue of Photoworld, one of China's largest photo magazines.
Season's greetings, and best wishes for the coming year!

Ken Schles

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