The photobook, work of art, collector’s item and witness to the truth.
The photobook lives in a little world of its own. It is never mentioned in Babel, the Swedish television programme about literature, and rarely in the newspaper arts pages. It is seldom seen in book shops or libraries. It is cherished by collectors. And of course it is read and loved by passionate photobook enthusiasts at fairs and festivals. Many of the books in this exhibition have been printed in small editions and were sold out long ago. You can only see them here and now.
In contrast to text-based literature, the design is often just as important as the content. Photographers expend a great deal of effort on the choice of paper, the layout and different printing techniques. Some of them make a box containing booklets and loose sheets of different qualities. Reading this is like experiencing an interactive sculpture. Then there are those who do the opposite; choose a simple newspaper-quality paper, or let the pictures appear here and there in an old telephone directory. The resulting book is like a portable exhibition.
A photobook can be about anything at all. For example, about what the result can be when you irradiate your body with ultraviolet light together with negatives taken from an international picture archive.
In the book Greetings from Auschwitz we see postcards from the best-known place in the world for tragedy tourism. The exhibition takes us to New York’s hiphop scene in the 1980s, or to The Female Fight Club in Berlin. There are diaries, family albums, police mugshots and poetic experiments in colour and form.
Count on taking a lot of time if you want to experience the exhibition to the full. Many of the books are complex, closely guarding their secrets. The narratives and mysteries you discover might not change your life, but they will probably give you insight into things you have never thought about before.
If you are in a hurry, flip through the books and discover all the innovative and creative design solutions.
A good way to approach this exhibition is to start by watching the 20-minute film presenting all the books together with the jury’s citations.