As part of the Ulster Festival of Art & Design at Ulster University, I dropped in on a 30-minute photobook lab. Inside a pop-up style workspace on the ground floor of the Belfast campus were a few tables strewn with miscellaneous books, magazines and newspapers.
The objective was to create your own photobook with these random objects.
It reminded me of David Campany’s article, “So what is a photobook?”, published in Source magazine, in which he discusses the relatively recent development of the term ‘photobook’ to describe publications where the photograph is the main subject, not just books with photos in them:
“What chancer would dare try to coin the term ‘wordbook’ to make something coherent of all books with words in them? But here we are. The field needs a name and until we find a better one we’re stuck with ‘photobook’.”
So I started with a prepared, stitched orange covered A5 booklet. Grabbed a few publications and tore out images that stuck out for one reason or another.
Found the aforementioned source article and knew that would be my cover image.
I stalled on my editing process — like the black thread holding my booklet together physically, what theme could I weave through my eclectic selection of images?
Among my pile was a small publication, Favourite Irish Proverbs. Folksy expressions were juxtaposed with calm and cute images of idyllic countryside and heartwarming poses of people. It is a type of item that one gets as a wee gift for one’s auntie who admires the quaint.
I decided to subvert it, by substituting some of the expressions with more insightful images. Or at least to cause a double-think on the ordinary. Here, the conceptual artist Barbara Kruger came to mind.
The result is nine images with nine Irish proverbs.
Concluded with an index pulled from a world atlas.
So what is a photobook? I don’t know. But I’ve made my first one.