— 10×10 Photobooks

About Bruno Ceschel’s selection for the 10×10 Reading Room:

Don’t we all need to materialize a narrative of our lives? Don’t we all succumb to the narcissistic pleasure of making history? Such a story is endlessly amended, censored, updated, overwritten, rediscovered. At times, we are forced, urged or encouraged to freeze it. To package it for posterity.

Photography is certainly our time’s favorite tool to frame and fix a history. With its misleading objective allure and its undeniable accessibility, both in terms of making and reading, photography is a default means for such a process. Family albums, Flickr diaries and Facebook galleries are just some of the many incarnations of such relentless efforts. Every day we are asked to choose what photographs to post, veto, tag; to assemble our identity (i.e., how we like ourselves and others to see us) on many digital social platforms. Sometimes such a copy and paste endeavor is time well spent — an exercise in exploring and possibly understanding ourselves.

Artists too have used photography for such history-writing and identity-constructing exercises. And these investigations have even taken the somewhat unsurprising form of a book. What other support can offer such intimate consumption? Artists have done so with uncompromising honesty (think of Larry Clark or Nan Goldin), wit (Edward Ruscha) and juvenile candor (Ryan McGinley) throughout the history of photobook making in America. In the last decade, this tradition has exponentially increased, in the form of self-published books. Extensions of personal diaries, (sometimes) offering powerful insight into human lives/minds. The following selection of books, part of the Self Publish, Be Happy Collection, show some diverse artists mediations/experimentation of photographic diaries.

Highlights from Ceschel’s selection:

Tim Barber. Mystic Heather and Virgin Snow. (New York: self-published, 2008).
25 x 20 cm. (88 pp).

photo 1 (9) photo 3 (6) photo 2 (10)

Nicholas Muellner. The Amnesia Pavilions. (Ithaca, NY: A-Jump Books, 2011).
Edition of 500. 19 x 20 cm. (200 pp).

RJ Shaughnessy. Deathcamp. (Los Angeles: self-published, 2007).
Edition of 300. 23 x 18 cm. (152 pp).

Bruno Ceschel is a writer, curator and lecturer in photography at the University of the Arts, London. He is the founder of Self Publish, Be Happy (SPBH), an organization that collects, promotes and studies contemporary self-published photobooks. The SPBH collection contains more than 1,000 publications and with an extensive series of workshops, talks and projects the organization has become a platform for a worldwide community of contemporary photographers.

SPBH has organized events at a number of institutions in London (The Photographer’s Gallery, ICA, Whitechapel Gallery) and abroad (C/O Berlin, Printed Matter in NYC, MiCamera in Milan), and most recently published books by artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Cristina De Middel and collector Brad Feuerhelm for the series SPBH Book Club.