Unboxing ‘The “Public” Life of Photographs’

Back in August, MIT Press ran a 35% off special on all photo books to celebrate Camera Day, and I picked up 5… Four arrived straight away, but the fifth wasn’t even published yet.

With essays from Joel Snyder, Geoffrey Batchen, Vincent Lavoie, Mary Panzer, Olivier Lugon, André Gunthert, Nathalie Boulouch, Heather Diack, and Sophie Hacket, if I didn’t have a reading list for a senior seminar in Photography already, The “Public” Life of Photographs by Thierry Gervais (ed.) should have it covered.

I haven’t read any of it yet, but I was stuck by Étienne Carjat’s Woodburytype of Baudelaire: even via 21st century Wikipedia reproduction, the image is haunting, and I could almost reach out and, I don’t know, play a game of ‘I’ve got your nose!” with that honker of his, but his cloak and tie look almost painted. The reproductions in the book are of good quality, and they cover a long history: Woodburytypes were the predecessors of halftone, and there are discussions of exhibition practices throughout the 20th Century.

The book came out of a symposium at the Ryerson Image Centre at Ryerson University earlier this year, and all that makes me wish I was still in school, or a part of a school where stuff like this went on, and could participate in things like that. All praise and thanks be to God, there are symposia at the masjid from time to time, and with His guidance, I’ll get involved in some of those, but they’re a bit different than the heavy, heady symposia and lecture series at universities, especially focused stuff like the Ryerson put on.

It’s going to be a fun read, and God willing, I’ll get off the Netflix and into some of these textbooks!

Gervais, Thierry (ed.). The “Public” Life of Photographs. Cambridge: MIT Press. 2016.

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