Thematic History & practice of the photo-essay & photo book (2019-2020)

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History & practice of the photo-essay & photo book
3- day seminar with Frits Gierstberg
16 October, 13 and 27 November 2019

Josef Koudelka (Morovia, Tsjechië 1938) - EXILES

Why are so many photographers and visual artists making photo books nowadays? Still images on paper? Hasn’t the book become obsolete in the digital age? The photo book is as old as the medium of photography itself. It once started with albums containing real photographic prints, then an industry of photographic illustrated books saw the light.

Ata Kandó — I shall use my time – Special edition book

Once photographs could be printed together with text, by the end of the 19th century, the photo book as we know it now came on the market. However, not all books with photo’s are real photo books. We will look into the history of so called ‘authors’ books’ in the Netherlands. These are books that have one or two authors who are fully responsible for their creative and innovative content and design. We will look into the structure of books, narratively and montage, relationships between image and text etc. and what used to be called the ‘photo-essay’, but what today is called ‘visual storytelling’. After the exploration of historical highlights, we will arrive in the 21st century and look at books that were created when the Internet was already in full power. The photo book is experiencing a ‘renaissance’ and it seems it has entered a new, experimental phase in history. We will try to understand why, and how, and see if there are ways to be even more experimental.

Wednesday, 16 October 11:00 - 17:30
11:00- 13:00: The Dutch photo book in the 20th century.
Presentation and discussion (WdKA, large project space)
We then move to the Nederlands Fotomuseum (Wilheminakade 332)
14:00-15:30: Ed van der Elsken was a prolific photographer and photo book maker. We visit the exhibition and study a selection his books.
16:00-17:30: Visit library of the Nederlands Fotomuseum
Assignment: pick one historical or one contemporary photo book that you find of interest, inspiring or conceptually strong. Find out why and present your analyses to the group on 14 November. See to it that the presentation doesn’t exceed 7 minutes, make it convincing and use visuals.

Wednesday, 13 November 11:00 - 17:30
Venue: Nederlands Fotomuseum (Wilheminakade 332)
11:00- 13:00: Presentations of favourite photo books, followed by discussion.
14:00-15:30: Visit of the museum vaults, photo restoration dept. and digital dept.
16:00-17:30: Discussion: how to make a photo book? Models and concepts.
Assignment: create a concept and a model for your own ideal photo book. No objections to using a self-built camera!

Wednesday, 27 November 11:00 - 17:30
(Tbc: we will visit a Rotterdam printing plant)
Venue: Nederlands Fotomuseum
11:00-13:00: Presentations of models and concepts.
14:00-15:30: Presentations of models and concepts, discussion.
17:00-17:30: Conclusion and round-up.

Reading list:

  • Cataloge QUICKSCAN NL#02 (Nederlands Fotomuseum 2016, esp. interview with Hans Gremmen)
  • F. Gierstberg and R. Suermondt, The Dutch Photobook 1945-present (NAI publishers 2012)
  • Bruno Ceschel, How to make a photobook; see also: