Books on Places & Books from Places. An Unbalanced Equation.

logo: THe 2021 Contemprary Artists' Book Conference
tan book with photo on cover
George Nuba ONPAN
book spread open to image of dark skinned shirtless man
Stefanie Moshammer Land of Black Milk
Briony Anne Carlin (2021)
Moritz Neumüller with very short brown hair in a black sweater
Moritz Neumüller

Event Info

Some of the most recognized artists’ books and photobooks dealing with concrete geographical regions or countries were not made by an artist from that place. Rather, we often see a story projected on a place from an outside point of view, and many times, explicitly for the eyes of a foreign public. This leads to uneven power-relations between the viewer (communicated by the authors) and those depicted, the individual photographic subjects and the people represent [e.g., Leni Riefenstahl’s (in)famous book on the Nuba, or, George Rodgers’ less controversial, recently republished book on the same subject(s)]. 

This round table, with an introductory talk, will analyze the problematic relationship epitomized in such books. It will explore the breadth of these photobooks depicting countries including India, Cuba, or Nigeria, prioritizing photobooks made with artistic intent (as opposed to photographic travel books). We will question where these books were published, for what audiences, purpose or context, and how our perspectives have changed now. For example, how do books on Cuba differ, in terms of themes, points of views, dignification (or the opposite) to books published in Cuba? Secondly, it emphasizes how the form of the photobook distinguishes these projects from more general discussions of the Othered gaze in photography. While standalone images may be reinterpreted over time, photobooks are self-contained and self-historicising through their design and production. Images are materially bound to the words and attitudes embodied within the book at the point of its publication, which can then be transported all over the world, making them powerful tools for cultural communication, and miscommunication.

Founded in 2008, CABC has been a long time programing partner of Printed Matter’s Art Book Fairs. This year CABC will be presented as part of Printed Matter’s Virtual Art Book Fair.

View the recording of this session here:

For more information about CABC and other conference sessions click here.

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