Announcement: A book is born
Why tthere’s more to photography than Ansel Adams
Kath Weider-Roos is the Creative Arts Producer at A&D. She snaps photos and asks questions.
After a prolonged labor, our colleague and friend Rebekah Modrak has birthed a great and heavy book! (It’s 2.6 pounds and 560 pages, to be precise.)
Reframing Photography: Theory and Practice is Rebekah’s response to a challenge – to create the most relevant, comprehensive, all encompassing guide to photography ever – a dream book, in other words.
Except this book is not really about photography in the usual sense of the word. “When someone says ‘photography’ I think of guys in vests talking about lenses,” she says. “This book is really about photo-based arts in the widest possible sense, so we include things like zoetropes, flip books and performance art as well as other artists who wouldn’t necessarily label themselves as “photographers.””
Rebekah has been working on this text for... well, a long time. “I’ve been telling people it’s been an eight year project, for, hmm... I think the past three years.” She seems both elated and fatigued, incredulous even. The book is done.
It turns out it was never Rebekah’s intention to write a book on photography but rather, this is one of those “careful what you ask for” tales. Here’s how it happened:
"I was teaching photography in the Department of Art at Ohio State University when a publisher came to visit the school. My colleagues and I were complaining to her about the texts that existed for photography. Most of the available technique books seemed so out of date. They covered basics like lighting, lenses, tripods, exposures, etc. but they all assumed that the photography you’d be practicing would be print based and the examples they would give were usually documentation-style photos. From a text-book perspective, it was like photography got stuck in the 40s and 50s. There’s more to photography than Ansel Adams!”
So, as a teacher, she supplemented the technical texts with essays and other readings, so students would be stimulated to expand their thinking about what photography could be. This was a problem because, as teachers, she and her colleagues were also trying to instill the idea that theory and practice should not be separated.
So the publisher invited them to write a proposal for their ideal classroom book. Little did she know then that she would be the person writing it, along with her colleague Bill Anthes. It reminds me of how my father-in-law used to say, “ I always thought it was my dream in life to open a crepe restaurant. And then I realized I just wanted to eat them.” It’s kind of like that.”
Turns out it takes a long time to write the ideal guide to photography. Rebekah explains in the forward to the book:
We fantasized about our ideal book. It would integrate theory, history, and practice. And it would reveal a broader range of possibilities in the meaning of the word “photographic.” After all, what’s so exciting about photography is its omnipresence. Photography isn’t just Adobe Photoshop or a print. It’s about actions involving looking. It’s the act of reproducing an image an endless number of times. It’s about questions of truth and authenticity. It’s about pausing something that has life and movement so that we can watch it when it’s still. It’s about creating movement through fixed images. It’s about the play of light and shadow. It’s about finding photography in architecture and landscape, in design, in science, in everyday acts, and in making connections with the larger world.
So the book includes essays and work featuring performance artists, billboard activists, installation artists, artists who are using staining, rubbings, collage, etc.
How-to techniques cover the usual stuff about lenses, digital and film-based camera features, and exposure, but also give instructions and schematics for pinhole cameras, zoetropes, shadow puppets, cell phone cameras, scanners and photocopiers, light-box construction, book arts, web-based portfolios, image transfers and whew, much, much more. Did I say this book was comprehensive? No wonder it took eight or eleven or really god knows how long to make since Rebekah herself has lost count.
I love the photos she uses for lighting examples, featuring Sarah Buckius:
Announcement: and, a website is born!
The website for the book was a project in itself. It features over 50 video interviews with artists, a comprehensive resource guide with image archives and a resource with hundreds of artists using photography, a blog roll, tutorials and more. We also posted a series of Rebekah’ s DIY tutorials on the PLAY website, so check them out.
The book is out in the UK and is now listed for pre-ordering in the U.S. on Amazon.com. Order yours today - and congratulations, Rebekah!
(Already, the book has been chosen as the Top Title in English on www.deastore.com, Italy's biggest Amazon-style website. Is that Vanna White?)