PHOTOBOOK RESEARCH

My research I started from XIX century. I decided to introduce a couple of very first photo books and have a look at these from present time. What is arguably the first photo-book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843–53) was created by Anna Atkins. The book was released as a partwork to assist the scientific community in the identification of marine specimens. The non-silver cyanotype printing process worked by pressing actual specimens in contact with light-sensitive paper; hence the word “impression” in the book’s title.

Detail of title page of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions

Detail of title page of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions

Sir John Herschel, a friend of Atkins and Children, invented the cyanotype photographic process in 1842. Within a year, Atkins applied the process to algae (specifically, seaweed) by making cyanotype

A cyanotype photogram made by Atkins which was part of her 1843 book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions

A cyanotype photogram made by Atkins which was part of her 1843 book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions

photograms that were contact printed by placing the unmounted dried-algae original directly on the cyanotype paper.” Atkins self-published her photograms in the first installment of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in October 1843. Although privately published, with a limited number of copies, and with handwritten text, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions is considered the first book illustrated with photographic images. Eight months later, in June 1844, the first fascicle of William Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature was released; that book was the “first photographically illustrated book to be commercially published” or “the first commercially published book illustrated with photographs.” Atkins produced a total of three volumes of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions between 1843 and 1853. Only 17 copies of the book are known to exist, in various states of completeness.

Cover of The Pencil of Nature, 1844

Cover of The Pencil of Nature, 1844

The next book I would like to bring on is: The Pencil of Nature (1844–46) was produced by William Henry Fox Talbot, who had invented the Calotype photographic process in 1839. Although significant as the first negative/positive photography process, the Calotype was also envisioned as a commercial prospect for the reproduction of images in books through mass publication. Anticipating commercial success, Fox Talbot established purpose-made printing premises in Reading to carry out the reproduction of his book. The Pencil of Nature was released in six parts between 1844 and 1846, to an initially promising list of private subscribers whose numbers dwindled, causing the premature termination of his project.

The 24 plates in the book were carefully selected to demonstrate the wide variety of uses to which photography could be put. They include a variety of architectural studies, scenes, still-lifes, and closeups, as well as facsimiles of prints, sketches, and text. Due to the long exposure times involved, however, Talbot included only one portrait, The Ladder (Plate XIV). Though he was no artist, Talbot also attempted to illustrate how photography could become a new form of art with images like The Open Door (Plate VI).

View of the Boulevards at Paris

View of the Boulevards at Paris

From Europe I would like to jump to Asia, exactly to Japan where photobooks didn.t appear as early as in Europe but still surprisingly  early. Photographers such as Shinzō Fukuhara were producing photography books in the 1920s. The postwar years brought low-priced photography books, such as the many volumes of Iwanami Shashin Bunko magazine. From the 1950s onward, most Japanese photographers of note have had photo-books published.

Shinzo Fukuhara, Tokyo 1923

Shinzo Fukuhara, Tokyo 1923

Fukuhara first used a camera in 1896, if not earlier. He went to Columbia University to study pharmacology in 1908, and after his graduation traveled around England, Germany and Italy before settling in Paris in 1913. While there he certainly viewed much art and is likely to have seen various exhibitions of post-Impressionist works; Iizawa sees the influence of artists such as Seurat in Fukuhara’s photographs later collected as “Paris and the Seine”.

Shinzo Fukuhara, Tokyo 1923

Shinzo Fukuhara, Tokyo 1923

After this era and beginning of photography where only analog cameras were in use came era of digital image and internet. Storing digital images in traditional photo albums means printed copies are inserted in the pages of an album. Companies allow users to create personalized photo-books. The resulting book is printed on digital color printers and case bound. Professional printing and binding services offer easy creation of photo-books with professional layouts and individual layout capabilities. Because of the integrated design and order workflow, hardcover bound books with customized pictures and text can be produced very cost-effectively. Currently there are many photo-book software companies who sell licensed solutions to photo labs and print houses so that their customers can create photo-books (and other photo related paraphernalia) with ease. These software solutions are available for free download or online access or through apps. The development of digital cameras and the Internet allowed an enormous production and exchange of pictures, taken from different corners of the globe. There are many possibilities nowadays for users to upload and share pictures (examples are Google and Facebook). However, many people and institutions also publish ‘photo-books’ on the web, by providing the community with a huge web database freely available for everybody.

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