Photo-book research

Photo-book research

I have put off doing a book as I am not particularly ‘crafty’ or someone who would enjoy constructing ‘flat-pack’ furniture, but my tutor is keen on these as are some of my peers. I will construct a book for A5. ‘The Photobook: A History Volume I-III’ by Parr and Badger have been my starting point (Parr, Badger, 2004; 2006; 2014). My tutor showing me several on Skype. I am going to document my learning from my research rather than review the the books that I have read. There are descriptions of how I have applied this knowledge in ‘Preparation’ for A5 in my learning blog.

“A photobook is an autonomous art form…the photographs lose their photographic character as things ‘in themselves’ and become parts, translated into printing ink, of a dramatic event called a book” (Parr, Badger, Page 7, 2004 – Quoting Ralph Prins)

What criteria should there be for a photo-book?

“Firstly it should contain great work. Secondly, it should make that work function as a concise world within the book itself. Thirdly, it should have a design that compliments what is being dealt with. And Finally, it should deal with content that sustains an ongoing interest. (Parr, Badger, Page 7, 2004 – Quoting John Gossage)

I think this is helpful and a challenge. I have a tendency to produce too few images but I need enough to select images that are pertinant to what I want to communicate. My intended design of some medical notes for A5 may compliment but may not.

Parr and Badger have a very useful framework or criteria for what makes a good photobook;

  • Ambiguous – mine is in part
  • Nuanced – mine is in part
  • Function as a ‘concise world’ and not necessarily as an ‘objective reality’ – (quote from John Gossage in Parr and Badger, 2014). I think that my A5 works as a whole.
  • The design will complement what is being dealt with’ – Yes, I think so
  • ‘Layered’ or a collaged photobook. I can see the photobook having a ‘Notes’ insert with diary text and images as a guide to understanding the main images.
  • Be ‘about something.’ It is.

There are too many books to comment on in these volumes but in Volume III they speak about contemporary personal books, such as those produced by Sophe Calle and Rinke Kawauchi. More in my blog.


Parr, M, Badger G (2004). The Photobook: A History Volume I. London, Phaidon.

Parr, M, Badger G (2006). The Photobook: A History Volume II. London, Phaidon.

Parr, M, Badger G (2014). The Photobook: A History Volume III. London, Phaidon.