THE FUTURE OF PHOTO BOOKS: Past, Present, and Future

Alberto Giacometti, sculptor, Paris 1958. Photograph (c) Richard Avedon
Vintage Book Dummy (c) Elizabeth Avedon /All Rights Reserved

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor 1957. Photograph (c) Richard Avedon
My vintage book dummy created with scotch tape and paper clips
Book Dummy (c) Elizabeth Avedon
/All Rights Reserved

"What do you think Photo Books will look like in 10 years?"

Read what Flak Photo and Live Books have to say HERE

Andy Adams, of Flak Photo, and Miki Johnson, of LiveBooks blog RESOLVE, have partnered up to organize a huge communal blog discussion on the future of Photo Books! You can read all about it HERE and view contributing Photo Blog posts and find out how to add your own.

What do I think Photo Books will look like in ten years? Considering how fast technology is evolving, I think we can't begin to imagine the form they will take by then. Ten years is light years in technological time. I do think whatever method used to create Photo Books, hand crafted like Raymond Meeks or printed in awesome gravure like Twin Palms, photography books in any form will still have a collectible market. Read Eric Miles interview on Rare Photography Book Collecting.

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I'm designing a book for a Philanthropic Organization as a beautiful gift give-away to their donors. This will be my first foray into the world of print on demand publishing. I've decided on using Blurb. My former photo-eye colleague, Radius Books co-founder, Darius Himes, was lead judge for Blurb's recent 2009 Photography Book Now contest and Flak Photo has partnered with Blurb to feature 25 of the award-winning photographer's books from 2009 as well. I'll post about my first-time experience using their design templates here in a couple of months. My Book Design Website

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The current Book Design software, Quark and InDesign, "have never been easier to create professional pages," but at what cost. I was lamenting the loss of an actual physical book dummy, until I posted my original layouts for "PORTRAITS", published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. I started to wistfully describe what was involved in creating a mechanically correct book dummy and became overwhelmed with how difficult and time consuming it sounded and the text became unmanageably long, so I deleted it. After the exhausting description, I promise never to yell at Quark for crashing my computer again. However annoying, losing a couple of hours of work is nothing compared to just waiting around for a week for the first set of galleys from the Typesetter and Photostats (look it up!) to arrive.

"What do you think Photo Books will look like in 10 years?"
Read what Flak Photo and Live Books have to say HERE

Still Collectible PORTRAITS published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Alberto Giacometti, sculptor, Paris 3.6.58
Photograph (c) 1958 Richard Avedon
/All Rights Reserved
PORTRAITS, Farrar, Straus & Giroux

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, New York City, 4.16.57
Photograph (c) 1957 Richard Avedon
/All Rights Reserved
PORTRAITS, Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Robert Frank, photographer, Mabou Mines, Nova Scocia 1.17.75
Photograph (c) 1975 Richard Avedon /All Rights Reserved
PORTRAITS, Farrar, Straus & Giroux


Nettie Edwards said...

I, for one, certainly hope that they will still be around in some format but I'd be a lot richer if they weren't!

The Artist Within Us said...

The dummy copy is surely a treasure to behold, having been a book designer and knowing that in today's computer age such copies are no longer being made and the closest is a print check copy.

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful work of art.

Warmest regards this holiday season,


hmmmm....certainly food for thought here - my first thought is that i would want nothing to come before my being able to "hold" a book, to touch written words on a page - on a piece of paper that began as a living thing - words that can be felt through the layers of inks - a book that my hands hold, that can lay quietly beside me after i've read, and that whose visual presence transmits such a sense of comfort, of knowing - no, i shall keep my "paper books" always - and hopefully, never have to fall prey to the e-everythings -

The Literary Stew said...

Beautiful photos! I realize myself that I haven't printed a photo in years. They're all in my hard drive. I do miss having albums to look at but it's somehow harder because there are tons of photos to choose from nowadays because of digital photography.

Marla H. Bane said...

"I hope there will still be "real" books and not just digital ones. While I am most definitely a technology person, I also cling to the beauty of the craft of the book - be it literature or art or photography. While I read a lot on my Kindle, it could never replace books that are more than words and I still buy hard copies of ones that are meaningful that I want in my library. And I love the art of book cover illustration. We have a chain of used bookstores in Dallas called Half Price Books and I spent a couple of hours there today in the Art & Photography section looking for treasures - the older, the better, as usually - but not always - the quality is better. It's always an adventure as it's a hit or miss experience. I like Blurb and I think it makes art immediate and affordable and spontaneous. I have Blurb books by Otis Jones, Kenda North and Ellen Tuchman - Dallas artists and friends - that are great. 2 accompanied gallery shows and Kenda's were from trips to Italy. They probably would not exist if not for via a vehicle like Blurb. Technology changes so rapidly so it is so hard to predict what we'll be looking at in 10 years but I hope we have choices and that books do not become cost prohibitive from producing (green issues aside about trees, etc). I just hope that those who will be in their teens and beyond in 10 years will still have an interest in and love for books as we know them and that they will not be something they see in a museum showcase. "

Russ Martin said...

"One of these days, Apple is going to come out with a tablet touch screen computer. It will revolutionize everything and make the Kindle obsolete. It will be like a big iPhone, but do more, better. Everyone will have them, especially students. Books will be published to iTunes to download for free or for a price. Everyone will have hundreds of books in their cloud memory because traditional hard drives won't exist anymore. If there is memory in the computer, it will be flash memory. That is the future. On the other hand, traditional books will still exist and be in demand. People will always want to hold a book, flip the pages, and enjoy the tactile, visual, and sensual experience. "

Paul Kopeikin said...

They will look the same, there will just be a lot more of them.

Giovanna said...

Your work is awesome! I just visited your website and I love it!
I'm following you now :)

Anonymous said...

I wish to express my gratitude for your sharing of valuable and interesting materials.

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Interactive, coffee table, digital, amazing picture quality AND handmade on homemade paper, one of a kind.

Caio Fern said...

Hi Elizabeth !!
i really don't care anymore for this kind of discussion .
this is proved alread to be useless . new tecnologys never exclude the older ones .
here i have every 10 years to listen academics making speechs about the death of painting because of a new medias ( every one wants to kill the painting , hahahh!! ) .
this decade i listened a lot the painting is dead because of the digital images that would substitute all the painting can offer .
now i remembered of the film against digital . that the digital would kill the film , and kill the photography as well and its credibitity because the easy way to manipulate the images .
cds would kill vinnil , and internet would kill music ( today every one is buying vinnils for listening music ).
laptops would be the substitute for printed books . every one would just read on laptops after it get popular .... do you remember this ?

books are fantastic . a colectable object and a real pleasure to handle and see the works on it .
i don't see any threat for its future .
but the new tecnology is very welcome . sure !!
how could poor guys without conections and any oportunitys like me be able to exhibit their works ?
if a "nobody artist" calls now to a publishing company would he be recieved and would they pay attention on his work ?
how many exellent photographers and artists wasn't lost on 20th centure because of this lack of oportunity !!
as the coust in smaller , maybe more people will be able to exhibit their works to the world .
even so printed books will always be the favorite for art lovers in general .

by the way . thank you for this post and beautifull images .

Russ Martin said...

Letting my mind wander a little more, I predict traditional books will become more expensive and of two general types, low quality paperbacks, and high end fine art. Additionally, Most books will be published electronically, but there will be print versions available, for a good price, eg. magazines. At the same time, there will be more titles ... See Moreavailable because it will be easy for authors to create them. So, there will also be more trash on the market. Some people will always want and be willing to pay for quality books though, and there will be those books that are fine art in themselves. I'm thinking of photo books done in 300 line quadtone. A computer screen can never replicate that. But, because most books are not beautiful, but just convey thoughts and information, there is no reason to believe that most will not be electronic. Photographers will also jump on the iconcept of publishing books for free, or minimal cost, to get their work out there. For that reason alone, many photography books will be electronic. Blurb, and other vanity book publishers, could make that option available as soon as the hardware is available.

M.M.E. said...

As a photographer and bibliophile, I really hope they will stay in their old format. You have a lovely blog here and I'm so happy I stumbled upon it.

Fashion Photographer Jerry Avenaim said...

While I am a creator and collector of coffee table books I would find it very disconcerting if they went away. I don't think they would as when the DVD format was released in the 90's movie theaters were screaming bloody murder as they thought no one with a 'home theater' would ever go to the movies anymore.

That proved to be a chicken little ideology from AMC and the likes. According to statistics the movie theater business has grown into even bigger business with multiplex theaters everywhere you turn.

Why? Because at the end of the day, when the lights go down and the curtains part, nothing will ever replace the movie theater experience. And a work of art is not digital, it is tangible.

Fernando Delgado said...

I too am from of the group of visual artists and designers that remember the days of type galleys, stats and mechanical boards. Perhaps, because the process was not only time consuming, but rather expensive, it forced those of us in the design industry to think conceptually and care for type and imagery. Seeing the “dummy” for PORTRAITS, reminds us that while the production technique of the time may seem ancient to some; the concept and design remains timeless and modern even by 21st century standards.

In the print-on-demand age, we must understand the difference between books as disposable promotional material and the volumes that bring forth a cohesive chronology, in partnership with excellent design and intellectual insight. That is the brilliance of each publication that Richard Avedon painstakingly put together.

The important books of today, tomorrow and the future will be those that honor the images, are conceptually sound and ultimately bring to light a body of work that connects with the public in a meaningful way. Technology facilitates, but content transforms, influences and stays with us.

Mary said...

While technological advances have certainly made word processing easier, I think those of us who create things with our eyes and our hands got a great amount of satisfaction from holding a dummy that had been actually cut and pasted.

I have created a few books on Blurb, and while it is relatively easy, it is just lacking in a certain tactile satisfaction. And obviously, the print quality of such creations cannot compete with high end art books.

I hope there will always be a place for beautifully made art books.

P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

what a wonderful Xmas gift. Seeing these is a pleasure and What most appeals about the dummies is the pieced together style. A favourite book of mine is the Avedon-limited book MADE IN FRANCE, notes tape and the like copied and bound into a glorious feast for the eyes.My only regret with your blog is that I can not hold the book, carefully pinch the ends of a photograph and hold it- other than that it is a daily pleasure. GT

ALinkLog said...

Personally I miss too what Elizabeth Avedon mentions while putting books together - and still after 20 years and countless books there’s not much in the world more exciting to see the first proofs for a new book come in, ink on paper… And when you get the first final bound copy hot from the press, well, it’s time to celebrate even if it’s the 50th book that year…