How I’ve Used Folded Books in Photography
The arts centre I used to frequent on Friday mornings began running a series of short courses on bookbinding, and at the time I was keen to experiment with new ways to present images for my degree work. So I signed up for ten hours of classes on folded book forms. They were run by Susan of Bound by Hand in Dorset, who has a truly calming presence; exactly what I needed by the end of the week.
I’ll be posting a lot more on how to create these books for yourself, so if you want to know when that happens then follow and be the first to know!
We looked at the technical aspects of making these books – finding the direction of the grain in paper, materials that could be used, folds and terminology. Susan showed us beautiful examples of artist’s books, zines, accordion and flag books. We made examples of all of them, and talked through ideas for our own work and how these folded books could be used for presentation.
For me, the various accordion books (accordion, snake and meander) have been the most useful in terms of photography, although I can see how the hot dog booklet (zine) and flag books could be used too.
Although it seems almost too simple, I particularly like the plain accordion book. When I really thought through the potential it has, it surprised me that I don’t see it more often, especially in the context of children’s books.
If you wanted to you could use the format to tell two different stories in the same book, and on reflection I realise that that is a powerful device. The information across one side can be accessed sequentially or it can be seen all at once. For me, that turns that format of book into a potential display making it perfect for images.
When it’s in their hands there’s no control over how your audience accesses that material, but that means that there is more potential for each individual to experience something slightly different, especially if you were to use a meander or snake which is less intuitive to handle. Text could help the user to make sense of the way you would like the material to be seen, but it doesn’t provide a certainty.
One of my degree pieces was an accordion book. This was called ‘Languages of Light’, and was based on messages given to women by the church. I chose an accordion format because I wanted the option to display all the messages together; I think what I wanted to say was more powerful that way.
I also used this format for a book of Polaroid emulsion lifts. The lift is on one side, the rescued negative on the other, and the pages are sewn together with thin red cotton so that they break easily.
By their very nature emulsion lifts could be seen to represent fragility and individuality – each polaroid is an individual. The sewing adds to the sense of fragility and perhaps introduces a feeling of tension about breaking the book (which is inevitable).