I am a huge fan of the website “COVERING PHOTOGRAPHY” and the gems it offers (to say nothing of the research potential to identify great graphic designers to add to your mailing list!). This exhibition was first shown in Boston, and has been on view in Syracuse, the alma matter of Karl Badel who is the mind behind www.coveringphotography.com and the exhibitions.
When Susan kae Grant and I were guest speakers on campus at Light Work this past November, we had the pleasure of meeting Peter D. Verheyen, librarian and Department Head, Preservation who is the SU Library (and beyond!) specialist on Book Arts. Peter launched the Book Arts Web (www.philobiblon.com) which is not to be missed. Peter was key in bringing “Covering Photography” to Syracuse; if you are anywhere near, GO!!
From the original press release:
“From January 19th through April 30th,2010, Syracuse University Library presents the exhibition, Covering Photography: Imitation, Influence and Coincidence. This display of books and book covers was conceived and curated by Karl Baden, a photographer and Fine Arts faculty at Boston College.
Since 2001, Baden has been constructing a comprehensive history of photography through volumes of fiction and poetry with important, well-known photographs on their covers. To date, he has assembled more than 2000 books, representing the work of more than 350 photographers. Much of this project may be accessed online at http://www.CoveringPhotograpy.com.
For Imitation, Influence and Coincidence, Baden investigates a new facet of this concept by presenting several dozen books whose cover illustrations are in some way derived from well-known images in photographic history. His concerns in this instance involve the larger question of how ‘high art’ is absorbed, processed and regurgitated by popular culture, either through direct imitation or by stylistic influence. In the exhibition, Baden compares a reproduction of each ‘source’ photograph to a comparable book cover image, to not only suggest the influence, but to indicate how the image was altered by the process of translation. Sometimes the connection is quite obvious; an instance of blatant appropriation. In other cases it is more a question of the designer or illustrator being subtly, perhaps even unconsciously, influenced by a particular photographer or photograph. Finally, there may be no direct, or even indirect, connection, but rather, for lack of a better term, an ‘intelligent’ coincidence; ie, an idea or visual trope that is part of the collective cultural consciousness, and manifests itself in various ways by groups or individuals who have no obvious connection to each other. By comparing book cover art to the photographs from which they are, or may be, derived, Imitation, Influence and Coincidence poses the questions: How far can this concept of influence be stretched before it breaks? How is visual syntax processed by culture, and when does influence end and coincidence begin? This exhibition prods the viewer to consider these questions and come up with an answer of his or her own.”