Please, Get it Out of the Gutter!

© Sebastien Salgado

I’m a huge photographic book fan. When you come to my house, you’ll be greeted by shelves and shelves of them, collected through the years.
There has been a lot of time perusing the stacks at local stores like Hennessy and Ingalls and Arcana.

Here’s a question to all of the book publishers though……why the heck would anyone want to put a great photograph in a book and split it between 2 pages with critical imagery stuck in the gutter?? (see photo) Yeah, the gutter: that space where the pages meet the binding.

Too many times, an image loses all of its power when it’s center curves in and disappears into the abyss of the gutter.

I know the image above is not presented as it should be. A few years ago, I went to the Salgado exhibit at ICP with all of the prints in full size glory. That woman in the photo may look slimmer, but my mind has to fill in the space on the page in the middle. And I want to keep my mind out of the gutter.

Now in a magazine, you can lay the image flat between the 2 pages. OK, I’ll go for that, also because it’s a disposable image in my mind.

In a hardcover or even saddle stitched tome, when you place too many images across the span of 2 pages, you’ve lost a sale over here. And I’m not going to break the binding to see the image flatter and closer to what the artist intended. Then I’d have to buy another book. Hey….wait a second….is that the idea? Alright, of course it isn’t.

Either make the book bigger, or the image smaller. I know that sometimes in this world of massive prints the only way to see the image detail is to make it a big as possible on the page.

Splitting it up though? No reason.

Ok, it’s just a pet peeve of mine. Anyone else feel that way?
Some of my favorite photographers have done that in books. The Salgado book “Workers” is rife with it. Held off on a purchase for years, till I wanted to reference some of the classic images. Caved in.

Admittedly, after seeing the Andreas Gursky show in NYC, these massive 10ft high prints can never achieve the justice they deserve in a book. And the accompanying catalogue/book could only hint at the physical imposition of the originals. But make the book bigger! Please.

OK, I’m getting off my soapbox now.

Happy Sunday!
Damon Webster


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