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A Closer Look -- The Dutch Photobook

The Dutch Photobook
A little studying on the subject of photobooks will reveal quite quickly that the Netherlands has a solid reputation for producing some of the finest examples of the genre. Our yearly Best Books lists always contain a healthy Dutch contingent, our 2011 list featuring two books by both Anouk Kruithof and Erik Kessels and two from publisher Willem van Zoetendaal, among other Dutch photographers like Misha de Ridder, Karianne Bueno, Vivian Sassen and Paul Kooiker. Other years reveal similar results. It's no surprise that early in their recent series of books on photobooks Aperture would dedicate a volume to Dutch offerings. Laid out similarly to Aperture's other 2011 publications on the subject, Photographic Memory and The Latin American Photobook (and also Behind the Zines, a like-minded survey on self-published photobooks from German publisher and designer Gestalten) The Dutch Photobook is more ambitions than a simple reference book, providing light analysis and history of its subject by Frits Gierstherg and Rik Suermondt, along with other contributing authors.

from The Dutch Photobook
from The Dutch Photobook
The book is divided into six sections -- The Dutch Landscape: From Topography to a New Nature, Forever Young: Cult Books about Youth Culture, Roads to Tomorrow: From the Industrial Era to the Network Society, Wanderlust: Travelogues and Engaged Foreign Reportages, The Magic of the City: From City Branding to Metropolitan Scenario, The Autonomous Photobook: From Art to Visual Culture. Each section opens with an introduction about the classification and is followed by photographs of the book-object itself and a short description giving context for those unaware of its history, or who need a refresher. Each featured book is also accompanied by complete bibliographical information, including all designers and the printer. The presentation of the books themselves are done in a manner to capture the physicality of the object, and are represented with an image of the cover and three -- sometimes more -- shots of interior spreads. The book ends with a fantastic visual index that gets both a bit silly and more delightful as it goes on, the book covers represented as little thumbnails arranged in a timeline, alphabetically by photographer's name and then by graphic designer, then by physical size of the book and by print run.

from The Dutch Photobook
from The Dutch Photobook
The increasing number of books on photobooks have lead some to speculate on the ultimate purpose of books like these, but they are undoubtedly a good resource for many. The book's introduction places some of the Dutch photobook's reputation on the collaborations between photographers and designers, who between 1945 and 1968 shared a single trade union, allowing for, as the introduction puts it, "cross-pollination," and starting a tradition of designer/photographer partnerships that continue to yield impressive results. As someone who is often just as interested in the design of a book as the photographs it holds, The Dutch Photobook is an eye-opening resource; innovate design comes across well even limited to a handful of page spreads. It is both a fascinating and inspiring book. -- Sarah Bradley

Purchase a copy here

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