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B-B-B-Books: Wikiland, Gingerbread Monument, Blackdrop Island and 581c

B-B-B-Books has produced a number of fascinating publications. A collaboration between photographers Klara Källström and Thobias Fäldt, designers 1:2:3 and graphic designer Marika Vaccino Andersson, B-B-B-Books works to find a convergence between photography, text and design. All of their publications are notably great examples of this, photography books whose forms both enhance and enrich the content. Though none of these publications are particularly unusual or outlandish in form, each contains subtle and thoughtful reimagining of what a book is. It is a self-reflective understanding of book-art that makes each of these volumes more than the sum of their parts, rewarding in-depth viewing and rereading. Copies of Wikiland, 581c, Gingerbread Monument, and Blackdrop Island are currently sitting on my desk, and the collaborative photographic team of KK+TF (Klara Källström and Thobias Fäldt) have a new book coming out later this spring, Europe, Greece, Athens, Acropoliswhich, judging from the currently published volumes, will be equally intriguing.

From Gingerbread Monument

Gingerbread Monument was the first publication from this crew, a collection of images from Källström mostly taken in her native Sweden. The images are varied, though most focus on people — some mundane in subject matter, others stunning in composition and color. Opening the gold-stamped cover and black-brown end papers, one encounters high-gloss pages, the images themselves varnished to a sheen resembling new prints from a one-hour photolab. Flipping through, one frequently encounters a page without image, though those pages can’t exactly be described as blank — the area that would have held the image is varnished, giving them a pale grayness. Roman numerals appear at the bottom of each page, also varnished, and giving off a slight shine. The book is divided into three parts, the first containing Källström images, the second, an index of the pages of the book printed on pink paper, and finally a series of poems by Viktor Johansson that were inspired by photos in the book. The index provides a welcome reference for the poetry, allowing the reader to link the image and poem quickly without having to flip through the entire book -- as do the two ribbon markers. There are still a number of mysteries in this book for me — the double pages of black and white finishing out the index section among them. I am perhaps heading down the rabbit hole of design, but I see a number of allusions to Polaroid photography, from the dimensions of the images, their placement and proportion of the borders, to the pale gray blank images, about the shade of a developing Polaroid. Purposeful or not, I noticed something lovely when flipping through the book with right-hand pages towards the sun. When moving from an empty image to a photograph on the other side, the sun hitting the page causes it to become translucent, allowing the ghost of the image below to show through. As the page lifts up, the image becomes clearer, until the page is finally turned over, showing the complete image. It’s not unlike watching a Polaroid develop.

from Blackdrop Island

The blank varnished pages in Gingerbread Monument were designed to be placeholders for images that were not yet made, images that were missing in the sequences that would come in a second volume from Källström. This second book, titled Blackdrop Island shares similarities in cover design and size with the previous book, as does the interior design, but the books feel vastly different. The photographs in this book are taken in Japan over the course of two trips, and the book and images play with the concept of digging where you stand, and coming out on the other side of the world. This world has a markedly different feel from that depicted in Gingerbread Monument, containing more street scenes with most images taken at night with a flash, the heavily lit foreground contrasting with the ink-black background. The images are more lonely, while people are frequently present in the frames, they often look away from the camera, lost in their own actions. Duality is a major theme in this book, from the folded pages that are printed with a dark sky-like pattern on the undersides, transitioning when the poetry takes over for the photographs in the later part of the book, the dark printing enveloping those pages, white on the underside, to the black-stamped title and cover, blind stamped on the back. Johansson's poetry is evocative, describing surreal dream-like scenes from a shadow twin world, making the photographs in recollection feel all the more bizarre. I have the urge to flip the book inside out and see what's on the other side. Gingerbread Monument?

from Wikiland

Contained in a brown box quite like an evidence box, Wikiland is printed on newspaper. A joint project of KK+TF, it centers around the trial of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, featuring images of the crowds of press and photographers outside of the Belmarsh court in London, but also a number from Ellingham Hall, the temporary residence of Assange during the trial. While there is a straightforward oddness to the mobs of reporters, the images from Ellingham Hall are more atmospheric, capturing scenes around the estate and small details from within the building, displaying a whole other dimension of weirdness. It’s unclear how the photographers gained access to the home. Assange is seen in one photograph taken from outside facing the large bay windows. Visible in the distance through a window, his is easy to miss, his presence is distant, though it is also felt in artifacts seen around the house — a scarf Assange was widely photographed wearing to court appears tossed on a couch, a mug he held during an interview rests on a coffee table. In form, the book mimics the rag newspapers that thrive on sensationalist events like the trial, but the images present something else altogether — they are subtle, showing both the absurd over exposure of the trial, as well as the mundane strangeness of Assange’s everyday existence. Form and photograph work together to create tension and nuance, a view of the trial that is altogether impossible to achieve in most venues.

from 581c

Parts two and three of a proposed 10 volume project, 581c from Thobias Fäldt is an unusual and at times surreal collection of images describing a site Fäldt calls 581c. Mostly taken at night, the images provide little context to ground the viewer in a specific place, instead, they all relate to a location of Fäldt’s imagination, a place familiar yet that also seems to be outside ordinary life. The book is contained in a smart box printed with a repeating geometric pattern, a circle cut from one side reveals the cover image. The book itself is beguiling in both sense of the word — the geometric stamps overlap to create 581c on the spine and edges of the pages and it is, in many ways, a book without beginning or end. Paging through, images are printed one per side of paper, meaning that after a two image spread, one encounters at least one white page, sometimes two, creating an odd break in the sequence, feeling something like a missing frame from a film. But the most peculiar thing happens halfway through the book — the images start to repeat — though they do so in a different order. This repetition of images achieves several ends. For me, it caused me to realize that there are only so many images that I can take in at once, and while I vividly recalled some images, other struck me as new in their second appearance. It also allows for more pairings, juxtapositions where the images communicate with each other in different ways, or exist on their own. I found that for whatever reason I would remember some images in their pairings more than when they appeared on their own, and vice versa. 581c encourages a good deal of flipping around through the book, a frenetic viewing experience that pulls the viewer out of the typically manner of reading a photo book.

I'm looking forward to spending some time with Europe, Greece, Athens, Acropolis when we get a copy. All of B-B-B-Books' publications are great examples of the book form meeting and enhancing the conceptual elements of a photographic series-- Sarah Bradley

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