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Book of the Week: Christopher J Johnson

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Christopher J Johnson Christopher J Johnson selects Wolfsburg Diary by Peter Bialobrzeski as Book of the Week.
Wolfsburg DiaryBy Peter Bialobrzeski
The Velvet Cell, 2016.
This week’s Book of the Week pick comes from Christopher J Johnson who has selected Wolfsburg Diary by Peter Bialobrzeski from The Velvet Cell.

"Something has set Peter Bialobrzeski's City Diaries aside from other publications of its kind; and it’s not Bialobrzeski's signature style of a washed out, almost anemic tone, nor the ephemerality or lack of people who (don’t) populate the cities he’s presented (which I’ve marked before, at length, in reviews of Cairo Diary and Nail Houses), but rather it’s the full bleed images that fall open flat with the help of a naked spine, so as to appear on the page like a Google Street View image, but better — leagues better.

First, I should clarify why Wolfsburg has such a strange cleanliness of exterior in its architecture, this haunting modern quality to all of its edifices. Wolfsburg didn’t exist prior to the 20th century — it was, in fact, built to be home to the auto-industry workers who have populated the Volkswagen factories since 1937. It is, more or less, a planned community and, currently, Germany’s wealthiest city and site of the largest auto manufacturing setup in the world. It is also Bialobrzeski’s hometown.

That aside, what’s interesting to me about Wolfsburg Diary as a publication is how we’re seeing fewer and fewer borders in photobooks and artbooks. It reminds me of the transition we saw in bookstores from what we might whimsically call the 'spine-out period' to the 'cover-out period', a direct result of technology, in particular the internet, and how our physical world started to resemble our digital world; with online outlets for books rising — outlets which displayed the covers rather than spines of books — bookstores changed also to resemble a new competitor.

And now we’re seeing another digital effect leak into the physical realm in this move by publications to the full bleed image. Wolfsburg Diary is, strangely, the first in the series where this effect really unfolded for me. Seeing the city of Wolfsburg with its architectural cleanliness: its adroit lines, ordered surfaces and impeccably clean sidewalks and streets (unlike, say, Cairo or Athens — cities built upon their own structures for generations) opened the idea before me like the horizon itself; in the presence of so many hard lines in Wolfsburg’s buildings and designs I noticed the lack of an image border, the essential framing, centuries old, of images and (at one time, even text) within the book form.

Now, experimentation is always in play and we’ve certainly seen our share of full bleed books before, but now with a little encouragement from our online experiences the balance is tipping. The largest consequence of this is that images, particularly landscapes, no longer appear as possessed things, framed by the arbitrary square or rectangle indicative of homo-sapien’s mania to control everything, but rather as images, in the visceral sense, play into the eye: fully open, all their own, frameless. Wolfsburg Diary doesn’t contain the city, but rather annunciates it by leaving shoulder-room for the natural thought that what we are engaging with is our peripheral vision and that the rest of Wolfsburg is just a few steps away."—Christopher J Johnson

Purchase Book

Wolfsburg DiaryBy Peter BialobrzeskiThe Velvet Cell, 2016.
Wolfsburg DiaryBy Peter BialobrzeskiThe Velvet Cell, 2016.

Christopher J Johnson lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is a resident writer for the Meow Wolf art collective and book reviewer for Garth Clark’s Cfile Foundation. His first book of poetry, &luckier, will be released by the University of Colorado in November 2016. He is, as of 2016, Manager of photo-eye’s Book Division.

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