Category Archives: Photobooks

Michael Abrams – Welcome to Springfield

Michael Abrams book Welcome to Springfield uses collected photographs, vernacular images , to tell the story of a fictional place in America.The images look as though they come from a family album (and probably do) – just not the album of one family, black and white, colour, full bleed and small inserts. Images of wallpaper (I think). Some people look happy, others terrifying.  Pictures of rooms are followed by a woman in a red basque, looking out at us seductively. The book can be viewed on vimeo at  Colberg (Colberg, s.d.) describes it as showing ‘the good American life, where the states of undress and awkward are never that far’. Like many books it is now on my reading/viewing list!

© Michael Abrams – from Welcome to Springfield


Colberg (s.d.) Conscientious | Review: Welcome to Springfield by Michael Abrams. At: (Accessed 10/09/2020).

Jim Goldberg – Gene

In Gene Goldberg tells the story of an elderly man who has gone into an assisted living facility. The book includes many of Gene’s old family photos, often surrounded by handwritten comments. The pictures were selected by Gene together with Goldberg and Nolan Calish, and one of the images simply shows piles of images marked GENE’S REJECTS and JIM + NOLAN’S REJECTS.  I immediately start wondering what is in those piles, and what is not being shown. The book goes on to show Gene as he is now, at his chair in the home. The calendar that shows the events he might (or might not) attend. Pictures of Gene with headphones – listening to I music – I wonder what. Goldberg says, ‘He goes somewhere else when he listens to music – a luminal state that knows no age and is timeless’(Goldberg, 2018) . The images that I can see online are limited.  They make me want to see more – but most of all, I want to see those hidden images in the rejects pile. See the rest of the story.

© Jim Goldberg – from Gene


Goldberg (2018) Jim Goldberg’s New Book is a Tender Portrait of Old Age • Magnum Photos. At: (Accessed 09/09/2020).

Time in New England

Time in New England (Strand and Newhall, 1980) is a book by Paul Strand and Nancy Newhall that came out of an exhibition of Strand’s work in MoMA in New York in1945. The book consists of pictures taken by Strand set against the history of New England in a series of pieces of writing chosen by Newhall. It tells the story of New England from 1630 to 1945. The writing contains diary excerpts, fiction, poetry and history. It demonstrates the changes in attitudes towards people, nature and race over the years. Some of the writing is horrific, at least to the modern ear, some is gentle, and some is funny. I particularly liked the information about ‘bundling’ (the process of getting to know someone during courtship by sleeping (mostly) clothes in bed with your incipient partner (p.87), the Diary of the Learned Blacksmith – who reads Arabic, German and Garlic in between shoeing horses (p.121), the poem By the Morning Boat by Sarah Orne Jewitt (p.218) and the almost final piece by W.E.Burghardt du Bois which I will quote as it is particularly pertinent today.

I dream of a world of infinite and invaluable variety; in human variety in height and weight, colour and skin, hair and nose and lip. And far above and beyond this in the realm of true freedom: in thought and dream, fantasy and imagination: in gift, aptitude and genius – all possible manner of difference, topped with freedom of soul to do and be, and freedom of thought to give to a world and build with it, all wealth of inborn individuality. Each effort to stop this freedom is a blow at democracy – that real democracy which is reservoir and opportunity and fight against which is murdering civilisation. There can be no perfect democracy curtailed by colour, race or poverty. But with all, we accomplish all, even Peace (p.248).

The images are all black and white, beautifully composed straight photography. They are interposed between the passages of writing, some link in clearly, such as the nautical images (masts, the sea) with the sea stories (passages from Moby Dick and a disastrous story of a shipwreck). Others have less obvious links. They show the countryside, close-ups of tree bark, houses, churches, and the occasional person. There are leaves and gravestones, local woodcarving (a duck), doors and windows. My favourite (today) is a very calming image of the sky over a small sliver of sea (p. 231).

Stieglitz’s famous description of Strand’s photography “brutally direct. Devoid of all flim-flam; devoid of trickery and of any ‘ism’” still stands today. His images look like what they are. A window is a window, the glass looks like glass, the wood like wood. The images are clear and serene. Calm and quiet. They bare repeated looking, or rather demand it, even so many years after his death and all the changes in style that have come since.

The book is an exemplary example of the use of both words and text to tell a story. The images are not directly illustrative. The words are not simply descriptive. The two together are synergistic – greater than the sum of the parts.


Strand, P. and Newhall, N. W. (1980) Time in New England. Millerton, N.Y.: [New York]: Aperture; distributed by Harper & Row.

Aaron Schuman – Slant

Aaron Schuman’s book Slant (Schuman, 2019) came about from looking at police reports in the local newspaper in a small American town. They varied from the banal: ‘10.13p.m. – A boy peeping into a window at The Boulders fled before the police got there. The woman who lives at the apartment was given advice on how to pull down her shades so no one could look into her home’ to the odd: ‘1.47p.m. – Police were notified by a downtown resident concerned with a neighbour who allegedly is keeping a ”green monkey” as a pet’ to the downright weird: ‘9.51 p.m. – a woman called the police to respond to her North Amherst home after her son placed urine on a hot plate in the shed as part of an experiment in alchemy. The actions of her son are allegedly a violation of a court agreement’. Many of the reports focus on strangers and show phobic leanings (anti- feminism, anti-foreigners, strange accents or sounds, odd things in the sky). They are rarely of anything important and one wonders why the police were ever involved.

© Aaron Schuman

Schuman spent some time trying to think of ways to illustrate these odd statements and eventually came across the work of Emily Dickinson and her use of ‘slant rhyming’ – which is  where the rhymes do not really match, they are close and give an inharmonious sense of sound. She also wrote a poem called ‘Slant’ which starts “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant – Success in Circuit lies”.  Working from this Schuman took a series of photographs in the area that are partially paired with the words, that tell stories, that might be the truth – or might not. The images themselves, black and white and often beautiful also often have something slightly askew, a small boy burning something – but what. A notice for a Bible Study Group – that says Happy Resurrection.  Schuman says he chose black and white for these images as it echoed the “black and white” tone of the police reports.

© Aaron Schuman

© Aaron Schuman

In an interview in the BJP, Schuman says, ‘Slant is about telling the story gradually……it’s the idea that the truth is malleable, ever-changing and diffused in a way……I like the slow burn…..there’s something here, but you’re going to have to find out’ (Pantell, 2019) .

He was also inspired by the book Time in New England by Paul Strand and Nancy Newhall where Newhall searched for texts that reflected New England and the texts and the images were put together to make a complete story (Strand and Newhall, 1980) .

The book is fascinating and shows yet another way of integrating text and images. In this case they hold equal value, but the images do not directly link to the text and the text does not explain the images. Together they tell a story of a place in America, a rather scary place. A beautiful place – but one which clearly has some unusual people residing there.

To see more images, look on his website:

There is a fascinating (and very long) interview on ASX that is well worth reading which explains his thought process in detail (Feuerhelm, 2019).


Feuerhelm, B. (2019) Aaron Schuman: Slant Interview. At: (Accessed 02/06/2020).

Pantell, C. (2019) ‘Parallel Lines’ In: British Journal of Photograohy (7885) pp.68–77.

Schuman, A. (2019) Slant. London: Mack.

Strand, P. and Newhall, N. W. (1980) Time in New England. Millerton, N.Y.: [New York]: Aperture ; distributed by Harper & Row.


Mark Steinmetz

© Mark Steinmetz (with thanks) – from Summer Camp

Mark Steinmetz (born 1961) is an American photographer who spent 11 years working as a photographer in a variety of summer camps. He would take pictures and act as a photography tutor. Out of that body of work came Summer Camp (Steinmetz, 2020) which is a collection of images taken between 1986 and 1997. They were collected into book format in 2019. Steinmetz comments for the book information that ‘certain things never changed …. there isn’t much difference between them in 1990 or 1965’. Despite the pictures being taken over a considerable time they maintain a consistent look, they are all black and white and mainly low key, however, some are portrait and some landscape format. The book tells a story from arrival at the camp, though the daytime activities, to evening to night-time and then departure and saying goodbye. There are no captions – but the story is clear. In most of the images the children are not looking at the photographer, simply getting on with having fun (or not). The book is divided into sections by blank pages, a pause in the story, a shifting mood. The overall feeling is one of wistfulness, of a gentle melancholy. Steinmetz himself had been to summer camp as a child/teenager and notes ‘At summer camp you find yourself in a different, unfamiliar world and you have no choice but to adapt’ (Rosen, 2020). This experience has a undoubtedly influence the images he took and the engaging mood of the book.

Steinmetz has also published another series on American youth – The Players (Steinmetz, 2015). These images are of teenage baseball players and were taken at a similar time to those in Summer Camp. The images have a similar feel, a mixture of awkwardness and bravado, together with the intense involvement in the moment that young people often show.

His other recent book – Carnival (Steinmetz, 2019) – concentrates on the people who are involved in the country fairs, and small circuses that travelled around America. The images were taken from 1982 – 2001 and appear timeless. They capture both the workers and the people there to have fun and show the same ability to be there but not be noticed, to take images that show the life, not the people looking at you. The book tells a story, moving though the day, with people outside the fair to night-time, (to see a range of images from this book see the Guardian article referenced below).

Almost all Steinmetz’s images are back and white. An exception seems to be some of his fashion images, although, even then, the majority are monochrome. They have a timeless feel, a gently told story. Even the images of an airline terminus and a flight remain quiet – a real challenge given the amount of noise in that environment. He is a wonderful storyteller with a gift for being anonymous to those around him.

Reference list:

Carnival: capturing all the fun of the fair across the US – in pictures (2019) In: The Guardian 14 November 2019 [online] At: (Accessed on 22 April 2020)

Rosen, M. (2020) Vintage scenes of life at an American summer camp. At: (Accessed on 22 April 2020)

Steinmetz, M. (2015) The Players. (s.l.): Nazraeli Press.

Steinmetz, M. (2019) Carnival. (s.l.): Stanley/Barker.

Steinmetz, M. (2020) Summer Camp. (s.l.): Nazrali Press.

Research for Assignment 3

When thinking about how to present this assignment I was aware that the brief included you can create as many pictures as you like …. the set should be concise and not include repetitive or unnecessary images. This means thinking about how to reduce a large number of images into a manageable piece of work that tells a story about the group of people I have chosen to work with.

In Short’s book Context and Narrative (summarised in Context and Narrative – Maria Short) she discusses the narrative that one might read in an image and points out that while it might be linear (beginning, middle and end) it does not have to be. The story should hang together, this might be because of use of similar tonal ranges, lighting or format – but might be because of the topic and that you need to be clear about your intention. Exploring the subject over time can end with you changing what you want to say and how you say it. The story may also depend on what order the images are shown in – so do you have control over that if it is important. (Short,2018).

With his information in mind I went and looked over my collection of photobooks to see which ones told a (fairly) concise story. Many that tell a story are long (book length) and involve many more images than I want to use, although this project could easily lengthen to a full book.  However, some of the books were shorter and told a relatively clear story.

 In this I have summarised the stories I read – concentrating on the ways the books and series were presented rather than on the whole import of each book. This is no attempt to do them justice – simply to pull out some information about how and why they were produced in a particular format, and the effect that’s those choices have had.

Julia Borissova white blonde – is telling a story of a place and a time, using a combination of archival images and altered self portraits. On her website it is also shown as single images and a slideshow. The order of the images varies though the sites (book versus slideshow) as does the format. In this case the series depends on the totality of the images, their tones and the feeling they evoke rather than the order in which they are viewed.  (Borissova, 2018) See Julia Borissova – white blonde for more detail.

 Margaret Lansink – Borders of Nothingness-On the Mend – tells about the emotions that were linked with her loss of contact with her daughter and subsequent re-engagement. The book is physically small. The paper is rough and the images low key, black and white with occasional flashes of gold. Little is clear. The order is important as it moves from despair through nothingness to repair and hope. The feel of the book is also important as it is very tactile, rough, and evokes the feelings described (Lansink, 2020). See Borders of Nothingness – On the Mend for more detail.

Bettina von Zwehl – Made Up Love Song – consists of a series of portraits done of the same person over 6 months, set in the same place and with similar light. The variations are minimal, her hair and clothing show subtle changes. The images are shown against a black background opposite a simple statement of the day and time. This is a very simple presentation where you gain from the repeated images showing the gradually increasing intimacy. While a single image is effective, the story gains by the repetition (Chandler and von Zwehl, 2014). See Bettina von Zwehl for more detail.

Robin Gillanders  – A Lover’s Complaint – takes the short Fragments written by Barthes, has them translated in haiku by Henry Gough-Cooper and then interspersed these with still life images, mainly of glass and material, shown as fragments against a dense black background. The haiku are presented 12 to a page, organised alphabetically, other than a final short poem about silence and love. There is no immediate obvious connection between the haiku and the images.  The viewer/ reader needs to make their own links. However, each group of images is linked, variations on a theme. As a whole, they start minimalistically, become more complex, then fade away – following a pattern. The words and the images give equal weight to the story (Gillanders and Gough-Cooper, 2016).

Dayanita Singh – Go Away Closer – is a series of 40 images in a small book. They are all square, and all black and white, and, other than the fact that they all tell about India, those are the only linking factors. Singh says she deliberately does not try to make a narrative but puts images together intuitively. In her work she collects her images into ‘museums’ – which she them changes around for different displays, even with the same exhibition. The work is about a feeling, rather than a story Singh, 2007), See Dayanita Singh – Go Away Closer for more detail.

All these photobooks are really about emotions rather than facts.  They may be based around a story, such as the Lansink’s Borders of Nothingness – On the Mend, or actively avoid a narrative like Singh’s Go Away Closer. In spite of this they all have a clarity about the way they have been put together, an internal consistency. The tonal values are similar, the feeling derived from the images are similar. They are clearly carefully considered. In two, Go Away Closer and white blonde, the order of the images is not crucial, while it has been, inevitably, fixed within the books, it is changed in other formats (a slideshow and an exhibition). These are all fairly short books, although longer than the series I am planning, but they taught me a lot about the type of consistency required to make a book hold together, and, even more importantly, to make the reader/viewer return to it.

I then decided to look at some of my photobooks that do tell an active story, that is about groups of people and what they are doing. These all seemed to be rather longer, and often physically larger – I am not sure about the reasoning for that.

Mark Steinmetz – Summer Camp – is a collection of images taken at American summer camps between 1986 and 1997. They were collected into book format in 2019.  The book is a gentle reminiscence of a past time, although he comments there has been little change in that environment over years. The images are shown in black and white, are varying sizes and formats. However, the overall feel is remarkably consistent. There is a mixture of images that concentrate on the activities and other that concentrate on portraits of the children. See Mark Steinmetz for more detail.

J.A. Mortram –Small Town Inertia – this is a collection of images and  paired stories about people that struggle with their lives in a small town in Britain. It could be (and has been) described as poverty porn – but what makes it stand out is that Mortram lives within the community, has his own personal struggles and is clearly both sympathetic with and understanding of those he photographs, never patronising. The images are all black and white, often harshly lit with marked contrast and shadow. Some are close up portraits, some show the environment, but all concentrate on the people. The book is laid out with an almost full-page image on the right page and the corresponding information including the name and usually a short explanatory passage on the bottom of the left page. This has the effect of concentrating the eye initially on the portrait and only secondarily looking at the words (Mortram, 2017).

Nan Goldin –The Ballad of Sexual Dependency –probably the most famous of all the lifestyle stories, taken very much from an internal position. The book is a small part of the whole work which also includes film, large scale exhibition works and talks. Goldin calls it as ‘the diary I let people read’ in  the beginning essay and virtually at the end of the copy I have ‘a volume of loss, while still a ballad of love’ (Goldin, 2012). The images are harsh with often an odd colour cast. They are not all in focus and are presented with a short title, usually of who and where. Every time I look through it I notice different details. It holds the eye without any pretence at conventional beauty.

I also looked at a variety of short series online, picking them from the links that regularly pop up on my tablet, including Lenscratch, Aperture, BJP, Photographic Museum of Humanity and FOAM. This exercise could actually fill an entire book – so I have just picked out four that really caught my eye!

B. Proud Transcending Love – is the latest series by the American photographer B. (Belinda) Proud. It is about Transgender and Gender Non-conforming Couples in America, who are a mainly forgotten and mistreated group of people. The portraits she shows are of families and couples who are clearly proud to be together. The portraits are formal, in colour, deliberately chosen to represent the full spectrum of the relationships she is describing, and she says ‘This project is about the validity and fluidity of gender expression. The location for each portrait, chosen by the couple in discussion with the artist, is significant and provides the viewer with another level of understanding into the relationship’ (Smithson, 2020a). The portraits are shown with a simple title, some tell the gender/status of the people, others do not. From the website it is difficult to tell if the order is important – overall I suspect not. Each image could be first or last. The importance is in the group as a whole.

Mulugeta Ayene – Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Crash Site – World Press Photo Story of the Year Nominee, – this is not the same as many of the series/stories talked about above as it is a very factual piece of documentary work. However, it shows many of the points I have been thinking about. It is in colour, the images are factual but varied, from wide area shots, to details of the objects collected, to harrowing images of the people involved and those who lost friends and relatives. They are shown with dates and brief explanatory notes. Oddly, the images are not shown in date order, I think this may be to concentrate on the story – but it is then distracting to know the dates. (, 2020).

Bowei Yang – Soft Thorn – is a dream or an illusion that tells the story of a gay boy/man growing up in a Christian community in China. ‘A journey of nostalgia’. It contains a mixture of staged portraits of his friends and slices of the environment, together with still life images. Some are portrait, some landscape but they are all linked by the muted tones and subdued and at times sad atmosphere that pervades the series. It gives a clear feeling of how difficult his teenage years must have been.  I will watch for more work from him – or hopefully an extension of this (Yang, 2020).

Cathy Spence – Crooked Eye – shows a very personal project about a young man, Wesley, her son, who has albinism and visual problems. It consists of a series of heartbreaking portraits which mainly show him facing away from the camera or covering his eyes with his hair. They are high key, in keeping with the subject. At some points they are almost burnt out – but this just emphasises the story. Some are blurred, reflecting on Wesley’s poor vision. Several formats are used but this does not distract from the consistency of the series. The series is highly effective at showing the difficulties of growing up with an obvious difference that few people probably understand (Smithson, 2020b).

What have I learned from all this?

  • You need to know what you want to say
  • You need to be passionate about it
  • You need to be internally consistent to hold the story together, either in colour or size or format or feeling
  • There are as many formats for storytelling as there are photographers
  • The order of the images may depend on the place they are being shown (book/exhibition/slide show online)
  • Black and white is still widely used – especially when the point of the story is about emotions – but not always
  • Precise focus and lighting are not always important (but possibly less so the more famous you are) – but this does depend on what you are showing – Goldin’s Ballad versus Ayene’s work on an air disaster.

Reference list:

Borissova, J. (2018) White blonde. (s.l.): Bessard.

Chandler, D. and Von Zwehl, B. (2014). Made up love song. London: V & A Publishing.

Gillanders, R. and Gough-Cooper, H. (2016) A Lover’s Complaint. Edinburgh, Scotland: Dingle Press.

Goldin, N. (2012) The ballad of sexual dependency. New York, N.Y.: Aperture Foundation.

Lansink, M. (2020). Borders of Nothingness – On the Mend. Belgium: Ibasho

Mortram, J. (2017) Small Town Inertia. (s.l.): Bluecoat Press.

Mulugeta Ayene SOY-DJ | World Press Photo (2020) At: (Accessed on 29 April 2020)

Short, M. (2018) Context and narrative. London ; New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts.

Singh, D. (2007). Go Away Closer. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl.

Smithson, A. (2020a) B. Proud: Transcending Love: Portraits of Transgender and Gender Non-conforming Couples. At: (Accessed on 28 April 2020)

Smithson, A. (2020b) Cathy Spence: Crooked Eye. At: (Accessed on 2 May 2020)

Steinmetz, M. (2019) Summer Camp. China: Nazraeli Press.

Yang, B. (20AD) SOFT THORN. At: (Accessed on 2 May 2020)

Dayanita Singh – Go Away Closer

© Dayanita Singh – Go Away Closer

Dayanita Singh’s book Go Away Closer is described as a novel without words, a tale of opposites, connecting personal losses with collective sadness. The series was originally produced for an exhibition, with the images in museum style display cabinets that could be arranged in a multitude of ways. The secondary production in a small photobook of 40 images has, to some extent, confined them, settled the images into a specific configuration. Singh does not add any text or titles to explain the meanings. In an interview Singh has said that she actively ‘withholds’ narrative information (Rafa, 2013). The images are a selection of portraits, empty interiors, and close ups. Some, like the starting image in the book,a young girl lying on a bed, are acutely personal, other like the ending image of wet pavement, seem distanced. There is no story other than an overall feeling of change and despair, loss and mourning. But I am not Indian. Maybe the images would not read that way to someone from her culture. In an interview or the Guardian Singh says, ‘Go Away Closer is what happens between people: I can’t live with you, I can’t live without you’  and also ‘that there was a more interesting way to edit photographs – not through an obvious “theme” but through what’s going on intuitively or subconsciously’ (Malone, 2013).

Singh has moved from creating fixed exhibitions to what she calls her ‘museums’. These consist of groups of related images that are placed within wooden structures of 30 – 40 images, but these can be changed out for other images, and she may change them even within a single show. The set becomes a reflection of her feelings at the time, not a constant and unchanging one.

© Dayanita Singh

Her online blog (Singh, n.d.) made fascinating reading giving advice to new photographers, details of her thought processes about the development of her museums and writings about her work from others. The letter by Rilke that she quotes gives very pertinent advice to anyone engaged in a creative process, but especially to anyone lacking confidence in their own self worth as an artist.  ‘So, dear Sir, I can’t give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to, the question of whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it. Perhaps you will discover that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what reward might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and must find everything in himself and in Nature, to whom his whole life is devoted.’ (Rilke, 1934).

Reference list:

Malone, T. (2013) ‘Dayanita Singh’s best photograph – a sulking schoolgirl’ In: The Guardian 10 October 2013 [online] At:

Raza, N. (2013) ‘Go Away Closer’, Dayanita Singh, 2007. At: (Accessed on 20 April 2020)

Rilke, R.M. (1934) Letters to a young poet. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Singh, D. (2007) Go Away Closer. Göttingen, Germany: Steidle.

Singh, D. (s.d.) Blog – Dayanita Singh. At: (Accessed on 20 April 2020)


Julia Borissova – white blonde


© Julia Borissova – white blonde

Julia Borissova in White Blonde (Borissova, 2018) is telling a story about Antarctica – she says, ‘though my series I aimed to convey a feeling of he hostile and unfamiliar environment of the South Pole, creating images where the geographic reality give way to the space of dream’. She has used a combination of archival photographs, found objects and self images to explore personal and collective history. The book is short, consisting of just over 20 images. Some are full bleed, some across 2 pages and other overlap each other. They are given consistency by their tonal range, whites, pale blues, greys, beiges and black. The only bright colour (red) is in the additional print sent with the book which shows crimson folded hearts with a portrait of a woman – I assumed it was a self-portrait however now know it is actually part of Borissova’s series Lullaby for a Bride. Most of the images are blurred or overlaid with what looks like ice. In reality Borissova did actually freeze the images to get this effect, ‘to be part of the landscape to express a sense of awareness of time’ (Arena, s.d.). Borissova calls her self-portraits ‘icebergs’. The overall feeling is of age, confusion, and exhaustion in a strange landscape. It is not clear whether or not Borissova has visited Antarctica, although I do not think so.

Her images are available in the book white blonde, on her website as single images and as a slideshow. Interestingly, the order of the images is different between the book and the slideshow, they are often cropped differently (all the images in the slideshow are square and this was the original format) and not all images occur in both. The book and the slideshow are complimentary, not equal but additive.

The book requires careful examination. On my first viewing I found if difficult to follow. Some of the images are beautiful, others are confusing, some are clear, some are abstract. On multiple views I found myself sucked into the cold and the ice. They are a meditation rather than a clear story and are worth reviewing time and again.

With thanks to Julia Borissova for additional information and pointing me towards the review on Landscape Stories.

© Julia Borissova – white blonde


Arena, G. (s.d.) Landscape Stories | Julia Borissova – Nautilus // Let Me Fall Again // White Blonde. At: (Accessed  20/05/2020).

Borissova, J. (2018). White blonde. S.L.: Bessard.

Borissova, J. (n.d.). White Blonde. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Apr. 2020].

Borders of Nothingness – On the Mend

© Margaret Lansink

Margaret Lansink is a Dutch photographer who lives in a small village near Amsterdam. She was one of a very large family and uses her camera to connect with her emotions. She, according to her artist’s statement, often feels like a spectator of a play. Her images are intuitive, blurred and misty, full of emotion. Her new book Borders of Nothingness – On the Mend grew out of her estrangement from her daughter and subsequent reconnection (although you do not learn whether or not it was/is a success). In the introduction it says ‘In the infinite flow of everything, people come and go in our lives. While the presence of some can be so subtle that we hardly register when it begins or ends, with others its far clearer: they enter, or leave, with a bang’ (Lansink, 2020). In her interview for Leica, Lansink says, ‘Borders of nothingness is my way of telling people that life is not always what you expect from it’ (Klink, 2018).

The book is small, 14 x 18.5 cm and tactile. The original edition of 50 copies was hand bound in a Japanese style, the edition I have is still beautiful, although without the gold leaf collage of the original. The images are black and white, silver and gold and their lack of clarity makes one dream of what has happened and what might be. They are subtle, haunting, and I have found myself going back over and over to read slightly different stories.

I bought this for myself to break the miseries of isolation. It was well worth the price.


Lansink’s website shows more of the images and is worth a look both for this and her earlier series which are photographed in a similar style.

Reference list:

Klink, D. (2018) Margaret Lansink – Borders of Nothingness | LFI Blog. At: (Accessed on 26 March 2020)

Lansink, M. (2020) Borders of Nothingness – On the Mend. Belgium: Ibasho.

Lansink, M. (s.d.) margaretlansink. At: (Accessed on 26 March 2020)


Natural Light II

Ronald Frame © Natural Light II – Angela Catlin

Natural Light II is a book of photographic portraits of Scottish writers by Angela Caitlin. I acquired it because I was attracted to the cover image of an unnamed person (I think Alasdair Grey) and also because I read endlessly and voraciously. I am Scottish by habit (although not by birth) and much of the poetry, crime and other novels I read is by Scottish authors, so it seemed a sensible acquisition.

The images are all taken by natural light, across the world and vary from close up portraits such as the ones of Jackie Kay and William Boyd to ones where the person is almost hidden, Christopher Brookmyre and Ronald Frame. The combination of the image and the written text, a piece by the subject, a poem or a short extract of fiction was fascinating. The person’s portrait often did not give any clues as to the type of writing, other than some wild men from the north with their Gaelic poems! I spent as much time reading as looking – and have been seduced into enlarging my collection of both poetry and fiction.

My favourite image is one of Al Kennedy, shown outside, smiling, under blossom – contrasted with a rather scary piece of work about a girl (she feels young) being overwhelmed with the expectations of her lover. I look back and forward between the writing and the image and think – how do they fit together – but why should they? Why should someone’s looks mandate how or what they write about? Why should I be so naïve to assume they should?

Very few of the images show the subject looking at the camera, most are staring into the distance, or looking slyly sidewards. What are they thinking about? Are they imagining their next poem? These are the dreamers of our life and we would be poorer without them.


Catlin, A. (2015). Natural Light II: photographic portraits of Scottish writers. Glasgow: Cargo.