Fenomen Fotollibre (Barcelona)

Barcelona, Spain. The CCCB cultural center is where I saw a truly overwhelming exhibition on the photobook phenomena. First though, what I love about the building. The windows form the typography.

The inside courtyard is an example of daring old-meets-new architecture, with some fun reflections. 

The old window alcoves are natural for exhibition posters.

Teens were using the courtyard space to practice dance routines.

The exhibition entry was totally uninspired. 

Maybe that's because the exhibition is very complicated and thorough, with 500 books, 9 curators, 7 contemporary artists, and 7 tantalizing themes. The main photobook history is curated by Martin Parr, and leads the visitor from the entry, through and around all the other themes. 

One of the stated goals of the exhibition is to address the challenge of displaying books. Methods they use include actual pages or original photos wall mounted and valuable books displayed open under glass. They also provide various sized touch screens with page spreads.

They also use back projections (from the floor up) of videos of page spreads.

And wall mounted videos of page spreads, some with hands turning the pages

And there are some actual books to flip through by hand.

There is enough variety in all these methods to keep visitors engaged.

The exhibit exits through a comfortable lounge area with a browsable books. Tables there are multi-level and the books are board mounted to carry around.

An "air drop" in the protest and propaganda area.

Backlit title and delicate treatment for the Japanese photobooks

The "Fascinations and Failures" theme was explored in interesting ways. Considering the value of "mistakes"

As a graphic designer who loves to collaborate with photography and photographers, the most exciting part was "Reading New York", a "PhotoBookStudy" on William Klein's famous 1956 photobook "Life is Good and Good for You in New York." (PhotoBookStudies are investigations made through The PhotoBookMuseum in Cologne, Germany.) Described as a "rhizomatic mapping," it is a "contemplation on the reading process, merging the chronological reading experience with simultaneous visual and associative stimulation".  

This is an analysis done by "readers" long after a (breakthrough) photobook was published. But it's familiar, because it's what we do (photographer and designer) collaborating on the making of a book. It's the discussions we have working with photos and text, making associations and choices about content, discovering order. Playing with contrast, grouping, themes, patterns and pacing. I consider it the real work of graphic design, enhanced by layout and typography. So, it thrilled me to see this graphic design thinking process visualized in an exhibition, for the public. 

The exhibition was linear, running around the room. Here are a few details.