Ken Schles – Library Committee Event Nov.30, 2010

#27 Tuesday, Nov.30, 2010
International Center of Photography Library
Ken Schles shows his impeccable book dummies including a first look into his latest book dummy the profound and moving project Oculus.

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Tuesday evening the ICP library Committee welcomed one of the great photobook makers of recent years – the Brooklyn based photo book maker Ken Schles. Ken is a true perfectionist when it comes to making photo books that integrate vision and concept with design and finished product. He has always managed to have been totally involved in every step of the process in the production of his books and the results are authentic well-made items. Where Ken’s books are true masterpieces is in there sequencing and editing – which Ken seemingly achieves effortlessly – and to see his selection of published works and unpublished book maquettes in the flesh was extraordinary.

Invisible City (1988) is a firm favorite with the ICP library community. Time and again, patrons are drawn to this classic photobook, so it was amazing to see how complete and finished this book was in its dummy form. From late 1981 to early 1982 Ken worked as Gilles Peress’ printer, and their subsequent influence upon each other’s work is evident. Gilles is said to have modeled the format of The Silence after Ken’s classic photo book Invisible City – the size, the darkness and the density.  Ken’s second book The Geometry of Innocence (2001) was heavily influenced by Peress’ Telex Iran. The interplaying and riffing of books on other books cannot be exemplified more than in Ken’s third book The New History of Photography (The World Outside and the Pictures in our Heads, 2008) which riffs upon the history of photography and of photo book making itself to create a darkly funny and eloquent original photobook.

Seeing the book maquettes in person and exploring the process of creation first-hand with Ken was a great experience for our audience. Ken also managed to bring along his latest project for ‘show and tell’ which included both the book dummy for Oculus and a selection of large prints from the book (20×30 on 24×34″ paper). Occulus is a profound and mysterious work and seeing this latest work alongside the other book dummies in the context of his 30 years career in photobook making one could not help but being blown away.

We negotiate our elusive lives between spaces of dark and light, between incoherence and significance, between ignorance and knowledge, between our ‘two eternities of darkness.’ Our knowledge illuminates the world; it brings light to perception, deepening our relationship to what we encounter. It reveals the nature of things, just as an oculus brings light into a dark chamber. Oculus takes us on a journey that points us beyond the shadow-play of images. It is a meditation on the nature of existence and perception in the gray light of this world. – From Oculus by Ken Schles, 2010

All the Best – MatthewPCarson

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