Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.
Spreads from Book 2 of What Doesn’t Kill You Will Likely Try Again

Expanding the spread

Jan 21, 2019 - Paula McCartney

I started making photo books in graduate school and now half of my practice is making books. I appreciate that books aren’t limited to time or location like exhibitions and viewers can have an intimate experience with the work. They have the potential to reach large audiences and can be experienced over and over again. There is nothing I like more than to sequence a group of images and then make a book dummy.  As with watching an image appear in the developer tray in the darkroom, the moment when photographs combine with the design of a book is magic.


In my last published book, A Field Guide to Snow and Ice (Silas Finch, 2014), the book pages are three different widths and so the images overlap throughout the book to echo the idea of seeing the familiar forms of winter in many different substances.  This structure got me curious about other ways a traditional two-page book spread could be expanded.  My new book, What Doesn’t Kill You Will Likely Try Again, Book 2, contains black geometric forms bound into the middle of each spread that first blocks the illuminated area of the subject pictured. Once turned it mirrors the light revealed on the opposite page.


I’ve also begun collecting books that do this and here are my favorites:


Jan Kempenaers, I’m not tailgating, I’m drafting

Chloe Sells, Swamp

Letha Wilson’s books: Landmarks, Between a Rock, Sand Shifts

Bryan Graf, Debris of the days

Mariela Sancari, Moises


Books are objects that invite the viewer to sit down and experience a photographer’s ideas at a chosen pace.  While these alterations to the traditional spread look dynamic, and the books are fun to page through, they also slow down the viewer (which I appreciate) as they move through the book.  I spend more time considering both the form and content of these books. These are the books that I pull off the shelf to view again and again through the years.  In this age of being all too often tied to a screen, the extra tactile and physical interactions these books allow becomes very satisfying.