About photo books

From time to time Corinne selects a photo book from her collection and discusses it in a short article.



The narrative of COMMUNISM & COWGIRLS

I will tell you more about narratives used in photobooks for the coming weeks

While Rob Hornstra was working on his graduating project that became “Communism & Cowgirls”, it was clear that he wanted it to be a book.
A good book starts with a good idea, but having said that, the content needs to have a narrative that is most appropriate to the content.
While most people think that the most important part of becoming a book is through editing, it is actually conceptualizing the visual strategy of the content that comes first.
His work was made at the beginning of the 2000-decade, when typology was still very much appreciated. Rob started with a large format camera, coming back from Russia with portraits, landscapes, interiors and details, carefully shot, lots of similarities in their approach. The material seemed very fit for a typology narrative in a book. And indeed, when you go through, it might seem like that in the first place. But actually, it is not a typology but much more an essayistic narrative.
As people will be able to find what the book is about, I will not go into detail about the story.
To keep it shortly, the book deals with the first generation that grows up after the fall of Communism. It is a society full of contradictions.
We had several discussions about the material, if indeed the typology of carefully composed large format images, was the best way to bring out what he wanted to say. 
Looking at the formal side of the images, it seemed natural, but discussing the essence of what he had been focusing on, it could use a trial of mixing the images in other ways, to see if the contrast between the world of the old and the new generation could be brought out more poignant.
And that’s how the content and the visual strategy came together. 
Only through trial and error the contradictions in what he wanted to state, became a visual adventure as you can see it now in the book. It gave him a strong lead and confidence for what he still was to produce on his next trips. 
It seems very natural when you look at the book when finished, but you have to realise that first ideas can be very different from what you see as final results.
That he also became a very good bookmaker later on, had also to do was other of his qualities, that I will come back on in a later state.
From this example of Rob Hornstra’s book you may guess: what was the most difficult in the process of this particular narrative: what should come in the story or what to leave out?