These images of books are an exploration of the relationship between visual and verbal thinking. 'What does this picture mean?' is a question I am asked over and over. Trying to explain what a picture means can be much harder than paraphrasing a poem
and both endeavors usually yield only bits of information.
Words and pictures gain authority as soon as they enter books, tablets, and pages. Despite the proliferation of phone images, we live in a culture of words. If I am waiting in an unfamiliar room, my eyes dart around for something to read. If there's a cereal box on the table I start reading. In the sixteenth and seventeenth century some books contained illustrations, but many of the pictures were masterpieces of misinformation, derived from
words about the subjects. Verbal information handed down for generations can yield monsters and fabled lands. Information changed like words in a long game of telephone. Eventually other illustrators observed their subjects; vision began to inform the visual.
Most of my books, tablets, and pages have more pictures than words. I am interested in books that have different lives in different times. Some of my books are tribal books from Southeast Asia that have left their culture because no one can read them anymore; they are visual now. Some books have no words to begin with. One of the books that I photographed several times is an on-demand internet book that I made so that I could photograph it. I made two pictures of a schoolbook that belonged to a boy named Sam. He was trying to write but he could not resist bursting into pictures.
A closed book tempts me to open it. As it opens a book may release ideas the same way an opening door releases light into a darkened room. Alternatively, violence and hatred may explode through a door or a book leaving a dark burned interior. In a book one person’s violence may be another’s inspiration for good or evil. Once created books, burning bright or charring dark can only live through those who look at them.
Olivia Parker ©2008