Various Library Books: An exhibit of photobooks from the UCLA Arts Library, the so-called classics alongside the lesser known

Monday, June 3, 2019 - 8:00am to Friday, November 1, 2019 - 5:00pm

The photobook is both an art form of sequenced photographs and a platform for their distribution. Various Small Books (2013) compiles almost one hundred publications inspired by Ed Ruscha’s conceptual artists’ books from the 1960s and 70’s, which catalyzed a new chapter in photobook production. “Various Library Books” expands this survey to present photobook highlights from the UCLA Arts Library Collection: The so-called classics -- including some of Ruscha’s and those his inspired -- alongside the lesser known. This exhibit celebrates the power of the photobook medium and attempts to redistribute it among the more recent and historically overlooked.

William Henry Fox Talbott’s The Pencil of Nature (1844-46) has long held the title of first photobook, but recent attention from the New York Public Library’s 2018 exhibition now gives due credit to Anna Atkins’s Sun Gardens (ca. 1843).

More than sixty years after Edward Steichen assembled a global representation of family in Family of Man (1955), Carmen Winant’s My Birth (2018) collates childbirth experiences as political and personal statement. William Eggleston’s Guide (1976) legitimized color photography in the art world with richly toned impressions of everyday life, and while Gregory Halpern’s ZZYZX (2016) takes advantage of this legacy with beautifully saturated moments, Rinko Kawauchi’s Illuminance (2011) continues to push the medium further with her conceptual approach.

These pairings and many others on display invite a fresh look at the Arts Library’s expansive collections. The significance of landmark photobooks is not diminished but rather contextualized and shared when seen together with predecessors, parodies, and homages. The aura of this medium only grows as we take the opportunity to look at its greater range.


View and download the "Various Library Books" booklist.

Organized by Dianne Weinthal (UCLA MLIS '20)


Arts Library