Photographs > Storied Books III: The Number of Barleycorns Round the World

Archival Pigment Prints.

Books act upon us, transmitting information and culture, changing our minds and lives. We act upon them by turning pages, by dog-earing or underlining important passages, and by passing them around. Certain books bear the marks of more aggressive interaction, however, and this is what I have been documenting with my ongoing project in three parts, Storied Books.

While engaged in the daily struggle to protect my own books from the ravages of little hands, I noticed that many of the crayon- and pencil- marks made by long-grown children have now matured into enhancements. I began photographing volumes that had been “defaced” long ago by a persistent series of girls and women who have talked back to their books.

From this dialogue, along with changes to the books wrought by passing time, several themes have emerged in the photographs, and so I have divided my project into three subseries. Part 1 includes the grangerized biography of a forgotten movie star from the 1920’s. It looks at love and longing, and questions the notion of immortality. The photographs in Part 2 and Part 3 present beautiful, brash challenges to two longstanding tropes: feminine fragility and the sanctity of the printed page.

These photographs are portraits of transcendent commonplace objects, cherishing the forms and textures of books. Beyond simple lyricism or nostalgia, however, the images celebrate the active consumption of information. They encourage us – even digital natives – to question, enhance, and transmute our received cultural mores.

Click on (cropped) thumbnails to see full frame images.