In my role as photographer at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, I capture hundred of images of books and other collection material everyday. As they are photographed, the books often shed bits and pieces of their bindings and flecks of paper from their brittle pages. I started documenting these bits and pieces within the course of my regular workday. At the end of a session, after I have photographed a book, I capture what remains on the copy stand before I sweep it up and dispose of the residue. These bits and pieces from rare and seminal works are at once precious and incidental. The resulting photographs leave the imagination open to both the presence and absence of the object and in the process create abstract illusions. During my recent residency at the Weir Farm Art Center in Connecticut, I sequenced these images into a photobook. Presenting the work as a photobook returns the material back into its original form as codex.
With Revenants: Memories of Books, I am not only providing digital surrogates to the library’s accessible holdings but I am also providing researchers with unexpected documentation of the collection. In a time when we question the future of the book my images remind us that the physical object is a record of our collective memories and as memories they imprint on those who encounter it in a manner wholly impossible for the e-book. My work evokes our attachment to the physical object in the midst of a technological revolution in which the act of reading too often relies on an illuminated screen.