Last Sunday marked the end of the 10th annual New York Art Book fair which its creators, the Chelsea-based Printed Matter Inc., call the largest fair of its type anywhere for artists’ books and similar publications. Each year, tens of thousands of visitors flock to the MoMA’s satellite PS1 museum in Queens, NY to peruse publications from vendors hailing from over a dozen counties. The Fair hosts an impressive array of programming, from book signings to experimental performance-art events in addition to showcasing new releases from established and indie publishers alike.
Though many from New York’s famously colorful creative class attended, photographers in particular are drawn to the event. Photobooks are enjoying a golden age of sorts and are growing increasingly popular as collector’s items and vectors for photographers to showcase their work. The recent proliferation of print-on-demand services has allowed photographers to make books which only a few years ago would have been prohibitively expensive for them to create. While the photographic universe has inarguably shifted into the intangible, the printed image often is given more weight and impact as a result. Photobooks are proving their staying power even as many other types of publications dissolve into the digital world. The New York Art Book Fair is a testament of the importance of objecthood in contemporary photography despite—or perhaps because of—the diffusion of the medium into many online spheres.