Many, many, years ago, sitting on the library floor, reading a book about careers in journalism, I came across a passage on photography. My life turned at that point and I began to pursue a career as a photographer. Fast forward to today and I wanted to find a way to combine the enlightenment that can be found through the library, reading and photography and so I began a new project.
I have been documenting the New York Public Library books I have read over the last two years and have made a visual reading list that I would like to share with you. Photographing the back covers because, let’s face it, the back is where the cover action is. The place for a continuation of design or an abandonment of it. A place to host a photograph that may be complicated, a list of endorsements or even a colorful blank! Beyond the actual cover & the content of the book though, these photographs are also a meditation on the beauty of the physical object. A paper, card, cloth and plastic covered object, pocket sized or unwieldy, found often by accident, passed from hand to hand, neighborhood to neighborhood. Finally the photographs tell a story about the NYPL system too. The specific books I borrowed came to me via my local branch at East 96th Street, each one labelled with the names of the different NYPL branches they originated from.
Alongside the books, I also wanted to photograph the magnificent Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the famous NYPL building at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. Walking the corridors I was struck by the spill of light which almost seemed to illustrate the quote by Thomas Jefferson featured on the mantel of the fireplace in the Trustees room:
“Look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource most to be relied on for ameliorating the conditions, promoting the virtue and advancing the happiness of man.” Thomas Jefferson.
I’ve compiled these two sets of images into one project – Checked out & Photographed. Produced as a visual reading list in the form of a magazine, each photograph of a book has the NYPL call number and the name, title and publishing information for each book. An encouragement to look up and check out each one!
One of the joys of the library is to find the most perfect book that you never knew you were looking for. Maybe you will find that book in this list. Maybe you will discover your next favorite author. Maybe, as happened with me, you will find one book that will resonate so perfectly with your own vision that you will buy it multiple times and end up borrowing it from the library because you keep giving your own copy away!
Click below to see the inside pages, when you are there, click on the ‘i’ for more information. You will be able to download the FREE Ebook, or you can buy a physical copy if you like.
I am also attaching a PDF version below that you can download from this page. The best way to view the PDf is with the free acrobat reader (that is probably already on your computer or you can easily download it from the internet) To see it like a book, two pages at a time, select view, page display, two page view on the toolbar.
The library system has a large staff, mostly hidden from the public’s eyes, but there are two women who personally have handed me and received back 90% of the books in this project. I’d like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to Regina Valentine and Patricia Small who work at the 96th Street branch library and have made it always a pleasure to visit!
I’d love to hear about your library, and if you read any of the books in this list let me know! Happy reading!