I/Eye: On Photography

Pop-up Popeye

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on October 12, 2011
Pop-up Popeye (Den Haag, 2011)

Pop-up Popeye (Den Haag, 2011)

I’ve been in The Hague visiting my son, a student at the Royal Conservatoire, and saw the strong man (above) and Marilyn (below) at the one of the most arresting exhibitions currently on view here: Pop Up! at the Museum Meermanno, a museum devoted to the history of the book (Huis van het Boek, Prinsessegracht 30, Den Haag). Having just spent several days in Santa Fe thinking about and looking intensively at photo books during the Book Weekend at Radius, I was intrigued by this show. Though it has nothing directly to do with photography,  it underscores the amazing longevity and versatility of the book form.  The subject here was the evolution of the pop-up book, a genre we associate now primarily with children, and whose origins lie in the late-medieval scholarly milieu: the earliest known movable “book” was by one Ramón Llull, a thirteenth-century Majorcan mystic whose paper inventions evinced a taxonomic fascination with truth-seeking and the easy organization of knowledge.

The books on display here range from early-modern anatomical studies; fold-out accordion-like constructions that created illusions of perspective;  and astronomical guides (to name just a few)  to recent children’s books like Maurice Sendak’s Mommy (which manages to be both scary and hilarious), where the “paper engineer”, Matthew Reinhart, merits a special credit. One sees the evolution of the genre as the children’s book publishing industry took hold in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but there are many examples, both early and modern (e.g., Andy Warhol’s Index, 1967), whose aim was to enthrall an adult audience.

If you’re in interested in the history of the book, and happen to be in Den Haag, this is a must-see show.

Update: for a recent example of a photo book that draws on the very long history of the “moving book”, see A Head with Wings by Anouk Kruithof (designed by Hans Seeger), and the page-through video at Little Brown Mushroom, which shows how it all works.

Pop-up Marilyn (Den Haag, 2011)

Pop-up Marilyn (Den Haag, 2011)

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