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Indie Photobook Panel comes to Sloane Art Library

In high school, the world of photography revealed itself to photographer Taj Forer through photobooks. 

Tonight students will have the same opportunity to explore photobooks — bound books that traditionally contain narrative accounts in the form of image-based media — with Forer and three other photographers, publishers and photobook aficionados at the Indie Photobook Panel in the Sloane Art Library. 

The event will proceed in three parts as panelists discuss the opportunities and economics of photobook publishing. Heather Gendron, head of UNC’s Sloane Art Library, and Larissa Leclair, creator of the Indie Photobook Library, will first discuss the photobook collection housed in Sloane Art Library. 

“We have some things that are really rare,” Gendron said. “UNC is perhaps the only art library or the only library in the country to have them.”

After the discussion with Leclair and Gendron, attendees can socialize and interact with the photobook experts at the Ackland Art Museum's reception. Forer and Leclair will discuss their histories with photobooks and provide advice for aspiring artists with Paul Soulellis, graphic designer and creator of the Library of the Printed Web, and Michael Itkoff, who co-founded the Hillsborough-based Daylight Books with Forer. 

“I had some of the most profound experiences with photography through photobooks,” Forer said. “The photography opened up an emotional unfolding and an emotional connection to the narrative of the image.”

Now, years later, Forer serves as a co-founder of Daylight Books after receiving his master’s degree in fine arts from UNC in 2007. 

“The idea of the panel is to have photographers, collectors and publishers discuss what has really become a photobook boom,” Gendron said.

Leclair believes that photobooks are unique because they are more than simply the photographs within them.

“The book itself is a technology,” Soulellis agreed. “It’s an interactive experience and we tend to forget that.” 

Leclair notes that anybody can publish photobooks, and any type of independently published photobook can make it into her Indie Photobook Library because photobook interpretation is up to the individual.

“Publishing today —  self-publishing specifically, or independent publishing, indie publishing —  there’s a wide array of options and possibilities there,” Soulellis agreed.

Forer and Soulellis believe that it is important for students interested in the arts to be exposed to physical texts rather than just the digital-based ones.

“Given this digital age in which we exist, the ways in which we share information, be it visual or text-based, is increasingly ephemeral,” Forer said. “There, in a way, is more profundity represented by the physical book, the object, the collection of images that become tangible and live in the physical world.”

The artists said they believe the panel will provide anyone seriously interested in a career in art with an opportunity to hear perspectives, anecdotes and advice on how to pursue those goals.

“I hope that (students) will learn more about what goes into self-publishing as an artist,” Gendron said.

“We have all of these great specimens or examples of books in the collection, but students often don’t know the other side of that — what goes into actually making the book, the time involved, the process and the economics.”

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