Review: La Fabrica

  By John Veldhoen

I have been of two minds thinking about how to write this… It has been a good long while since I have written anything for the store, and there are a lot of new books, and, to boot, we reorganized the store. The new organization makes it more enjoyable to browse, and not to mention, since it is purely alphabetical, it has no relationship to class, inasmuch as technical books are now co-mingled with monographs, and theoretical and critical books. The resulting endophora makes a compromise, and a third meaning, if you will.

Recently, I found two books while browsing through a collection sold at a non-profit (where, parenthetically, I am a volunteer). One is by Margaret Visser, entitled “The Geometry of Love”, and the other is by Roland Barthes, called “The Responsibility of Forms”. Besides the echoed syntax of the titles, there are other similarities in these two books, but the most interesting thing to me is how Barthes seminal essay on photography, collected in this edition, called “The Photographic Message”, does not contain the elucidated “Third Meaning” that follows further on in the same book. Barthes concludes his essay on photographs, instead, with a section on “photographic non-communication”. While Roland Barthes is for many good reasons the touchstone for structural critique in photographic practice, I think that in the body of his writing on photography, specifically, and in Barthes thought generally, there is a noticeable absence of a stable referent. Or as Jay Possner writes, regarding the shift in meaning in the 20th century, in an excellent book called “Light in the Dark Room”, Barthes lacking referent is alike to “a demotion in status of the referent. The referent was sidelined, deferred. The referent, which carried the weight of vestigial reality, went out with the picture”. I found this sentence particularly striking, since I work for a company that has the motto “Get the Picture”, as part of its identity. I think Visser’s vision of architecture pointing linguistically, behaving like language, is more or less sympathetic with “getting the picture”. The mystical {re}union of self and other that Visser writes about feeling, for the first time as a five-year old girl, resembles how the relationship to viewing a photograph, a picture, ideally works. We may have moments, brought about by all sorts of means, when we may feel we are unique as selves. A photo may seem to speak to us by our seeing it.

Ok, so getting past some linguistic stuff regarding pictures… There are a LOT of new books at the store. I wanted to write about a slew of titles from La Fabrica, a bookstore in Madrid, that has a series of titles called PHototBolsillo, that share a similar format as the PhotoTORST, and Thames & Hudson Photofile series’. These small, inexpensive books are dedicated to photojournalism in Latin America, and Spain, and we also have other books from La Fabrica, like Joan Colom’s phenomenal “I Walk the Streets”. As well, we have books by Editiones RM, like the ICP catalog for “Urbes Mutantes”, and “Photobooks: Spain 1905-1977”. I’ve wanted to write about all of these books, and maybe adjoining a comment about Blake Stimson’s book “The Pivot of the World” and the nation of photography, but as it is, I think I will leave it as it is, inexplicably and tangentially, and invite you to come by the store to see.”

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In addition to being on our sales team, John curates The Camera Store's book selection and is a contributing author of our blog. He likes to think about photography, talk about photography, and sometimes write about photography.