Word and Images Should Live Apart
I recently participated on a panel discussion in Santa Fe in conjunction with a lecture series for Through the Lens: Creating Santa Fe. I had prepared a few notes for this panel as I was in the company of some prominent individuals: the two curators, a gallery director, and the museum director. In response to one of the questions, referring to my notes, I responded "Photography, more than any other art form, has to do with memory. It captures a moment in time that is open to the interpretation, first by how the photographer chooses to frame the scene and later how the audience perceives the image that is presented." There are many layers of seeing and presenting an image in and out of its original context. I followed with the "fact" (as was pointed out in the panel discussion, you can give the same historical textual document to 10 different historians and come back with 10 different meanings. Never mind how punctuation can mess it up. See also Roger Casement and the comma) that the meaning of a photograph, more than any other primary resource, is malleable and unguarded against the whims of any subsequent generations. Not only is that individual photograph as a solitary object vulnerable, place it the context of an exhibition or publication and it can take on an entirely different meaning. Then add words and the whole thing can be shot to hell.
With these thoughts still in my mind, I received my copy of Lay Flat 01: Remain in Light in the mail a few days later. Founder Shane Lavalette, co-curator Karly Widenhaus and designer Katherine Hughes have conceived of a project where the images and the words are independent. With the photos as loose plates and the text include in a staple-bound book the audience has the opportunity to observe and absorb them separately. Although some curation has to taken place in conceiving of the design, the audience has not only the opportunity like in many other magazines to flip to the essay of choice, but also the freedom to shuffle the cards to create his or her own narrative. This magazine is not a revolutionized form of viewing, but it allows for an individual experience within the limits of the print publication.