Pages is a constantly changing selection of photobooks by contemporary Dutch photographers, curated by Fw: It is shown on several locations through Europe. We see every invitation to display the selection as a fresh excuse to investigate another detail about this selection. The selection in Cuenca was focussing on the way the design of the publication influences the narrative.
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Pages [1] is a constantly changing selection of photobooks by contemporary Dutch photographers, curated by Fw: [2] in co-operation with Claudia Küssel.[3] The selection is distinctive because it is made from the maker’s perspective and not from an art historical viewpoint. The selection not only provides an overview of current interests in the field of photobooks in the Netherlands but also aims to be a portrait of an era, showing how a particular generation of photographers, which includes the members of Fw:, use the medium of the book. In this respect, experimental forms are explicitly sought. Fw: discusses the selection for the exhibition Pages, which can be seen during PHotoEspaña, with Frits Gierstberg. [4]
Frits Gierstberg
You have made a selection of photobooks by contemporary Dutch photographers and you say this has been done from the maker’s perspective. What does that mean? What is Fw:?
We began in 2004 as a collective of ten photographers. Fw: functioned like this for nearly two years. After that it grew quite naturally into a platform that functions as a collection of networks around a generation of young, (potentially) leading contemporary Dutch photographers. Because all four of us (Hans Gremmen, Dieuwertje Komen, Karin Krijgsman, Petra Stavast) operate in the world of photography, the things we initiate have a direct link with contemporary movements in that world. Fw: is an independent organisation that initiates projects, publications, exhibitions, 
lectures, sessions and meetings between photographers, writers and curators. One of those activities is the Pages exhibition. The selection we are showing gives a subjective overview of what is happening in the generation that we represent in the field of photobooks.
Frits Gierstberg
On the table in front of us is a selection of photobooks that you have selected for PHotoEspaña. What immediately strikes one is that here we are looking at books by a generation of young people who have grown up with the phenomenon of the internet and with the digitalisation of photography. You would expect them to embrace these developments completely, but you show that these people go back to that old medium, the photobook. Why would a photographer still make a photobook nowadays? These days you can put everything on a website. Photobooks are always printed in relatively small numbers, so you actually only reach a very small public, whereas the internet can result in a much wider distribution of your work. At a time when photography is becoming increasingly transient – a photograph is actually nothing any more, only an electronic file – you go back to the opposite and you make something that is an object, a collector’s item. The photobooks that we see here are for the most part beautifully designed and extremely carefully crafted objects, which could also be seen as a sort of ‘fetishisation’ of photography. How am I intended to view that?
One of the results of the digitalisation of photography and the development of new media is that now people can make books much more easily themselves than before. The democratisation of technology is also one of the reasons why we want to make an inventory of what is being made and we select what we consider to be worth exhibiting. One of the dangers of the ease with which one can make books nowadays is that many books are made that might be very interesting privately but you wonder whether they are interesting enough to exhibit to outsiders. You could also explain that development in terms of, for example, print-on-demand books or projects that can be viewed via websites. We consciously left out these developments, with a few exceptions. For example, we are showing the project Stadswijk Rotterdam [Urban District Rotterdam] [5] (2007) by Bob van der Vlist (1978). In this project he charts human interaction in conspicuous and less conspicuous places in different districts of the city. Viewers can use a number of keywords to make their own book via the website and this is then sent by email as a PDF which can be printed. In this way each book is a unique book. There are no print-on-demand books in the selection. Print-on-demand is a great technique but it causes people to become wildly impatient. Until now it has mainly resulted in books by people who cannot raise enough money to print a book, as a sort of second choice. Where the technique is used conceptually, for example by Wil van Iersel (1965) or Joachim Schmid (1955) [6], it does lead to interesting things. In the previous selection we still had some publications that the photographer had printed in small numbers but we have now also left most of those out. We are now showing, for example, the publication City People (2009) by Ringel Goslinga (1969), an edition of ten copies, which he printed on a laser printer.
For us there is a big difference between presenting a project on the internet and making a book. It is true that a website reaches a wider audience than a book, but it is also more transient and in that sense it cannot be compared with a book, which has a fixed form and is much more like a statement. WassinkLundgren[7] play with this principle in their book WassinkLundgren is still searching (2006). During their stay in China they made a book in a short space of time but they already knew beforehand that every selection that they made there would be made differently when they returned home because making the right selection just takes time. They made a book that they gave away free but not until they had torn out the pages that were no longer relevant to them at that specific moment. But this is also an exception. It is in the nature of a book that one simply must make very concrete choices. That is also what makes a book such a perfectly crystallised moment in time. A website changes all the time, continues to develop, that is a big difference with a book.

Frits Gierstberg
When you make a book, it often results in a lot of attention for your work, often with an exhibition to promote the book. The awareness of what a book is and what it does, that it really is a different medium from an exhibition or a website has, I think, never been as great as it is today. Of course, there are exceptions, for example, Johan van der Keuken (1938-2001) or Ed van der Elsken (1925-1990). They did not consider a book to be just a container with photographs but as something that was compiled very carefully in order to tell their story. We have seen many books that have been compiled in a standard way. In that case the order of the photographs has been thought about but in the end it is still the standard formula: a short text, 80 pages of photographs, acknowledgements. This greater awareness has not come into existence because it is easy to make books now. You can do lots of things more easily, but that does not necessarilymean that you are also actually going to do them; there must still be something more.

We think it also has something to do with being able to exhibit your own work independently. You do not necessarily need a museum or a gallery to make your work visible in a statement to the world.
Frits Gierstberg
Does this mean then that we should start seeing photobooks more as autonomous works, as art? There is certainly a market for photobooks. They are collected internationally. Books are ordered before they have been made, which happened with Rob Hornstra (1975), for example, and they end up in the sphere of collector’s items. To what extent does that play a role?
It is precisely those books that collectors find interesting that are often not very special books as far as design goes but that could rather be called fairly mainstream. The design of Rob Hornstra’s book 101 Billionaires (2008) is not revolutionary but it is doing very well on the collectors’ circuit. Although it would be nice for the photographers if collectors saw our selection as the ‘Martin Parr collection’[8] - that everyone uses as a sort of acquisitions bible - we do not consider it our role to function as a guide for collectors. Rather, it is even possible that we exhibit precisely those things that possibly escape the collectors’ dance or that are possibly more marginal but experimentally more challenging. The small things, for example a very simple little book like Moscow, Zantvoort, Helsinki (2007) by Mieke Woestenburg (1981), 16 pages long, almost a photocopy compilation, which is just right. Collectors probably find it uninteresting because it is fragile but for us it is worth exhibiting.

In February 2008 the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam presented the exhibition Pages, een nieuwe generatie van Nederlandse fotoboeken [Pages, a New Generation of Dutch Photobooks], curated by Fw: and Claudia Küssel. The exhibition then moved to Budapest and Kassel. A new selection has been made for the exhibition during PhotoEspana 2009. 
Fw: is a platform for contemporary photographers who want to reflect on their work. Fw: focuses on initiatives for collaboration which foster the development of work and stimulate growth and renewal. Since 2004 Fw: has been initiating exhibitions, lectures and meetings and publishing at irregular intervals. Fw: is a collaboration between Hans Gremmen (1976), Dieuwertje Komen (1979), Karin Krijgsman (1977) and Petra Stavast (1977). 
Claudia Küssel (1975) is Assistant Curator at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam.
Professor Frits Gierstberg (1959) is Head of Exhibitions at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam and holds a special chair in photography at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
Neither of the examples mentioned, Wil van Iersel and Joachim Schmid, can be seen at the exhibition. More information about Wil van Iersel can be found at More information about Joachim Schmid can be found at Joachim Schmid is a German photographer.
WassinkLundgren is a collaboration between Thijs groot Wassink (1981) and Ruben Lundgren (1983).
The Photobook: A History. Volumes I & II (2004 & 2006). Co-edited by Gerry Badger and Martin Parr. Published by Phaidon.