In this, our second post from “Inspirations from the Bookshelf” where I explore books that that inspired me on my publishing journey, I am really excited to share one of my favourite discoveries of 2016: By Rail and By Sea by Scott Conarroe.
A quick grab from Scott’s own description of the project: “Photography, railways, and North America developed more or less concurrently. Each, in its own way, transformed the world. Photography abstracted space. Railroads compressed distance. And Europe's occupation of the Americas re-calibrated power around the globe.”
It’s not often that I buy photobooks online. My wife and I live in a tiny Japanese apartment, and with the knowledge that I’ll be moving again soon I usually get any books sent directly to my parents’ house in Ireland.
But when I came across this book, I had it shipped straight to Japan! And it turns out it’s much bigger than I thought - d’oh!
But I had to have it. I voted this book as one of my favourites of 2016 for PhotoEye, and have been trying to find a way to do a book with Scott at The Velvet Cell.
This is a really fascinating project. Well, actually it’s two projects in one book. First we have By Rail and then we have By Sea.
By Rail brings us across the North American continent looking at the expansive rail network. I love the combination of poetry and stories that are evident in his images. They tell such an interesting story, in such a beautiful way.
This part hints at the expansive nature of North America. We are brought from dense urban centres to vast open landscapes, all with a focus on the railways that weave within these environments.
These images also reveal how we live side by side, integrated almost, with our infrastructure. This is a subject I love and always come back to with The Velvet Cell projects. How have we integrated with modernity? And how has this shaped us?
By Sea, meanwhile, explores our human interaction with, you guessed it, the sea. Again, the photos are beautiful and, more importantly, thought-provoking. We are brought around the coastline perimeter of the U.S. and Canada and given a sense of the relationship between these countries and the oceans that lie on either side of them.
By Rail and by Sea is beautifully printed as a large format book, measuring 28 x 31 cm. Each spread carries a single image, isolating the scene presented to the viewer. Each image has its own story to tell, but the strength of the project comes truly from the collection of images together.
If I had to draw one negative it would be the size of the book. It's quite cumbersome and thus doesn't get taken off my shelf as much as it should. I think a more moderate size would have served the images very well. I always think there is a tendency to make books bigger, but by doing so we often lose some of the humility and intimacy we can have with books.
The book was published by Black Dog Publishing, a UK-based publishers who I first came across many years across through their book with Rut-Blees Luxemburg. Definitely a publisher worth checking out.
If anyone out there has the book, I'd love to hear your thoughts - what did you like/dislike about it?