by Claudio Mortensen

In my post this week I want to talk about books. Photobooks mainly, but not only. Books, in general, are an important part of my life and an important part of my photography.

Photography, like many other representations of art, are a craft. Something that is done with tools and hands and produces something that is meant to be admired visually. Not like a poetry or a novel, that is meant to be read in a book itself (or something like it). Photography does not require a book. Even to learn how to do it, it may not require any book. To place photographies in a book and offer it to viewers, is a matter of convenience or even democratization of the access to this images (it’s easier to buy a book than travel to another country to visit a museum).

But in my view, books are the most important way to acquire knowledge and inspiration. I found books as necessary as a camera and lenses. In fact, it goes beyond that, because there's the pleasure around the object itself. Manipulate it, feel the texture of the paper, the quality of the print and the reproduction of the images and the delicious surprises of encountering some other little gifts inside, together with the pictures, like little poems and texts complementing the images.

The decision to write this was partly inspired by a personal impression that books are losing interest in our millennial society and also because I got 4 months away from my books. In August I started to relocate to Geneva (Switzerland), living all my stuff behind, till I could find a more definitive place to live and decide what to move there with me. I was used to refer to my books very often, for inspiration, consultation, or just because I like them. During this time, I had to refer to Google for that and, ok, we can find everything there. So, we don’t need books anymore? It is just me, old school that still likes these things around in the house?

One of my Grandfathers had more than 4 thousand books in his office at home. He died long before I was born, but my Grandmother didn’t allow anyone to touch anything that belonged to him, till the day she died at age of 93 years old. I got to know my Grandfather through his books. I grew up “playing" at his office and looking at the books. After my Grandmother passed away, we donated all books to a university. I kept one for me. An edition of the “Divine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri, with illustrations from Gustavo Doré. This book is in Italian, so I never could read it. But I spent a good amount of time looking at these illustrations that, to my eyes at very young age, looked like real depictions of hell.

So, my most remarkable contact with books occurred not reading per se, but looking at images.

Now, I’m back in Sao Paulo, to finally pack my stuff and send to Geneva. I’m seated on my couch, looking my bookshelf and feeling reconnected with something that helps sustains who I’m.