This is actually "on topic."
...For me, anyway. I've been working for photography enthusiasts for something like 22 years now, and if there's one thing I've learned, it's that many people have a particular slant to their interest—their own particular way of enjoying photography.
A big part of my own enjoyment, as regular readers know, is photo books. I don't buy a lot of them, but I've been interested in photographic books literally since I was a child (my earliest photographic education came from looking at thousands of American Civil War photographs, mostly in books). And, if you're interested in something consistently over enough years, objects accumulate.
(Pace Calvin Amari, below, I had a friend in Maryland who bought himself one nice photograph a year as a birthday present to himself. The collection was impressive when I knew him—I believe he had more than twenty prints at that time, including some by very big-name photographers—and that was seventeen years ago. If he kept going, the collection must be stunning by now—he had collected some photographers early on whose work has since appreciated into the stratosphere, and would be unobtainable by mere mortals now. He was definitely a mere mortal, who worked for county government for a living.)
Anyway, what I'm saying is that I have a lot of photography books.
That leads to an odd problem: shelving.
I don't know if you know this, but bookshelves are difficult to buy. Most furniture stores, even many good ones, even many big ones, hardly have anything in the way of bookshelves. Those that do usually mostly carry bookcases for people who don't like books—good for six feet of paperbacks. Some stores, when you ask for "bookshelves," will lead you to display cases with shelves made of glass—great for knicknacks, not good for actual books. The biggest bookcase I have at this moment came from an office supply store, and I believe I had it in my room when I was eleven.
That's not the only problem: Photo books tend to be oversize. Some are short but deep; some are thick and heavy; some are just plain big. One of the biggest books I have is Todd Hido's House Hunting, which is very close to 17 inches high. That's not even very big to some art and photography book collectors, but then again, it's the rare bookcase that can accommodate a 17-inch high book.
The deepest book I have is 16 inches deep, which means it sticks out of the only oversize bookcase I have, which I bought (the bookcase, I mean) at Ikea in Maryland in maybe 1989 or '90. That one is 34 1/2 inches high by 33 1/2 inches high by 15 inches deep, outside dimensions. I intended to buy more of the same unit as finances allowed; but by the time I was ready to buy a second one, Ikea had discontinued them.
That case filled up about fourteen years ago, and has stayed that way ever since. Thus, it's of limited (read: no) use in dealing with new acquisitions.
This year is about to be over, and I'm not ready. For one thing, longtime readers with good memories might recall that I shared some of my New Year's Resolutions for 2009—three, to be exact—not one of which I have managed to fulfill in the intervening 352 days. So, in an effort to squeak my #1 resolution (as I put it then: "Moar bookshelve") in under the wire before 2009 is over and 2010 gets here, I figured I might try to buy a bookcase for photo books before the year's out.
Here's the crucial, critical piece of information I discovered in 2009: unfinished furniture stores.
They're the place to get custom-made, real bookcases in the sizes you specify. You can choose your style, your size, the wood you want, the dimensions, and the finish; you can choose open style, or request doors.
So, today I bought a bookcase. It was very expensive by my (cheap!) standards. But I'm tired of having stacks of expensive photo books piled hither and yon in the nooks and crannies of my house.
I intended to buy two, but decided on just one when I heard the (gulp) price.
The one I ordered is 36 inches wide. It has a deeper base that is 36" high and 18" deep—that's about 30" of usable space, which I'll divide into two shelves, one for books that are tall and wide and one for books that are short and wide (so-called "landscape format" books, which give 8- and 10-inch bookshelves fits). The 4-foot top section is 14" deep on the outside dimension, which itself is deep enough for many photo books. Both sections will have glass doors (my house is very dusty, and dust is very hard on books). It's made of oak. The shop is going to finish it and deliver it. It's supposed to take six to eight weeks.
I'll continue this "product review" when it gets here.
So that's it: one resolution down, at more or less the last minute.
I have a new resolution for 2010, and it's a biggie. It entails a major change for me, a fundamental change of emphasis for my photography. But I'll tell you about that when 2010 gets here.
Of course, I might not actually get to it in 2010.
I'm taking tomorrow off. See you sometime on Sunday. But remember my tip: if you're searching for high quality oversize bookshelves for photography books, unfinished furniture stores are the place to look.
MikeFeatured Comment by Geoff Wittig: "About 15 years ago I was confronted with the problem of what to do with all my books, as they relentlessly accumulated in unsteady piles around the bedroom. 'Gotta do something about that, or I'm sleeping on the couch; I don't want to be crushed by a pile of falling books,' said my long-suffering wife. Coincidentally I found At Home with Books: How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries, a coffee-table tome full of gorgeous photos of spectacular home libraries. Sort of 'interior design porn' for bibliophiles.
"This gave me big ideas, and I cast my greedy eyes on the large unfinished space above our garage. My wife rolled her eyes, sighed heavily, and said 'knock yourself out.' One of the advantages of living in the boondocks is ready access to cheap raw lumber and affordable skilled craftsmen. A carpenter we know filled the space with custom-designed bookshelves to conform to the gable-roofed shape. The shelves get deeper from ceiling to floor as the walls recede, accommodating larger books toward the bottom. The shelves themselves ride on adjustable metal tabs and can be placed at any height. Perfection! My wife extracted a promise that she had the right to divorce me once all the shelves were filled. Seemed entirely reasonable at the time.
"Unfortunately, that was 15 years ago. Since then, I've managed to fill every last nook & cranny of the copious shelving, and I'm back to tottering piles of my latest acquisitions scattered across the floor of my 'library.' Gotta get around to 'de-accessioning' a bunch of the less worthy books...real soon now. The 'divorce thing' so far I've managed to finesse by keeping the wife out of the room. But I think she suspects something."
Mike replies: Unfortunately, the overriding mandate with shelving is, "more." Shhh, though—I'm trying to delude myself that one 7x4' bookcase is going to be enough for me, just because it's enough for me now.
I've told this story before, but I'll tell it again. When I was young I worked as a carpenter, and one job I had was building bookshelves for my friend the bookseller William F. Hale in an apartment he'd rented across the street from his shop. He actually lived there for a while. We covered every available surface in shelving—every room, the halls (using nominal 6" lumber, for paperbacks), most of the bathroom, above the refrigerator, above the doorways. It wasn't long before you could barely get into the kitchen because of the stacks of books on the floor. Bill had to move out. No room for him.
When last heard from, Bill—who eventually married a woman who was also a bookseller—had acquired a large octagonal barn out in the country, fitted elaborately with shelving to hold some 80,000 books. Rumor has it that it has long since been filled to overflowing.Featured Comment by Paul: "It's a brave man who posts a picture of his bookshelves! Obviously, you are a collector of discriminating tastes, as evidenced by Jim Marshall's Trust. I got a signed copy of that and have been enjoying it a little every day. For me, his work has more depth than what is mostly available now from the highly skilled, but over-produced work of professional rock photographers. Just my two cents' worth."