By Joe Cameron
Just wanted to add a contrarian view to the book value vs. book use discussion. Probably will gain me the wrath of thousands and possibly even get me banned from TOP for six months (book lover that Mike is).
I am a believer that books should be used, and by "used" I mean alongside a pot of dark coffee or perhaps a bottle of cheap Merlot (heavy stainers, both). And handled a lot!
I am amused by those who keep their newly bought books sealed in the original shrink-wrap or even paper dust jackets. Reminds me of families I knew in the 'fifties who bought high-quality upholstered chairs and then sealed them with thick plastic slip covers. A Maserati, if driven long enough and hard enough (because you love cars and you love to drive) will fall apart, regardless of care and maintenance. All things decay in time, and faster the more they are used.
Shown here is a photo of three books I highly value—Walker Evans' American Photographs (1938 edition, covers separated from book), Robert Frank's The Americans (1969 edition, cover missing) and Rene Burri's Die Deutschen (1962 edition, cover separated). All were in good to excellent condition when I acquired them. But years of loving (yes, loving) viewing in my hands and friends' hands and the hands of hundreds of students in my photo classes have given them the look of age. I never thought twice about tossing these and many other books in the center of a classroom table and encouraging students to "have at it" with some magnificent and inspiring photographs—no white gloves here. Don't get me wrong, I always asked students to treat the books with care, but as I said, time and use and more than a few grubby fingers have left their marks. I have no regrets. To paraphrase an ad, books may increase in market value, but the images are priceless. And images are fundamentally meant to be shared. I might add that the photographs in these books are just as clear and accessible today as they were right off the press.
By the way, if you've never seen Rene Burri's Die Deutschen, I would suggest you try to get access to a copy. Its format is nearly identical to The Americans and, in my opinion, much of its photography is the equal of Frank's book. And if you were my neighbor, I'd gladly share it with you over a six pack and a plate of nachos.
JoeFeatured Comment by Neil "The Wheel" Clarkson: "A closed book teaches no one."