Dutch photography critic Ralph Prins described the photo book as "an autonomous art form, comparable to a piece of sculpture, a play or film." No perfunctory portfolio, the photo book represents a genre merging narrative and poetic license.
While stores dedicated to photo books might be underrepresented outside cities like New York, Los Angeles or Santa Fe, the medium has raised its profile within recent decades due to the collectibility of limited-edition prints, many released by independent presses. Not to mention that the genre's history offers something for every curiosity or aspect of human nature, from 1930s Third Reich propaganda to Swiss photographer Robert Frank's seminal work The Americans.
As Melissa Catanese, owner of photo-book shop and gallery Spaces Corners, put it: "When you visit an exhibition, all you have left is the memory of what you saw; you revisit the photo book with a new perspective every time."
Catanese spoke to CP from her newly opened shop in Lawrenceville's Ice House Studios. Catanese, 32, is a native Ohioan who lived in Bloomfield before moving to Brooklyn three years ago, where she worked as an art-book distributor.
"Part of coming back was about sharing my experiences in contemporary photography, and how it's represented elsewhere, with the community," she says.
With contributions from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, she amassed a limited but unique selection of titles. Her partner, photographer Ed Panar, created their website.
Panar's exhibition for his photo book Animals That Saw Me opened the gallery last month; Brooklyn photographer Darin Mickey's Strange Fruit is currently on display, and the artist will host an informal discussion next Monday.
While she plans to expand her inventory of about 40 titles (most in the $20-40 price range), Catanese emphasized the importance of featuring each book so that it stands out on the shelf. "It's designed to be a very user-friendly shop. I want people to browse for an hour if they feel like it."
Eventually, Catanese would like to host workshops for professional and amateur artists.
"This is very experimental for us," she admits, and an "incubation" period. "Eventually we would like to have something more like a traditional storefront, but for now, we're still introducing the idea to the community."
Spaces Corners (www.spacescorners.com) is located at 100 43rd St., No. 104. Spaces Corners' hours are 2-7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and 1-6 p.m. Saturdays.
Strange Fruit runs through Jan. 21. The artist talk with Darin Mickey is at 7:30 p.m. Mon., Dec. 12.