you're reading...

Welcome to Oculus

In September October of this year, the Noorderlicht Foundation (Stichting Fotografie Noorderlicht/Stichting Aurora Borealis) will publish my 4th monograph: Oculus.

I’ve been working on Oculus for a little over two years now. This is a relatively short time to complete a photographic book project, for me especially. With Oculus, I’ve quickly gone from conception to realization. But when the book comes out, I think you’ll see for yourself that I’ve been able to devote a considerable amount time, thought and energy to the project. In fact, in terms of hours of labor, it probably equals most any of my past projects. And I think you’ll agree, with Oculus, the passion that I’ve devoted to the project reflects the fact that it represents a culmination of ideas that I have been exploring for many, many years. This became apparent to me through the course of developing the project, but it wasn’t readily apparent to me at first.

Every book I’ve made has had a unique genesis. Some started with the images and coalesced into book form, like Invisible CityThe Geometry of Innocence was a project that I worked on conceptually for some time (12 years) as I added images to a corpus of work around a particular idea. Those images became an installation before being put together as a book. A New History of Photography took many images made over a thirty year period and reconfigured them around a sustained idea, re-contextualizing them in the service of a larger conception. With Oculus, I grew the idea as I worked on the images, and then, over the course of more than a year, tried to understand better what I initially set out to do. For me, taking/making the images was part of the process of conceptualizing the work. And yes, the images act as a visual mark for the viewer, but they were a crucial way for me to grasp and understand something for myself as I delved deeper into the ideas I was exploring. Strangely enough, for me, making images is a way to bring ideas into the realm of language, where I could then use them as markers to then render my ideas more fully—for myself—and through them, in the process of editing and writing—as entry points for others to follow.

In this book I very consciously develop a relation of image to text and text to image. I used the images as a staring point for my explorations. Subsequently, the images become an entry point for the viewer, as well, with the text framing the dialog and making further connections historically and intellectually. The attempt to combine image and text is not a new one. We see it all the time in advertising, in journalism, and we see the use of diagrams and illustrations in math and the sciences. The rational for a combined use of image and text can vary quite considerably and should be carefully considered. Depending on the aim, it can be a difficult thing to pull off because image and text speak to us in very different ways. I believe the photographic book can offer a special platform to explore these ideas—although most all photography books have a combination of image and text, rarely do the two co-mingle. It is my belief that a combination of the two, judiciously done, can act synergistically to meaningful effect.

In the run up to publication I will be posting excerpts from the book here. I hope you will join me. If you like you can subscribe by clicking “subscribe to blog.”

This isn’t just a text heavy teaser either. To get a head start on things, fell free to look at what I have already posted on my website.

There you will get a taste of what is to come. Once you get onsite, just click on the book cover.


Ken Schles

Northern lights

About kenschles

Ken Schles is the author of Invisible City (1988; reprint 2015 and 2016), The Geometry of Innocence (2001), A New History of Photography: The World Outside and the Pictures In Our Heads (2007), Oculus (2011) and Night Walk (2015 and 2016). His work has been nominated for the Deutsche Börse Prize, exhibited by The Museum of Modern Art, noted by the New York Times Book Review, cited in histories of the medium (Parr/Badger, Auer & Auer, 10x10 American Photobooks) and issued by some of the foremost publishers of our time (Steidl, Hatje Cantz, Twelvetrees Press). They're considered “intellectual milestones in photography” (Süddeutsche Zeitung), “hellishly brilliant” (The New Yorker). Ken Schles’ work is included in private and public collections such as The Museum of Modern Art, The Rijksmuseum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museo d"Arte Contemporanea (MACRO) Testaccio Museum, and more than 100 other museum and library collections world-wide. 
 Ken Schles is a NYFA Fellow. http://www.kenschles.com


2 thoughts on “Welcome to Oculus

  1. Really looking forward to this… Is there a way to pre-order the book?


    Posted by Velibor Bozovic | May 3, 2011, 5:02 pm
  2. Not just yet. Noorderlicht still hasn’t set the price on it. But I certainly can start taking names and email addresses… email info[at]kenschles.com. Put “Oculus pre-order” or something like it in the subject and I’ll make sure to get word out as soon as I know. Thanks.

    Posted by kenschles | May 3, 2011, 5:45 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: