The many faces of the photobook : establishing the origins of photobookwork practice

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Proposing an ontological division based on the terms photobook and photobookwork, the main goal of this thesis is to examine and ascertain the historical, material and conceptual characteristics of the latter book practices. Conducted from a critical perspective, the analysis that structures this project aims in the first place to demonstrate how a series of interconnected material, cultural and aesthetic developments enabled the emergence and maturation of photobook practice between the late 1830s and the early 1890s. The project also explores how the materialization of photographically illustrated cultural magazines in the late nineteenth-century catalysed a transformation of visual discourse and literacy that later enabled the full development of photobookwork practice. Importantly, this thesis suggests that photographically illustrated book making fully branched into two distinct forms in the mid 1920s. Whereas until that period photographic illustration in book form was predominantly rooted in the single photographic image, modernist photobook makers, greatly influenced by the visual discourse of photographically illustrated periodicals, developed a photographically illustrated book practice centred on cumulative and relational photographic narratives that traversed the entirety of the book. Ultimately, this project attempts to recalibrate the somewhat monolithic and nebulous perception of photobook history proposed in recent general ‘photobook’ scholarship, while simultaneously contributing towards a better understanding of the historical, material and ontological characteristics that define the two forms of photographic illustration in book form discussed throughout this thesis.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Ulster University
SupervisorPaul Seawright (Supervisor), Alastair Herron (Supervisor) & Martin Parr (Supervisor)


  • Photobook
  • Photobookwork
  • Photobook History
  • Photographic History
  • Printing Technologies
  • Visual Narrative
  • Artist's Book
  • History of Magazines
  • History of Newspapers

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