Monday, March 3, 2008

William Eggleston 213 Gallerie catalog

I was browsing a bookstore with a friend a while back and he showed up at my side with his intended purchase. Upon seeing the book I asked somewhat snobbishly, “You actually like that?” He replied, “I don‘t know, but I need to buy it. Otherwise, when it disappears, I won’t have the chance to not like it.” I guess that just about sums up our current state of affairs of book collecting right?

Just last night I was searching online for a couple books that I discovered during a two day visit in Washington DC pawing through Ordinary’s photobook library. One title I was searching for is a facsimile copy of Duchamp’s notebook of installation instructions for Etant Donnes. Just as I was about to purchase a copy, I paused and asked myself whether I really needed this book. It looks great, it’s interesting, it’s smart, (and by having a copy I look smart too). Mind you, I would be fascinated by it and learn something but would I continue to use that book? Is my knowledge of the installation of Duchamp’s Etant Donnes worth $40.00. Would I return to this book over and over again like I do others? I decided not to buy the copy (but now after proof reading this post I think I am going to buy one).

I could stand in front of my bookcases and pick out 300-400 titles to get rid of that I may never pick up again in my life and certainly never miss. For a man who has run out of shelf space, it is always a tempting thought. I did sell a whole slew of valuable books around 2001 when I was funding my trips back and forth to Serbia but I swore never again because I did let a couple things go that I now regret. I had this idea that I could “tighten” my collection down to the most important items and try out the mindset of quality over quantity (and in the process let a little quality go since the money was so good). But this is hard to do because of the voice of my friend above, “I won‘t have the chance to not like it.” That being said, do I really need to hold onto William Klein’s MMV Romani? Marc Riboud’s Bangkok? The Diane Arbus book of mental patients? Ralph Gibson’s Overtones? Erich Hartmann’s In the Camps?

One of the items that I regretted selling is a small catalog of William Eggleston’s published on the occasion of a 1998 show in Paris at the 213 Gallerie of Marion de Beaupre.

What I missed about this catalog has less to do with the actual photographs which appear in many of his books with better reproductions but this catalog is remarkable for its odd Japanese toy-like design and packaging.

It comes enclosed in a heavy clear plastic pouch that is sealed with a sticker (which varies from copy to copy) and the cover of the pouch is screened with the numbers 213. The font used on the cover and for the title William Eggleston 26/03/98 is one of the less legible fonts ever created. Each letter is made from an image of the top view of a shutter speed dial and other camera mode icons and the result is clunky futuristic type that would seem more at home in a sci-fi film.

The cover is an equally confusing cardstock which seems purposefully die-cut (like an unfolded box but one that is impossible to assemble) with a reproduction of Huger Foote’s photo of Bill in knee-high riding boots handling one of his shotguns.

The real draw of this catalog is from the 31 reproductions that are printed on thin paper stock and attached to the individual pages. They are attached in a way that they can be lifted to read the captions printed underneath. Once opened this is one of the harder catalogs to put down.

So this is one of the little books that I sold and the regret scared me into keeping everything. While in Washington DC and beating myself up over my stupidity for selling such a great little “thing” over seven years ago to Ordinary (and for not much more than I paid for it in Paris), he appeared out of his back room and flipped a copy onto the couch - “Here,” he said, “I was just holding it for you.”

So now it is returned to my shelf after a seven year vacation to DC. I am indebted to Ordinary for his generosity. I hope he doesn’t feel horrible pangs of regret later.