“With a photobook, you can touch someone on the other side of the planet”

by Unseen June 20 2018

A few short weeks ago, Unseen travelled to Moscow at the invitation of the international festival PHOTOBOOKFEST 2018, to curate a weekend programme of lectures and debates. The result was Weekend with Unseen, a jam-packed programme of events that welcomed innovative image-makers and photography professionals from around the world to delve into the latest trends and discourses capturing the attention of the photography industry today.

One of our guest speakers was artist and friend of Unseen, Sjoerd Knibbeler (1981, NL). Knibbeler graduated from the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, and has since established himself in the field of photography for his work, which seeks to visualise invisible natural phenomena such as the wind, air movement and climatological conditions.

We caught up with Knibbeler following PHOTOBOOKFEST 2018 to reminisce over an inspiring weekend and pick his brain about the significance of the photobook.  

Sjoerd Knibbeler talking in panel discussion, Weekend with Unseen, 2018 (c) The Lumiere Center Photography.jpg

We invited you to give an artist talk at the fair in Moscow this year—can you tell us a little bit more about what you spoke about? 

My aim was to give an introduction to my work and I talked about the different facets that make up my art practice. For instance: using the camera as a tool for my studio experiments to visualise invisible natural phenomena like the wind. Or working with video to document pilots who collectively perform a flight routine in their minds. I also spoke about the collaborative process of creating and publishing my photobook Paper Planes. And more recently, I have been exploring exchange and collaboration between art and science in a commissioned project for the National Maritime Museum.

One of the themes explored by the Photobook Fair was the concept of the photobook as an autonomous art form. How important is it for you and other photographers today to have your work published in a book, as opposed to being circulated online, or exhibited in a gallery? 

Given you spend attention to every detail, a book provides your work with the exact context you would like it to have. Although we all have an understanding or expectation of what a book is, its form does still allow for quite a lot of experiment. As an artist, you can be playful and sculpt your book to formally express its content. To an extent, this can also be done online or in a gallery, but the experience of your work changes into something more technological or spatial, respectively. I wouldn’t say one or the other is better, just different. For me, the photobook as an autonomous art form appeals because it is a physical object that travels easy. It has a feeling and with that feeling, you can touch someone on the other side of the planet.

What excited you most at the festival? Any inspiration you’ll be taking home with you?

I was really struck by the dedication and engagement of the audience, which all of us noticed in the numerous questions and discussions that continued way after the talks had officially ended. Because of the great and sometimes also critical response of people in the audience, I really felt that the weekend became an exchange of ideas and cultures. I’ve met many brilliant people who are doing amazing work under rather difficult circumstances. Therefore, it has been a sometimes sobering and very rewarding experience to be able to exchange ideas, talk about photography and the many different ways we give meaning to it. 

Thank you, Sjoerd!

Would you like to see your work published in a photobook? Submit your dummy book to the Unseen Dummy Award 2018 before the 10th of August for a chance to get it published. Find out more and apply today.


Image Credits: 

Header Image: Exhibition, Weekend with Unseen 2018 © The Lumiere Center for Photography 

Second Image: Sjoerd Knibbeler talking in a panel discussion, Weekend with Unseen, 2018 © The Lumiere Center for Photography