It’s not exactly the Library of Congress, but the Indie Photobook Library is fast becoming one of Washington’s more interesting small collections. Founded just last year by Larissa Leclair, the archive has already grown to more than 600 photography-related books issued by the tiniest of small publishers.
“These kinds of books are really challenging the traditional publishing paradigms,” says Leclair, a locally based independent curator and photographer. “Even for me, who’s trying to follow everything, there’s just too many to keep track of.” Some highlights from the library are on display through Nov. 20 at the Corcoran Gallery’s free exhibition space, Gallery 31, where a public reception will be held Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m.
Selections range from simple magazines to opulent volumes complete with slipcovers and creamy paper. Some showcase images by students, notably from the Netherlands, a hotbed of indie photobooks. Others feature the work of professionals, such as well-known Australian Magnum photographer Trent Parke. His collection of street shots, published in a 1,000-copy edition, sold out in one day.
The show’s rarer and more delicate books are in a glass exhibition case, but others can be taken off the wall and handled. Each work also has a QR code that can be scanned with a mobile phone to access more information about it. And the space has been outfitted with chairs for the show so people can settle in and inspect a volume page by page.
One thing Leclair appreciates about the show is that “it wasn’t curated by me. I like the opportunity to see which books resonate with other people.” Curators Muriel Hasbun and Susan Sterner (both Corcoran staffers) and Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, a visiting artist from Mexico, chose what Leclair calls “books that have a sense of place.”
Most of the works on view are limited editions or were produced by print-on-demand services. To rate a place in her collection, Leclair says, “There has to be more than one. But even if there are just five copies out there, I’m interested in that book.”