Dead Ends response to the pre-module activity for the Sustainable Strategies module of MA Photography (Falmouth University). This activity aims at production strategies, and Ed Rucha's small books inspire it.
In 1971, Ed Ruscha completed five paintings, books, films, prints and drawings and received a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. It was a busy year for Ruscha, and the three books completed this year were: A Few Palm Trees, Records, and Dutch Details.
I became interested in Dutch Details, commissioned by Sonsbeek '71, an international art exhibition at the Groninger Museum. The brief required Rusha to create a work on-site for the exhibition. Therefore, Ruscha needed to travel to the Netherlands, but as his plane approached the Netherlands, the pilot announced the weather was terrible, and he would have more details soon. Rusha thought, "Dutch details," and that was the beginning of the project.
Unlike other book projects, Dutch Details is horizontal in format. Ruscha took the photographs only at bridge locations. Using the bridges, Ruscha devised a way to take pictures of the same house six times, first from a distance, then in stages, as he moved closer until the final shot would be a close-up —a shop window display, a vase of flowers, or a sign. The images capture the average living environment during the period in the Ruscha style—mundane and shot with no particular viewpoint. The photobook resembles a long postcard with foldouts. When closed, it resembles the walkway of the bridges. The publisher printed 3000 in the edition, but most of the print run was mistakenly destroyed in a warehouse, and Ruscha collectors now highly seek after the remaining copies.
The book inspired Jan Henderikse's Broadway 1983. Broadway is a series of 249 images laid horizontally in sets of threes to create an elongated booklet, like Dutch Details. Its cover is made of cardboard with photographs bound together with two laces. For this photobook, Henderikse took a picture from every cross-section of Broadway, starting downtown in the financial district and then moving uptown.
Dead Ends takes the progression process in Dutch Details and Broadway to create four images of the Cul-de-sacs within a ½ mile radius of my location in the London Borough of Sutton. One resident explained that Cul-de-sac roughly translates to "bottom of the sack". I feel that it is natural to want to find out what is at the bottom of the sack, and Dead Ends explore this curiosity with Cul-de-sacs.
But like Dutch Details, Dead ends photographs were a means, not an end. The primary purpose is to create an artist book using materials I already have. I used a white A2 matte paper for printing the photographs and a brown card, which I used for tabletop photography, to create the cover. I used a brown sewing thread to make the linking stitches for the exposed spine binding.
Dead Ends consists of 36 images shot on a handheld camera like Dutch Details and Broadway. But instead of black and white photos, I used Ektar 100, the filmstock that I intend to use for my work in this module. As a result, the images have high saturation and details; the filmstock also suited the British summer sunlight with speeds that allowed for fast shooting handheld.
Like Ruscha, I had no idea what I would do until I started the project. I knew I wanted to produce an artist book at the end—my first (handmade). I also wanted to break the cycle of working in a controlled studio environment as I have been for the last two modules. Dead Ends created the opportunity for me to get out and experiment. Since the photographs were a means, aesthetics was not a priority. I aimed to reconnect with my environment as it is a vital part of my practice and reflect on how to include it in my work going forward. A key takeaway for me doing Dead Ends is the number of rubbish bins in front of people's houses in my neighbourhood. This finding is something I'm interested in exploring further in Sustainable Strategies.
BINT PHOTOBOOKS. 2011. ‘Bint PhotoBooks on INTernet: Ed Ruscha Dutch Details Sonsbeek ’71 Artist Book Graphic Arts Photography’. [online]. Available at: http://bintphotobooks.blogspot.com/2011/04/ed-ruscha-dutch-details-sonsbeek-71.html [accessed 7 May 2022].
BINTBINT. 2011. Ed Ruscha Dutch Details Artist Book Photography [Film]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5HvGmWzVP0 [accessed 7 May 2022].
CULT JONES. n.d. ‘HENDERIKSE, Jan. Broadway.’ Cult Jones [online]. Available at: https://www.cultjones.com/product/henderikse-jan-broadway/ [accessed 7 May 2022].
HENDERISKE, Jan. 2016. ‘Jan Henderikse – Broadway’. New York Photobooks [online]. Available at: https://newyorkphotobooks.com/2016/12/16/jan-henderikse-broadway/ [accessed 7 May 2022].
IRVING ZUCKER ART BOOKS. 2022. ‘Ed Ruscha | Dutch Details | 1971 | Zucker Art Books’. [online]. Available at: https://www.zuckerartbooks.com/exhibition/33/exhibition_works/2791 [accessed 27 Apr 2022].
LINDSAY, Paul. 2021. ‘Ed Ruscha’. Paul Lindsay [online]. Available at: https://hklindsay.photography/2021/06/12/ed-ruscha/ [accessed 27 Apr 2022].