I love books. Especially photo books. They are collections of visual knowledge and perspective, and photographs can do things words could never do. I love turning a page and stumbling into a new and surprising scenery, another look, other living and inanimate things than on the page before. But with every read-through, a book loses some of its ability to capture and surprise, you see the pictures on one double page, you have an idea what’s coming next and the relation of every page to another becomes at the same time more obvious and more detached. It is also very tedious to fumble around the edges of a page in order to turn just one and not several at a time, and then they insist on tearing just because you are too passionate a page-turner, and I won’t even start on large-format pictures in traditional books or the distorted horror that is a photograph stretched over one double-page. Or playboy centrefolds. Let’s be honest, we’ve all had it with those devilish stacks of paper from the ninth circle of hell. I hate books.
Enter the good old scroll-format book. The solution to all of our problems. In a sexy shiny new dress. I will admit that I had a minor mental breakdown the very first time I started to layout this book for Round not Square, I didn’t know what to do, where to start, how to structure… but it soon dawned on me that the trouble I had stemmed from what was so great about this format, a completely new level of freedom. It was all up to me, the only limitation being vertical. Quite the challenge. It led me to design a way of story-telling that I had never had the opportunity to realise before, one chain of thought, or block, or chapter could be 30 cm long and consist of ten pictures, or it could be 90 cm long and consist of just two, and I wasn’t forced to implement any clear breaks where I didn’t want them. Even better: ultimately, it’s the reader who decides what is shown at once, whether it’s just one picture, a set of three, or the entire book (provided the premises in the west wing of your château allow for it, because it is quite long indeed). There are hundreds of different ways to look at such a scroll.
Quite honestly, the scroll won’t be able to replace the cookery books you inherited from your grandmother. It won’t replace your first edition of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “Les Européens” and it won’t replace your Bible, or your Quran. I also doubt it will replace anyone’s Torah, but that’s another story. In any case, there are quite a few things that a scroll-format book can do that “normal” books never will, and the same is true the other way around. They will never replace one another, but it’s high time the scroll took back the space that is carved out for it, and that place is round, not square. I love books.
Want to learn more about Simon Becker?
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