There are many books which are made of ‘nothing’. More often than not, a book will amount to ‘nothing’ in the larger world. Publishing books can transform your money into ‘nothing,’ and the painful truth is, most books should have remained as a non-existent ‘nothing.’ Remaining ‘nothing’ can also be a way to preserve an important ‘something’. John Gossage’s new book from Waltz Books called Nothing however, is a shining example of something – great bookmaking.
In 1985, the photographer John Gossage was invited to photograph in ‘The Kingdom’ of Saudi Arabia by Prince Abdullah Bin Faisel Bin Turki Al-Saud. Abdullah has asked Gossage what he might like to see in The Kingdom. Gossage replied that he’d like to take some photographs out in the desert. Abdullah replied, “You know there is nothing out there.” To which Gossage responded, “Yeah, that was sort of what I was looking for.” Hence the title Nothing.
The notion of ‘nothing’ or ‘nothingness’ in photography might sound odd as photography deals with facts – light on surfaces, objects – the opposite of nothing. Nothing is a vacuum – a black hole. Gossage deals with black holes, or more accurately, blind spots in our vision. He makes (for me as a photographer) frustratingly interesting and complex images out of seemingly little or nothing at all: A piece of wood propping up another; a void of black with the slightest outline of something indefinable; some trash; an open tent flap; a cardboard box; the flat horizon between sand and sky. These are ‘things’ that most walk by – see perhaps for an instant – disregard and then erase from memory with the first sound sleep. Gossage’s pictures make us stop and again reconsider this world of ‘nothingness’ and strike us with sudden awe.
Nothing is broken into three ‘parts.’ The book design – a three-folded panel – reveals three attached booklets. The two outer are 32 page each and the center is a leporello-fold ‘panoramic’ of individual photos of the ‘nothingness’ that Abdullah mentions of the desert. Maybe it is a 360 degree view from which one might ask, if this was the stage, where did all of the other substance in the two booklets come from?
The printing is exceptional with separations by Robert Hennessey and inking by the firm F+W in Kienberg Germany. If I had to point to one modest flaw, the paper’s light weight allows a little of the verso image to show through, which for images with larger fields of light grey can be a little distracting.
I am ending this month of Guest Writer for the Hatje Cantz Fotoblog with this book. I wanted to end on a high note and I can think of no other higher than this. I hope you enjoyed. Tschüss!
Waltz Books, 2014
Note: My photographs show a slight Moire pattern to the covers. The book’s covers are a fine grey linen without the stripes.