A photobook trend

Posted in Photobooks (general) by Alec Soth on March 3, 2010

The four books below were produced between 1948-1953. They all follow a similar formula of a leading question followed by a comic photographic response. Know of any other books that follow this trend?

The Frenchman, 1948

The Stenographer, 1950

The Candidate, 1952

Oh, Dr. Kinsey!, 1953

15 Responses

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  1. bob black said, on March 3, 2010 at 7:12 am

    yes….Rafael Goldchain’sbook, I Am My Family: Photographic Memories and Fictions

    began with the question, what did my family look like……as most of his family/ancestors portraits were lost during the wwii….

    the result: he turned himself into his entire lineag…


    ps. do i win a copy of Mountain??

  2. jm said, on March 3, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Puns, Signifier and Signified.

    My book suggestion is ‘Interview’, by Hans-Peter Feldman and Hans Ulrich Obrist.

    In the 1970s, when the American magazine Avalanche requested an interview with Hans-Peter Feldmann, he responded to each of their queries not with words but rather with a single image. Scan’s below,

  3. nelson said, on March 3, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    pretty cheesy as well, but does this count?

  4. little round muskrat said, on March 3, 2010 at 6:12 pm


    If you would like to buy another one, there is this:

    See you Friday.

  5. bob black said, on March 3, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    yo, Alec…

    was sniffing around Monkey Paw this weekend….and saw this there…..thinking a gift for Lester…..

    u should be able to find alot of gifts for the crew there…..insanely ephemeral/deranged book store..


  6. bob black said, on March 3, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    ps.s. here’s a link on the store to whet the LBM’s staff appetite….

  7. LBM said, on March 3, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Muskrat & Monkeypaw…what fantastic readers!

    Seriously, Small Talk is a perfect fit. And the Feldman/Obrist book is a perfect contemporary counterpart. (So is Schatz, I suppose, but I think it needs to age 60 years before I’ll want to look at it).

  8. bob black said, on March 4, 2010 at 5:39 am


    ok, now i understand the parameters :))….next week, i’ll have another look around for 60+ books with questions (monkey is chock-full of them: weird shit there indeed)……will be baring gifts upon your arrival for the crew :))

    running, deadline

  9. Herbert Bodger said, on March 4, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    … following up on your blog posting regarding photobooks that pose a
    question followed by a “comic photographic” response I thought you might like to
    see these pages from a little book that I have always liked. It’s from
    Diesel Clothing and was made in 1996….. perhaps not entirely in the vein
    of your books but worth a look….


    best regards and keep blogging…..

    Herbert Bodger
    Boise Idaho Camera Club

  10. jm said, on March 5, 2010 at 2:14 am

    Who is Sidney Sherman?

    “I have a great capacity for foolishness. It’s essential. Without it you’re just another pretty face!”, Duane Michals

  11. seb said, on March 5, 2010 at 5:35 am

    among the variable pieces (which are to me very much worth looking at) from douglas huebler there is one i know that works this way – with a twist. i couldnt find an image available to share, it’s in the douglas fogle catalogue “last picture show”. In variable piece #101 from 1972 huebler asked bernd becher to “look like” a priest, a criminal, a lover, an old man, a police man, an artist, “Bernd Becher”, a spy, a nice guy and a philosopher. The artwork that comes with 10 images (of a surprisingly hilarious Becher) goes on to state: “To make it almost impossible for Becher to remember his own “faces” more than 2 months were allowed to pass before the prints of the photographs were sent to him; the photographs were numbered differently from the original sequence and Becher was asked to make the “correct” associations ..”

  12. jm said, on March 6, 2010 at 6:02 am

    Hey Seb,

    Thanks that was pretty fun and interesting to look at especially as I couldn’t find out which text goes with which face, and so, I had to play the association game too!

    It’s a bit like playing at inventing caption’s for news and media images.

  13. seb said, on March 6, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    wonder if “huebler” shot them at “becher”, it sure looks that way. or did they have cards they were juggling with random jobs. sure looks like they were having a good time. great to see them on the “web”.

  14. Dan Sumption said, on March 23, 2010 at 3:12 am

    No additional suggestions, but it’s well worth getting hold of Philippe Halsman’s book “Halsman on the Creation of Photographic Ideas” for more background on this trend and on the genesis of the Frenchman book.

    Funny seeing that Diesel catalogue posted above too – that catalogue kinda got me sacked (long story)

  15. Whitney said, on April 1, 2010 at 10:18 am

    I really enjoyed these Photo books. When I viewed the first few, I thought they were just humorous nonsense but the last one, entitled “Oh! Dr. Kinsey!” was on a subject that is known to me. The photographic reactions to the Kinsey report are hilarious; when the report was published it caused huge controversy, where as today, we would think nothing of it. After recognizing the subject matter of the fourth book, I did a little research and was delighted to find the identities of the two male subjects!

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