The Last Book
Author and technologist Nicholas Negroponte has declared that printed books are in danger of disappearing; according to his predictions, the last printed book will appear sometime in the spring of 2016. This copy might well make its appearance tucked away in a backpack and taken aboard a subway to read. This is the premise of The Last Book, the latest body of work by Amsterdam-based photographer Reinier Gerritsen. The world—and the word—is in the process of becoming less and less dependent on paper. Our reading habits, especially as they occur in public spaces, are subtly shifting each day. Gerritsen has taken up the current plethora of books and their readers on New York City’s subways as the proverbial canary-in-the-coal-mine, an indicator of the still-robust nature of public readership, in the face of its ostensible decline. The work began for Gerritsen as a series of modest observations, and has turned into a series of unexpected, documentary portraits, set against a visual landscape of best sellers, classics, romance novels, detective thrillers, Bibles, biographies, and other printed books. Gerritsen depicts groups of individuals engrossed in the worlds they hold in their hands, bringing together a social portrait of readers. From the subtle interactions of passengers and facial expressions to the sociological clues of book titles, a complexly layered narrative is informed by the choices of readers and the mélange of New York City’s subway riders as they are transported both literally and figuratively, by the books in their hands. The Last Book also includes an illustrated index and bibliography charting the titles and authors that populate our minds during our daily commutes. Related Publication Paradox and YdocPublishing released the app The Last Book Revisited. The photographs featured in the app include a look at flip side of the landscape of public reading; an all-digital future in which tablets dominate. Media theorist and biologist Arjen Mulder wrote the accompanying essay My First E-reader.
Reinier Gerritsen (1950) has been photographing figures in the public sphere for over twenty years now. In 1992, he was awarded the prestigious Rijksmuseum assignment with Luuk Kramer, which resulted in a book and exhibition at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Beginning in 2005, he traveled to twenty-five countries to create the ambitious documentary project The Europeans. His previous monographs include Blinde verrassing (1993), the award-winning Matti (2002), and Wall Street Stop (2010). He is represented by Julie Saul Gallery, New York. Boris Kachka is a Brooklyn-based author who writes about books, publishing, and culture. He is a contributing editor at New York magazine and author of the widely reviewed and praised Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2013).
Text(s):Boris KachkaPhotography:Reinier GerritsenDesign:René Put