Kristina McComb’s newest series, An Archive of Time: A Life Lived in the Boston Athenæum documents the books in the library, worn and weathered through age and use. Focused on books whose individuality catch her attention, McComb creates images that highlight the unique history they have endured. These striking photographs bring attention to the tears, folds, broken spines, and cobwebs that mottle their surface, and celebrating their imperfections rather than shunning them. She explains, “These are the details that tell me the story of the work and share a history of who has touched and been influenced by this book.” Each image conveys a sense that the artist has a genuine admiration for the subject of her photographs, thereby imbuing each image with vitality. In a way, her images give the books new life while providing a platform to tell their stories.
Last year McComb entered the Boston Athenæum as an artist in residence with only a vaguely formed plan, instead relying on the books to provide inspiration. This discovery plays a large role in her process. In fact, she deliberately does not interfere with how the books are positioned-- only documenting exactly as she finds them, the unedited truth of how they exist in the library. Additionally, she does not edit as she shoots, but lets the images that speak the loudest to her be chosen for the final prints. Her photographs are artfully composed with careful consideration of light and angle.
The project will culminate in three volumes of bound books, each consisting of fifty images. The photo books will include a short essay by a research library from W. Van Alan Clark Jr. Library, the essay is based on institutional ghosts that haunt libraries and their impact on the current state of libraries. McComb not only wants to preserve the history of the books, but the project also honors the walls of the library itself. In addition to the books, she has created a laser cut wooden miniature library to house these books that pulls direct influence from the architectural design of the library. They will contain steel bookshelves with 3D printed miniature books arranged on the shelves and LED lights imitating the feel of the library’s interior. There will be 15 editions available of this version of the project.
Ultimately, McComb’s goal is to archive the books as they are now. By freezing the books in their current state and giving them a new life through digital reproduction, she starts the cycle anew, letting the images age much like the books themselves have aged.
The final draft of Volume 1 debuts in December of 2018, with Volumes 2 & 3 forthcoming in 2019 and 2020. To attend Kristina McComb’s field report at the Boston Athenæum on December 4th, click here for event details:
Individual images from the project will be on view at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery from December 20, 2018 - February 17, 2019.