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Friday, February 22, 2019

Crit: Thicket

A few weeks ago one of our regular commenters, David Smith, posted a link to a PDF book he's made, Thicket. I downloaded same, and have looked at it from time to time since, and now I shall presume to review it. After a fashion.

I do not know offhand if this book is intended as a magnum opus or a joke, or something in between. If I squint I can imagine practically anything as an authorial intent. I am going to treat it as an object made with serious intent, as a work-in-progress, this being my best guess at David's intentions. At any rate, the book certainly makes sense seen that way.

The first thing that struck me about the book was, to be honest, confusion. The book completely lacks any nod toward the standard front matter that books have (title page, half-title, colophon, etcetera, etcetera.) Now, to my mind, most modern books have way too much of this crap, I quite dislike leafing through apparently endless repetitive rot before I get to the body of the book. On the other hand, though, a page or two of material allows a sort of soft landing on the content itself. We expect to turn a page or two, to reminded of what it is we're looking at (title) and get a more or less blank page or two to catch our breath and settle in. To be confronted with content the instant we open the cover is a bit unexpected.

Having sorted out that this is content, and that content is recto, with blank verso pages, we can then page through it. It is very very short, 12 pages, 6 pictures in all, plus one for the covers.

The next thing that struck me was a sort of resemblance to John Gossage's book The Pond (which I think Mike C. might have brought to my attention only a year or two ago.) In fact, I went looking for a source of pictures of that book to see if this was a direct homage (I do not own a copy of The Pond) and as far as I can tell it is not, particularly. Thicket uses full bleed pictures recto, The Pond is more mixed up design-wise, and so on.

Still, the resemblance is there. Both use a collection of pictures, each picture being more or less just some stuff, not very interesting, to evoke a kind of sense of place. Gossage and Smith both give is a large hint in the title, and we obligingly imagine a Pond or a Thicket, respectively.

The same picture appears on both the front and back covers, and I am unsure what to make of that. I'm not sure that's a choice I would have made, and the fact that it is clearly a conscious choice begs the question "why?" to which I have no answer.

Does Thicket work? Yeah, I think it works fine.

I don't particularly love it, but that is purely a reflection of my personal taste, not anything fundamental that I can point out (viewing it as a work-in-progress, as noted).


  1. I have always LOVED the brocade-look of natural materials in situ (this is Stone Seal, but my google account is fritzed right now)

  2. Well, this is unexpected :-)

    I just want to add a couple of points:

    - the "book" -format pdf can be downloaded here (3 MB): http://designartcraft.com/photo/thicket-v2.pdf

    - it's not available in print form, though anyone may download and print it for personal consumption.

    So as I think I mentioned in that other blog post on what photo books (two words) ought to be in 2019, well, this is my take.

    1. I did include the link! You have to click the first instance of the title which, now that I look at it, is remarkably not-at-all obvious.