First Book: Eric William Carroll

I have been going around to photographers asking them one question:

What was the first photo book that you can remember buying or seeing that really had a strong affect on you?

Here is Eric William Carroll’s answer:

“The first photo book I can remember having a lasting  impact on me would have to be my family’s photo album. I imagine my thrill upon its initial discovery was largely narcissistic, but the album played a major role in how I came to understand my identity, my past, and the formation of my earliest memories. The album itself is as thick as a phone book. The front cover is baby-duck yellow and says ‘Family Album’ in an embellished font, complete with photographs of some generic family enjoying an autumn picnic. Its thick adhesive pages were once a creamy white but have since gone yellowish-brown, a prime example of non-archival storage. The album starts right off with my birth and goes until I am about four or five years old. I think I noticed the album when I was around six, and revisited its contents once a week, experiencing what I can only imagine was a twisted sense of false nostalgia. Yes, I was six, reminiscing about the ‘good ‘ol days’. I kept looking through the album until it was memorized and I still don’t understand why I was so obsessed with it. Any way, no book of photography has affected or moved me in a similar way since. If I was to pick a commercially available photo book: Chronologies by Richard Misrach.”

5 Replies to “First Book: Eric William Carroll”

  1. hi charlie,
    thats a good point eric makes. my dad was a prof in edinburgh, and my gran was czech, we would go visit every summer, by car, and my dad would constantly be making detours so he could photograph places and things of scientific historical interest. he would take a lot of photographs on those summer holidays and when we would return home we would have wonderful slide shows. i am pretty sure this is what started my fascination with photography. photo albums projected on a wall.

  2. The first book that really effected me was Paul Fusco’s Chernobyl Legacy. I was house sitting a friends place and I was in my first postgraduate year at art school. Up until then I’d been heavily into Robert Frank and HCB – as you’d expect. Anyway, I’d seen many brilliant books before I sat down on one hot summers evening with a beer at my friends table with Chernobyl Legacy in front of me. I think I sat there and read every paragraph three times and spent literally hours contemplating the photographs, what they meant, their honesty and what humanity plus technology had come to. I’m not exaggerating when writing I had nightmares for weeks following. As a book, Chernobyl Legacy is horribly designed and printed but the content and its message shines through. My head tells me Gilles Peress’ Telix Iran is a better book, certainly I admire the photography, design concept and artistic vision more, but I get shivers every time I think about or look at Fusco’s Chernobyl Legacy.

  3. If I was a betting man I’d say at least half of the people questioned would say The Americans by Robert Frank.

    It was out of print when I first got into photography so had to make do with taking it out of my college library. Frank’s Come Again was my first photo book I actually owned.

  4. Hey Charlie B…interesting question…

    Like Alec and all you cats at Little Brown Mushroom, i breathe, eat, drink, dream, look at, sniff up, write, make, prick around books….it’s been that way my entire life…thought the madness began as a young kid loosing his sight who spent a good chunk of time reading reading reading reading…..still to this day, i read more than i photograph, and read more than i do anything else, except talking with my wife and son….

    anyway, like Robert, i first got jazzed by pic-taking from my grandmother, herself a photographer. i cant see my grandmother in my head without that damn nikon around her shoulder. she was the first woman photography store owner in Philadelphia…which she opened in order to support her family while my grandfather was away at sea….she did the same: she’d do at home slide projections…of our time in taiwan, her travels, our growing up, everything…most of my early memories are a palimpsest of real and those damn slide projection shows…long before they were a hit, i totally was addicted to them…they still influence the way i see work and shape my own….

    when i was 15 my dad gave me 2 picture books, one called ‘pulitzer prize winning photos of the 60’s’ and the other was an anthology of Vientnam pics…i remember, to this day, that book page by page…but it was Nick Ut’s pic that stayed seared in my memory and in many ways still haunts my own picture taking…

    when i was 18, my dad gave me the Diane Arbus portfolio book, and that started shit clicking in my head….later, after college, i wasliving in Providence RI, helping my younger brother get through RISD and i met frencesca woodman’s best friend (who had to clean her loft after she’d leapt out the window) who was an instructor at RISD and that was another big click in the cog….long before her beatification….a couple of years later i saw Klein’s NYC book and then read an amazing book called:

    Wisconsin Death Trip….

    COMBO of history, anthropology, story and found phtoographs….major major rush and started me thinking: i want to do that: pictures and words….

    obssessed with films, i always thought of photography as something i loved but not something i wanted to do (that was always writing and painting and making short films) and then i saw the book from MOriyama’s show at SF Moma in ’94…..stunned…then i saw Good-bye Photography and thought: that’s it…

    then became obsessed with moriyama…and japanese phtoography…then my wife discovered Giacomelli….and we bought the huge categlog book…..and on and on and on it went….

    i always looked at photobooks and i preferred to read them too (pjg vietnam, inc, for example)….or the way W.G.Sebald uses pics with his books….

    funny,much of the work i know look at as no relationship to what inspired me…i always got excited by photo books, but never as excited as seeing mashups, interconnectivity, insane shit…..

    words stuck with drawings stuck with pics….

    like listening to Beuys talk to a wolf :)))


  5. I think that family photo albums are the reasons many of us grew to love photography. Being able to flip through the pages of your own history and re-live random moments through the memories attached to an image taught us on a personal level how photographs can touch you. Now every photograph we take is meant to inspire some type of emotion or memory, whether it is yours or someone else’s, to the people who view it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *