MEREDITH MILLER // Revenants: Memories of Books

Revenants: Memories of Books

In my current body of work, Revenants: Memories of Books, I photograph what remains on the copystand after I document books and other material in my role as a photographer at Yale’s Beinecke Library. As they are photographed, the books often shed bits and pieces of their bindings and flecks of paper from their brittle pages. These remainders from rare works are at once precious and incidental. I started documenting these bits and pieces within the course of my regular workday. At the end of a session, after I have photographed a book, I capture what remains on the copy stand before I sweep it up and dispose of the residue. The resulting images are celestial–like with specks of white marking a black background and leave the imagination open to both the presence and absence of the object and in the process create abstract illusions. During my recent residency at the Weir Farm Art Center in Connecticut, I sequenced these images into a photobook. Presenting the work as a photobook returns the material back into its original form as codex.

With Revenants: Memories of Books, I am not only providing digital surrogates to the library’s accessible holdings but I am also providing researchers with unexpected documentation of the collection. In a time when we question the future of the book my images remind us that the physical object is a record of our collective memories and as memories they imprint on those who encounter it in a manner wholly impossible for the e-book. My work evokes our attachment to the physical object in the midst of a technological revolution in which the act of reading too often relies on an illuminated screen.