In 1999, while examining photographic books in the Portland, Oregon public library, I turned a page of “The New Color Photography” by Sally Eauclaire. There, I should have seen a photo of a nude figure reclining on a bed, instead I saw something entirely unexpected. Someone had cut the figure out leaving behind a “window” that revealed some of the text from the previous page. Written in red ink below the missing image were the words: “can’t believe it!”
I found myself confronting the traces of two separate events—the alteration of the original image, and commentary by a subsequent reader. New relationships now emerged between the altered image and the text revealed through the window. I checked the book out of the library and launched a new photographic project, documenting mutilated books from libraries around the country.
My process began by visiting the photography section of libraries, sifting through the stacks, flipping through pages and looking for missing images. It was a laborious and often fruitless process until I met with a librarian who posted my project on the librarian’s listserv (ARLIS). Suddenly, books started coming to me from libraries across the country. As they arrived in the mail, I documented them using my 4x5 camera mounted to a copy stand. The pages transformed into new multi-layered images.
These “withdrawn” images are the work of an invasive viewer overstepping accepted boundaries of reading and ownership, their anonymous interventions have resulted in arresting images that embody the twin responses of censorship and voyeurism.