Browse an Artist’s Meticulously Constructed, Imaginary Bookshelves

We all know, as the saying goes, that you can’t judge a book by its cover. What viewers new to the work of photographer Max Steven Grossman may not initially realize is that you can’t judge his photographs by their appearances, either.

This is because Grossman is a master of digital manipulation, who crafts works that appear to be whole but are in fact made out of a disparate assortment of parts. He is also trained in engineering, a subject he studied before falling for photography. This background is reflected in his approach to picture taking, which he turns into a process of assembly and invention. In other words: his photographs are engineered.

Take his “Bookscapes” series, for example, which he began in 2006. In these life-sized and larger-than-life-sized photographs, he presents images of bookshelves stuffed with enviable collections of books, each focused on a single subject, ranging from art to rock-n-roll to fashion to music—and none of them picturing an actual, existing collection.

To make these works, the artist painstakingly stitches together numerous individual photographs of books found on an equally numerous assortment of bookshelves, as if to mimic the process of building an actual collection of books; book-by-book and over time. “I think people enjoy these images because they’re relatable,” he once said. “They’re welcoming, and the relationship each viewer experiences is almost immediately personal.”

In other series, Grossman has focused on the sublime sea- and skyscapes of Antarctica; the architecture of cities worldwide; waves rolling into shore; and shorelines, some featuring shacks composed of patched-together parts and tempting to read as a subtle nod to the patched-together nature of his own work. On some of these shorelines, his bookshelves appear, incongruently. In one image, for example, he places a semi truck on the beach, its side cut away to reveal an especially expansive bookshelf, which, like all of his “Bookscapes,” may put viewers in the mood for browsing.

Karen Kedmey

Discover more artists at Baker Sponder Gallery.

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