What to do Tonight: Learn about photobooks at the Pittsburgh Filmmakers

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Melissa Catanese tells stories through her photographs.

I'm going to try to tell her story the old-fashioned way -- through words. (Please bear with me.)

Ms. Catanese creates "photobooks," in which the turning of the pages tells a visual story. She will be discussing her work in a presentation titled "Opening the Photobook" tonight as part of the Pittsburgh Filmmakers' lecture series at 7 p.m. in North Oakland.

"In my opinion, the photobook is the perfect vehicle for engaging with a group of photographs," said Ms. Catanese. "It's portable, it's affordable. You can view it in the comfort of your own home. You can revisit it, and it can change meaning over time.

"I believe photographs in books, when created as a narrative or a story, really enrich the single photograph. Essentially, the photobook is more about the whole and less about the part."

The collection of work -- and its sequential presentation -- says so much more than a lone image, framed on the wall of a gallery, she said.

"I believe a photobook is a text," she said. "The photograph can be seen as a word. And by putting photographs into a sequence, you're creating sentences that can be read to tease out their meaning."

But because of its nature, it can't be read literally. Two different readers could see two different sentences, and neither one may be what the photographer saw.

"Styles of photography books are open to different interpretations," Ms. Catanese said. "And that's what I'm looking for."

A native of Cleveland, Ms. Catanese has been taking photographs since high school. She studied the art form in college and graduate school at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan.

She has worked as an adjunct faculty member at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and was a sales representative for an art book distributor in New York, dealing books to museums, libraries and boutique bookstores.

It was there that the photobook captured her attention. She moved to Pittsburgh a few years ago and opened Spaces Corners -- a shop specializing in photobooks -- on Butler Street in Lawrenceville last fall.

Tonight's presentation at the Filmmakers will begin with a brief history of the artform, which Ms. Catanese said dates to the beginning of the image-making medium in the mid-1800s. She also will be showing examples of the elements and qualities involved in photobooks.

Ms. Catanese has produced two collections of her photos and is working on her first commercially printed photobook, "Dive Dark Dream Slow," which will be coming out this year.

That work, she said, contains more than 50 photographs, but there is no set number of photos telling a story in a photobook.

"The beauty of the photographic book itself is that it's something you can touch and feel and activate by turning the pages with your hands," she said. "It's a collaboration, really, between the author, the reader and the world."

The event tonight at 477 Melwood Ave. is free and open to the public. If you can't make it, perhaps you'd want to mark your calendar for Thursday evening, when Spaces Corners welcomes New York-based photographers Ron Jude and Danielle Mericle to lecture at Carnegie International Satellite Apartment on 44th Street in Lawrenceville.

Check it out

"Opening the Photobook"

Part of the Pittsburgh Filmmakers' lecture series.

7 p.m., today. North Oakland.

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This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe, go to http://old.post-gazette.com/trypress/


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