With his tenth photobook in ten years of collaborating with graphic designer Wayne Daly of London-based studio Daly & Lyon, John MacLean delivers a project that works against both the conventions of book design and the curated experience of the art gallery. Outthinking the Rectangle is an unbound book which addresses the traditional presentation of images and the impulse to arrange, frame and confine the images we receive, whether that be via the white-cube space of the gallery or the linear flow of pages in a book.
Presented as a limited artist’s edition of 100 copies, each consisting of 24 photographs contained within a clamshell box, John’s book plays with the notion of “thinking outside the box.” As he states: “Modern culture continually reinforces an instinct to see rectangularly through the prevalence of pages, frames and screens and I wanted to emphasise this visually. In contrast with my previous book Hometowns which was very punchy and colour-saturated, this book is intentionally restrained and ‘cool’. It reflects my ambivalence towards the contemporary art scene and the sanctity of the Modernist white-cube art gallery.”
Summing up his photographic style, John says: “I try to make complicated photographs that require time to decipher. Over the last couple of years, I’ve become increasingly interested in the psychology of seeing, and this is beginning to be reflected in my style. The camera sees geometrically but we see psychologically; I’m interested in how this discrepancy can be illustrated in photographs.” The photographs comprising Outthinking the Rectangle interrogate concepts of the viewer, viewed and photographic representation. This body of work, John tells us, “grew from a desire to think about – and push against – the rigidity of the photographic apparatus, to try to interrupt the continual flow of rapidly redundant images.”