In 2000 I exhibited a body of photographs titled Bookworms at the Floating Gallery in Winnipeg. This was a series of photographs recording the nocturnal activities of bookworms, those tiny, shy creatures that live in children’s books, read the stories and build structures and machines to help the characters in the stories. I used a 4 X 5 film view camera for this project.
Now almost 20 years later I am again documenting bookworm activity but focusing on a different type of book and different aspects of the worm’s lives. In this project I am documenting how the bookworms set up their own living quarters and how they use the content of the book to influence their mischievous, restless nocturnal projects. This time I am using a digital camera and focusing on my late mother’s collection of first edition books, many of them dating from the 1800s and personal journals from the 1700s. As I have discovered the bookworms living in these books are much more sophisticated than the bookworms I photographed in 2000. But that makes sense since these books are so much older and have much more of a history behind them!
In the book James Hannington (1905) bookworms have created a gallery of abstract paintings by revealing various areas of the front endpaper and framing them. Using my 3rd great-grandfather’s 1811 cage-making journal the bookworms built a cage for their pet jay and another group took advantage of some serious stains in the Guide to Health (1832) and went mountain climbing.
As an example of their sophistication, these bookworms raised the idea of “word painting” to a new level by adding an hydraulic lift to a drawing in A Treasury of Stephen Foster (1946). “Word painting” is described in Wikipedia as
“Word painting is the musical technique of composing music that reflects the literal meaning of a song's lyrics. For example, ascending scales would accompany lyrics about going up; slow, dark music would accompany lyrics about death.”
In the above book, the bookworms took this definition to a new level. They added an hydraulic lift to the singer in the art work so that the singer could be moved up physically on the high notes and moved down on the lower notes.
The prints are large (18” by 24”) so that the creations of the tiny bookworms can be seen clearly.