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In 1928, a time between wars when art travelled to increasingly bold and transgressive places, a pair of seminal tomes fused fiction and photography in an inspired fashion, suggesting bold new possibilities for literature. Both offered dazzling prose with vivid black-and-white images, one illuminating the other perfectly, resulting in audacious one-offs that astonish to this day – though it might be noted that many later editions of disregarded the photographic element, which was key to Woolf’s wry proto-feminist vision.
The basic concept wasn’t exactly new – examples of “photo-embedded fiction” stretch even further back, to 1892, with the publication of Belgian author Georges Rodenbach’s symbolist novel .
And so it continues: in recent years, the practice has been co-opted by authors as diverse as Iain Sinclair, Stephen King and Jonathan Safran Foer, with perhaps the most noteworthy – and committed – practitioner being the late, great German author WG Sebald, who delivered a remarkable quartet of novels () that took the concept into intriguing, elliptical territory, with stunning results.
“The two worlds – literature and photography – have always interacted in any number of fascinating and unexpected ways,” says “We’re always trying to create a dialogue and that’s ideally what these films are doing: examining the genesis of key works and dissecting individual creative processes while suggesting a bigger picture.
We’re looking at the way literature has incorporated photography and vice versa.” How, then, to label a wantonly unclassifiable sub-genre; one that delights in wilfully defying categorisation at every juncture?
In 1931, Maigret creator Georges Simenon dabbled in the form with a crime tale entitled But the name stuck.
Enthusiasts have dubbed the newer wave of prose-photo mash-ups “iconotexts”, while rediscovering and championing the efforts of neglected trailblazers, from Breton’s surrealist peers Louis Aragon, Gherasim Luca and Jindrich Styrsky to latter postmodern milestones such as William Burroughs’s apocalyptic 1970 “closet screenplay” are available to view for free within seconds, via the magic of Google Books and invaluable online repositories such as the Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org).
Morris stands alone, in that he himself shot the pictures that accompanies his prose.