Indie Photobook Library

About the Collection

The Indie Photobook Library contains self-published or independent photobooks, books that use photography as the main content. Photobooks are sometimes considered artists’ books, but photobooks have also been considered their own genre. The Indie Photobook Library began collecting and exhibiting photobooks in 2010. The collection now contains about 2000 photobooks, and over 1600 have already been cataloged. Artists, publishers, or collectors can submit photobooks to the collection, which has created a large and diverse range. The photobooks come from all over the world, with many works from the United States and Europe. The library has frequent exhibitions and pop-up events in DC and around the world. To find out about upcoming pop-up events, go to the Indie Photobook Library About page and scroll down to “Upcoming pop-up exhibitions and events of the Indie Photobook Library collection.” You can also check the Indie Photobook Library Facebook page, Twitter and the email newsletter, which you can sign up for on the bottom of the home page. The Indie Photobook Library has both a physical presence in the DC area and an interesting online catalog with images of each photobook in the collection.

Books from the Indie Photobook Library at a pop-up exhibition. Photo by Michelle Strizever

Books from the Indie Photobook Library at a pop-up exhibition

Finding Artists’ Books

The Indie Photobook Library’s website is its catalog. Information about the books in the collection is gathered from the artists or publishers when the book is donated. This information includes common information like title and photographer, as well as more unusual information like type of binding and type of printing. When the book is added to the website, this information is posted, forming the catalog record for each work. The catalog is fun and interactive. You can browse by image, by photographer, or by title by clicking on the links right at the top of the home page.

You can also search for books by typing in your search term in the box at the top, or bottom, of the home page and clicking the Search button. To find photobooks that are categorized as artists’ books, you have to try a few different search terms. Since the information in the catalog is contributed by thousands of different people, the terms are displayed exactly as they are submitted. Try searching for “artists’ book,” “artists’ books,” “artist book,” “artist books,” or “artists book,” using quotation marks around the term. Each phrase will give you different results. Also try “book art” and any type of binding that interests you, like “accordion.”

Indie Photobook Library Logo

How to Get There

Researchers can visit the Indie Photobook Library and view photobooks by appointment only. Unlike other public libraries and museums, the Indie Photobook Library is open to the public but exact information about the location and transportation is not published online. The library is accessible by Metro in Arlington. If you want to visit, email to schedule an appointment to visit and to get directions.

What to Expect

Visiting the Indie Photobook Library is an interactive, one-on-one experience between the researcher and the curator. If you have specific books in mind, you can ask to see them. But you don’t have to know what you want to see before you go. You can talk with the curator about your interests and find interesting photobooks together during your visit. Since this is an unusual collection and space, there are no restrictions or rules about what you can or can’t bring in, and you don’t need to bring ID.

Other Resources

About the Indie Photobook Library

Indie Photobook Library Recommended Reading

Time Lightbox: The Indie Photo Book in the 21st Century