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Reading in Public


I'm a huge fan of both literature and documentary photography. While riding my commuter train or walking around the city, I'm often struck by the sight of people indulging in the very private act of reading right in the midst of prying-eye hordes. So absorbed are they that the outside world is completely blocked off as they let the magical words take them away. Holing up with a book in some private corner somewhere is one thing, but for me the joy of reading is best illustrated by people willing to do so in public.

That said, I'm going to run a periodic series of photographs here depicting people reading in public. (I'm leaving that as "periodic" - weekly or even monthly series that I've run here haven't fared very well, especially lately. So I'll post new photos as I come across them, but not on a fixed schedule.) The photo above is by John Vachon, taken for the Farm Security Administration in Chicago, in July 1940.

In launching this series, I have to give credit to Julie Wilson, whose Toronto-based blog Seen Reading does much the same thing, only with real people she observes in that city. She notes the book her subject is reading, then posts an excerpt from the approximate point in the text where the reader was at that moment, then writes an imaginative piece of related fiction after that. It's a fascinating creative concept she's come up with, one which I've been enjoying for the past several years.

(Reading in Public series is indexed here.)
(Photo via Shorpy.)

February 2, 2008 in Reading in Public | Permalink


Looking forward to it. That first photo is great -

Posted by: Matthew Tiffany at Feb 2, 2008 11:26:58 AM

This is such a lovely project, Pete. I can't wait to see more. And thank you, so much, for the nod. Like minds...

Posted by: Julie Wilson at Feb 2, 2008 8:44:32 PM