As resurgent sales of vinyl records and printed books resist the digital tide, British artist Mark Vessey celebrates physical libraries in a series of striking photographs
‘A bookshelf is as particular to its owner as are his or her clothes; a personality is stamped on a library just as a shoe is shaped by the foot,” Alan Bennett once wrote. For a while, e-readers and music streaming appeared set to replace their physical counterparts, but the resurgence in vinyl and printed book sales suggests otherwise. For the past decade, Brighton-based photographic artist Mark Vessey has been capturing the beauty of these objects in a series of photographs: his Collections series documents magazines, books, vinyl records and other assorted items, stacked on top of one another or neatly lined up.
For Vessey, 35, the passion for collecting started with Attitude magazine. Growing up in Chingford, on the outskirts of north-east London, Vessey would pick up the gay lifestyle title every time he was in central London – it wasn't stocked in Chingford – and it showed him a life outside the “bland, safe area” where he was. The magazine, and its thought-provoking photographs by Nan Goldin and Wolfgang Tillmans, helped him discover a world different from the one he was living in. “I bought it religiously – I would read the magazines and go off to the art exhibitions and learn about different artists,” says Vessey, who went on to study photography at Brighton University. “It became a timeline of my self-discovery and coming out.”