Nicholas Muellner, professor of media arts, sciences and studies at Ithaca College, integrated his writing with his photography to get short-listed for photobook of the year at the prestigious Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards.
His photobook, “In Most Tides an Island,” is part documentary and part fiction. Two main narratives tie together throughout the photobook — one documenting the lives of closeted gay men living in solitude in Russia, and the other a fictional tale of a woman living in self-imposed exile on a Caribbean island.
“The book is about different ways to live with solitude despite this idea of connectedness that the rest of the world provides and dangles in front of us,” Muellner said. “The photographs sometimes illustrate the world in which the narrative moves and sometimes seem to create a different dream landscape or a metaphorical world.”
“In Most Tides an Island” is one of 10 books short-listed for the photobook of the year award. The winner will be announced on Nov. 10 at Paris Photo, an international photography art fair held annually in France.
“It feels nice to be nominated because my books don’t conform to this sort of standard tradition of a photography book. They’re not strictly pictorial and image based,” Muellner said. “For this book to make sense, it requires a different kind of openness because you need the time to actually read it and move through it, which is a different speed than photography books normally operate.”
Muellner first began working on the book in 2010. It started as two separate photography projects before he realized that the two ideas were connected by the theme of living in solitude.
Muellner is the co-director of Ithaca College’s Image Text MFA Program, along with Catherine Taylor, an associate professor in the writing department. The program is in its second year, bringing together both writers and photographers to explore the intersection of the two.
“There’s an increasing openness to the integration of the visual and the written, which is something that Catherine and I were responding to when we started this program because we felt like there was a lot of desire for it, but not a lot of ways to bring together those two very separate communities,” said Muellner.