Shortlisted for International Photo Awards 2020: Self-Published Books. Several images from the series were also shortlisted for International Photo Awards 2020: Historic Architecture and Historic Photographer of the Year in 2018 and 2019.
Honouring the dissemination and preservation of knowledge, this fine art monograph Illuminating Cambridge Libraries is a contemplation of my three year experience photographing one library from each of the 31 colleges of the University of Cambridge.
Overall, these 490 photos tell the story of visiting a library, and so the chapters are organised by the elemental order in which they might be experienced – Stairs, Books, Textures, Spaces, Details, Spines, Ceilings, Windows. Each chapter starts with a brief artist’s motivation, followed by the images sorted into mosaics of shape, colour, or lightness – a formalist approach to evoke aesthetic emotion. The introduction by renowned Cambridge-based poet Michael Brown adds context and a lyrical sense of space to the fine art monograph. The artist likes to think of this as her “library book”.
“And so I spent some time pondering the idea that the nucleus of a university resides in its knowledge contained, preserved, and disseminated: without a library, there is no university.”
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Returns & Exchanges
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The Perne Library, Peterhouse was built in the 1590s, not 1690 as incorrectly stated on p6 of the monograph. A bookmark will accompany each book with this information, plus the following:
Despite my attempt at perfection
I have discovered through keen detection
That I must make a correction.
Of course it was ridiculous to have penned
That the Perne was built at the same time as the Wren
And so with this verse I hope to amend.
But my error is simple, it’s no cause for tears
Why – merely – subtract one hundred years!
490 full colour images, 160 pages, hardcover with gold foil, portrait orientation, luscious oversized 29 x 32 cm, 1.8kg, printed in the EU with low-energy and solvent-free H-UV technology on FSC certified paper. ISBN 978-1-9161697-2-2. Published by Sara Rawlinson Photographic Publishing, 2020.
“Sara’s book is feast for the eye and imagination. No detail escapes the artist’s lens. The idea of the library is deconstructed into unfamiliar shapes and angles, a shaft of light in a stair well, a solitary chair tucked by a bookcase, a long view up to a decorative ceiling. And yet the whole is put back to together, more than its parts, as we gaze at the photographs and fill the spaces with memory and reverence, for what Sara calls her ‘houses of the holy’.”
– Dr Jessica Gardner, The University Librarian, Cambridge
“Here, indeed, is beauty. Sara has the rare skill of drawing out the intimate, the special, the unique spirit of each place. And even if you know these libraries well, these pictures will give you fresh eyes, an enlivened spirit and a gladdened heart.”
-Dame Fiona Reynolds, Master, Emmanuel College, Cambridge
“Cambridge is a city with possibly the highest density of libraries in the world. In this visual encomium Sara restricts herself to surveying the libraries of the 31 Colleges of the University, and finds remarkable continuities amid the diversity of buildings spanning more than 500 years. She has an outstanding eye for the quirky detail, the unusual juxtaposition, the wear-and-tear which can upset a perfect symmetry. This book reminds us that these buildings are no mere architectural showpieces, but places of continual use by generations of scholars, the repositories of inherited knowledge which underpin the research and teaching of today.”
– Dr Nicolas Bell, Librarian, Trinity College, Cambridge