The emergence of virtual, digital worlds has affected almost every aspect of contemporary life. New forms of inhabiting both those new algorithmic worlds and the physical world emerge, through new relationships between the human and the machine. While many aspects of life have become inextricable from digital life, these new coded forms of life consistently take on characteristics of the physical empirical life –avatars look human; online communication between people is referred to as “chatting”; computers have “brains” and so on and so forth. Two objects that have punctuated key moments in the history of Western modernity have undergone a process of radical transformation since the advent of the digital: books and photographs. The emergence of print culture in the 15th Century and of mechanically produced images in the 19th Century set certain parameters around knowledge, communications, circulation and truth. It was these ways of constituting knowledge, as a form of enlightenment, that set the stage for many struggles and forms of freedom but also, of course, of power and control of some over others. There has been talk of the demise of the book and the demise of photography for quite some time now. It is unlikely, at least for the immediate future, that books and photographs will disappear, but it is a fact that those objects are no longer what they used to be, and that our relationship to the knowledge, truth power they articulated for centuries has changed. One of the changes most often spoken about is that there has been a democratization regarding who makes and collects both electronic texts and images. Millions with access to computers and certain infrastructural needs like electricity and Internet without having to think of themselves as writers of photographers. This kind of public literacy has demystified the ways in which power, knowledge and truth had been naturalized as intrinsic to technically produced and reproduced texts and images. Today everyone now knows that there is no scientific objective truth behind any printed word or any photograph –only the assurance that a specific point of view was adopted. Max Steven Grossman’s Bookscapes question these transformations. Printed large enough to pass as an actual library, these images point to the gradual loss of paper books, specially those that inhabited homes and fostered learning, dreaming, escapes. These surface only libraries are now commodities of the art world, that can be purchased according to themes –art, film, music, fashion- and literally reproduce both the classic cataloguing systems of libraries, as well as the fantasies and desires of their owners, collapsing the distance between public and private libraries. Yet these images are composites, collages in Grossman’s own words. The books in every image have never quite been placed in that way except in the virtual space of his computer. Grossman photographs some of the books in bookstores he visits, others he finds floating in the sea of Internet images. He builds collections, and then chooses from his own image banks. When looked at from a close distance, you can see that the each book spine has a distinct image quality, revealing their different provenance, their composite or collage character. A scape was, in the 13th Century, a shortened form for escape. By the 18th Century it became attached to other words as a suffix to suggest types of scenes and configuration of space around a constitutive element– landscapes, seascapes, cityscapes, soundscapes. As human ways of organizing space, all the latter scapes are also escapes from reality. Grossman began his career making photographic landscapes and seascapes. In the congested world and ecological catastrophe humans have taken the planet to, it is ever more difficult to think of the sea and the planet’s lands as a window to a sublime experience. The planetary crisis is ethically difficult to gloss over with beautiful perfect images. If Grossman returns time and again to these bookscapes, it is not only to reflect on the changing nature of books and photographs in the present times. It is also to insist on the dreamlike potential of books, as they keep hidden within their covers, secretes that can only be revealed if you enter them, dive into the pages, allow for physical world to be taken over by the virtual world offered. In an age, like ours, of extreme visibility, books can never be fully seen, as they only draw mental pictures –private, individual, immaterial images of other, virtual, worlds. Natalia Brizuela November 2017 Natalia Brizuela is Professor at the University of California, Berkeley focusing on photography, film, contemporary art, literature and critical theory from Latin America.