Bruce Osborn's Bookcases

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday May 27, 2020

Pimp Your Bookcases continues with photographer Bruce Osborne. Based in a seaside town near Tokyo, he discovered that social distancing could readily be accommodated through his ingrained practice of beachcombing.

Peggy Roalf: Would you say that you have a particular type of library, or that you have more than one, based on your interests?

Bruce Osborn: My library is a collection of many different things: images, novels, music, and objects, but they are all things help to spark my imagination.

PR: What were you involved with when you decided on your career choice?

BO: When I entered college, it was the era of the hippie, civil rights, and women's lib movements along with the anti-war protests. I was so excited by all the things that were happening and not thinking too much about the future. After changing majors a few times, l ended up in the Art Department. Though I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, I knew this was the right place. I took a variety of classes in painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, and photography. In the process, I realized I wanted to be a photographer, but I needeo learn more and applied to Art Center College of Design. 

PR: Is there anything you might want to include about favorite libraries for doing research early in your studies?

BO: When I was learning about art, my favorite places to go were art galleries, museums, and museum bookstores. I was particularly interested in the works that current artists and fine art photographers were doing and that these where the places to find that out. 

PR: When did you realize that you had a serious book addiction?

BO: More than an addiction, books have been a source for finding unique ways of looking at the world. Particularly in the beginning, when I was trying to find my own style, following the work of my favorite artists, helped me to understand what I wanted to do.

PR: What went into your choice of bookcses — any research? Any seen/envied among friends/colleagues? Any particular manufacturer, etc…

BO: When I moved into my current home, it was a large open space with Japanese shoji screens in one end that could be closed to make into two separate rooms. I decided to take out the shoji and make a permanent wall between the rooms and make the bookshelf. I had my own ideas on what I wanted to do and asked a carpenter to build it.

PR: What do you like most about your bookcases? Are they everything you every hoped for or is there room for improvement?

BO: I like that it is made out of thick wood, it’s very solid, and built to fit perfectly into the space. When I had it built, I thought it would be more than enough space; however I found out that there were many more things I wanted to put on my bookshelf. A few years later, I designed an additional unit on an adjacent wall for my growing beach combing collection

PR: What went into your research and design process when you contemplated building your own?

BO: Since it was in a fixed space, I knew the dimensions. I took a photograph of the room and in my computer I figured out what size the shelves needed to be to accommodate the various things to go into the bookcase. 

PR: How you organize your photo, design and-art books?

BO: Small, medium, and large is the first necessity, followed by the type of book.

PR: What do you do when you run out of shelf space?

BO: That’s always an issue, especially since I’m also curating exhibitions and get many books from artists. Whatever does not fit on the one of the bookshelves gets annexed into a cupboard in my workspace or further down the road, it may end up in the trunk room.

PR: How do you maintain your library? For example, do you periodically take it apart and reorganize, or something along those lines?

BO: In addition to books the library includes records and CDs so I have a rough arrangement that only I understand. However things have gotten jammed and I need to reorganize and reanalyze the content. This will be my next quarantined at home project.

PR: Have you ever had to move your library? What are the best and worst things about moving this kind of collection?

BO: Fortunately, I have only moved a few times and I recommend hiring a mover, as books are extremely heavy. It’s not something I would look forward to doing, but in the process, I discover forgotten treasures and when it is finally moved in, it’s very refreshing to know exactly what I have and where I will find it.

PR: Please feel free to make this a mashup:

• What is the first photo-or-artbook you ever bought and why did it catch your attention?

BO: The first photo book must have been Diane Arbus’s first book from Aperture. Her portraits blew me away. They were so surprising, unexpected, and unforgettable. Another book I got around the same time was a catalog from the Hermitage Impressionist Art exhibition at LACMA. I was very moved seeing all these famous works of art and I wanted to remember what I saw.

• What was the last photo-or-artbook you purchased?

BO: Sorry, just a little promotion: OYAKO An Ode to Parents and Children, which is my photo book.

Also San-Pa-Pi-Pu-Pe-Po, a children’s art book that for which my daughter drew the illustrations and my wife wrote.

• What is the next photo-or-artbook you might purchase?

BO: Most likely it will be a book that a friend published or a catalog from an exhibition, but first I need to make more space in my bookcases

• Is there a rarity that somehow got away that you regret not grabbing when it was affordable?

BO: I don’t like to think about the ones that got away. I figure that I’ve had my chance and live by my decision.

PR: What are the best bookcases you have ever seen and what do you envy about them?

BO: I’ve only seen them in movies, but I always wanted a bookshelf with a secret switch that opens up a door the hidden room behind it.

PR: Can you advise the readers on anything you feel should be avoided in the planning and construction/installation of bookcases?

BO: Books are very heavy so make it sturdy. Also they come in many formats, so try to have shelves that will accommodate different sizes.

PR: Do you consider being a “book junkie” a form of madness?

BO: Yes, but there are worse habits to have—and the people who publish books will love you.

Bruce Osborn was born in Southern California and raised amid its surf and skateboard culture. He began his photographic career working in the music industry in Los Angeles before moving to Japan in 1980. Bruce’s clientele and recognition have grown to include many renowned publications and companies throughout the world. He has had numerous exhibitions and published several photo books, including his most recent “OYAKO An Ode to Parents and Children”. Bruce has received a number of awards and acclaim, including Higashi-Kuninomiya International Culture Award in recognition his contributions to Japanese society. pimp_bookcase