Art and books abound at Philly-based fair

The Print Center and the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center host third Philadelphia Art Book Fair in Northern Liberties

Marianna Dages is an artist who specializes in letter-press printing and bookbinding.

By Logan Krum

Residents of Northern Liberties and surrounding areas last weekend got the chance to stock their bookshelves with fine local art.

In its third year in conjunction, The Print Center and the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center hosted the Philadelphia Art Book Fair at a new venue, 1227 N. 4th St.

The fair showcased the work of approximately 80 vendors, some with Philadelphia roots, and some from all over the country. On Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6, the fair featured vendors where artists and publication companies displayed their work, and hosted more than 20 book signings.

A mind-boggling array of books and art was showcased, and the inspiration from the City of Brotherly Love was palpable. Many artists looked to the city around them for inspiration in their work.

“I grew up in the midwest, and when I came to visit [Philadelphia] 13 years ago, it was the only other place I thought I could live,” said Amanda D’Amico, a book artist and offset printer working at Brilliant Graphics. Her books focus on the theme of place, some focusing on Philly.

Growing up in Minneapolis, D’Amico noticed there was not a lot of green in Fishtown compared to her home town. Her work focuses on some row homes around the area, and how they each adapt to their occupant’s personalities despite being architecturally the same.

From ciphering texts about alien sightings and ancient Egyptian tomes, Marianne Dages is another Philadelphia artist who took advantage of the book fair.

Dages creates a variety of prints and audiobooks from her studio in Philadelphia. She’s lived in the city since 2000, saying it is a “livable” city for an artist.

One of her books on display, “Ultrices,” was about showcasing text itself as an art. Each edition of the book features the same text printed on different backgrounds.

“It’s like if a book started making itself, and then went crazy,” Dages said with a laugh.

A large crowd was perpetually gathered around the booth for Jeffrey Stockbridge’s fine-art photography release, “Kensington Blues.” The book documents the “trials and tribulations of those affected by drug addiction and prostitution along Kensington Avenue in North Philadelphia.”

A work five years in the pipeline, the book fuses photography, audio transcripts and handwritten journal entries to tell the intimate stories of its subjects.

The book started as a popular blog with origins all the way back in 2008.

Fishtown resident Saleem Ahmed celebrated the release of his photography book “Rani Road” on Friday, signing each copy delicately with his right hand. His dominant left hand was wrapped in a pink cast from a motorcycle accident.

The reasoning for the color? It matched the cover of his book.

Ahmed’s book was inspired by his trips to visit family in Udaipur. He uses his photography as a way to preserve the history and culture of his family.

“It’s not a vacation when I go [to India],” Ahmed said. “It’s another home.”

Non-artist vendors were present, too. Ulises is a bookstore located at 31 E. Columbia Ave. where local artists can showcase their work.

Michele Bregande, communications and special events manager for The Print Center, said attendance had grown significantly from last year. Previously, the event had been hosted in Center City.