Walter Taieb’s ‘Portraits Through Books’ explores the bookshelves in Las Vegas

Chef Kerry Simon’s bookshelf, photographed by Walter Taieb
Photo: Walter Taieb

French composer Walter Taieb was living in Paris when he had a “professional disappointment” in music, began playing poker and realized that, for the price of rent in Paris, he could live in a suite at the Palms. Naturally, he moved to Las Vegas.

Chef Kerry Simon's cookbooks.

Chef Kerry Simon's cookbooks.


Portraits Through Books
Through April 30
Tuesday-Sunday, 1:30-8 p.m.
Downtown Contemporary Gallery, 1025 1st St. (inside Art Square), 358-7022.

Once here, he turned his energy to photography, built a large format digital camera to photograph bookshelves with great clarity and resolution, and then arranged photo shoots with friends. The resulting series, Portraits Through Books at Downtown Contemporary, is a collection of surprisingly stunning works featuring bookshelves belonging to Las Vegas residents, including chef Kerry Simon, artist Susanne Forestieri and historian Brian Paco Alvarez.

Taieb’s large-scale C-prints provide insight into the books’ owners (religion, art, cooking, etc.). They’re striking works that represent a laborious process, which includes an hour spent just placing the camera. From there, Taieb shoots the shelves in sections, then compiles them digitally. That approach allows viewers to experience the shelves and books unskewed by a camera lens, as if with a naked eye.

Nothing’s candid here. Like a stylist primping his model, Taieb arranges the books to create his composition, carefully considering color, book shape and font size on the spines. The exhibit is almost a contemporary glance into another time, with Taieb asking us to consider the nature of bookshelves in the digital age.

Why books? “I think it came from frustration from not being able to bring all of my books from France,” he says, adding that he was also looking for a new idea. “The only thing I kept were music books, because they’re so personal.”

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