The Edge of Knowing is where knowledge stops and suspicions begin. It can be a literal wall, the horizon, or simply a state of mind. What lies beyond what we do not know?
In 2013 we started on a year’s journey from the extreme southern-most point in the Americas, in Tierra del Fuego, through the American continents, to end in Barrow, Alaska, now Utqiagvik. Between these two extremes we realized that much of what we thought we knew about the Americas simply wasn’t true—and that we probably wouldn’t be alone in this amongst our fellow citizens of the United States. It occurred to us that the countries of the Americas have far more in common with each other than we are taught to believe. And are far more different than we’re told.
During our journey Magda photographed everything that inspired her, which sometimes meant going to very remote places and doing some very odd things. We traveled up the Tapajos River by boat for two days in order to visit the ruins of Fordlandia, Henry Ford’s failed rubber plantation deep in the Amazon jungle.
We bought costumes and danced in the Sambadrome in front of millions on live TV at Rio’s Carnaval, wearing seafood platters.
We drove across the Canadian tundra at the onset of their freezing winter, worrying each morning if our car was going to start up again.
Our trip became more than just travel when The New Yorker agreed to publish twelve monthly photo-essays of our journey on their website and we ended up chasing stories hundreds of miles out of our way in order to capture the essence of the Americas.
The number of photographs we had at the end surprised us. Stripped of context, it often wasn’t obvious exactly where the photos were taken. Most describe a world very similar to the one we’re familiar with inside of The United States; A "New World”, theoretically without the baggage of the old, undertaken with a sense of creativity and optimism—though all constructed on the foundations set down by those who were here before. We found what could be described as the American Dream, all over the Americas.
Too often political borders represent not only physical barriers but the limits of curiosity and imagination. The Edge of Knowing is the written and photographic account of twelve months of travel through Patagonia, the Amazon Forest, the ancient Mayan, Inca and Aztec Empires, and the Canadian tundra all the way to the northern-most tip of Alaska. It is a photo book that aims to capture the optimism of the New World and to deconstruct the stereotypes that are widely held between nations that share a common history. The Edge of Knowing rethinks the United States' conceit of an idealistic, utopian dream, as a pan-American vision pursued across the entirety of the continents.
The book itself has taken shape over the several years since our trip, slowly transforming into its current state. Much of the concept was solidified in Japan at a photo book workshop hosted by Yumi Goto, at the Reminders Photo Gallery in Tokyo.
Legendary book designers Teun van der Heijden and Sandra van der Doelen helped polish the concept, layout and sequencing, and inspired a creative page design that acts as a metaphor for walls and the limits of perception; a quarter page flap which as it turns, creates two different visions of the same photo spread. Creating this short page for a large print run proved to be too difficult and costly to produce on a large scale, so the books that will be available in stores won't be able to include these short pages. But we’re rolling up our sleeves during this Kickstarter campaign to cut each of the fourteen spreads by hand ourselves. We're calling this: "The Director's Cut".
- Size: 21 x 27 cm ( 8.2" x 10.6”)
- Volume: Hardcover book, 232 pages, 90 photographs
- 1000 copies
- Language: English
The book is primarily a sequence of color photographs by Magda, bookended by a poem and an essay written by Ian. Throughout the book appear pages which are designed to resemble the pages of an American passport, but instead of reusing the classic visual vocabulary well known in the United States, we’ve made new iconic imagery inspired by all of the American nations.
It’s in these pages that the only nod to the continuity of the journey itself occurs; a series of short stories which depict our life on the road, and some examples of the challenges of crossing borders, both political and cultural. These passport pages ground us as we flip through Magda’s photographs and wonder where exactly we are. At the back of the book is a detailed index of the images to satisfy your curiosity.
We were very honored when the great German photo book publisher, Kehrer Verlag, agreed to publish our book in time for Paris Photo 2019 – and that might have been our happy ending. In reality, it’s the beginning of a new story and new journey that we invite you to join us on.
In the current photo-book economy it is often the photographers who bear much of the burden for publication costs. We’ve spent years working on the photographs, the text, illustrations and design for this book, but now we have to ask for your help getting it to the final goal of printing and distribution.
We consider this fundraiser a pre-sale, and an opportunity for you, lovers of photography and storytelling, to purchase this book before it hits the book stores. This will be a rare chance to get a special “Director's Cut” version of the book – the original design intent of the book with fourteen quarter page spreads that can only be achieved by cutting each of these pages by hand. Consider it a personalized design, directly from the hand of the artist. There are also rewards that include different size prints, an illustrated poster and a set comprised of The Edge of Knowing and Magda’s previous book Adrift. We’re also offering a chance to hang out with us at our cabin in the Catskill Mountains.
Besides the signed book with hand-cut pages, you might also choose a reward that includes a signed, limited edition 8x10" print.
There are 3 different prints to choose from, or if you can't decide which one you like best, you can get all 3 of them for a very special price.
Or get this book together with Magda’s previous book Adrift if you don't have it already. Icebergs from Antarctica paired with hunting huts from Alaska as a reflection of climate change happening on both ends of the world.
For print collectors, this is your chance to get limited edition prints for your wall at 50% off of the gallery price. There are two images to choose from in 24x24" size (22x22" image size). If you would like to obtain an even bigger print, please send us a message about availability.
All prints offered in the Rewards are limited-edition, signed and numbered. Where there is a choice of a print, once the campaign ends, we will send you an email to get your shipping address and at that point you can give us your choice of print image.
And for the fans of Ian's illustrations we have a very special poster sized at 13x19" based on the illustration used on the end papers in the book. It’s a mashup of icons and cultural touch points from across the Americas.
For the last week of the campaign, we have added a new reward - an awesome Americas Tote Bag with a design based on the end papers created by Ian.
The biggest reward will be a chance to hang out with us at Blueberry Hill House, our cabin in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. During a weekend scheduled at your convenience we can talk photography and travel, review portfolios or photograph the distinctive barns in the area. Ian will provide the blueberry pancakes.
Shipping fee is not included. It will be calculated at the time of the delivery based on the location of the backer. Expect a $5-$25 extra shipping charge depending on your location and chosen rewards. We will also offer free pick up of the rewards, directly from us, either in NYC or Paris (during Paris Photo).
This is an all or nothing campaign. If we can’t reach our goal, we won’t get anything, so we’re really hoping for your support to help bring The Edge of Knowing into existence.
About the Creators
Magda Biernat is a New York City and Paris based contemporary art photographer specializing in architecture and interiors. Born in Poznan, Poland (1978) she started photographing when she was 15 years old. After moving to the United States in 2002 she began using her photography to explore issues of national identity, mental and physical borders and notions of home. Her photographs have been published in, among others: The New Yorker, The New York Times, National Geographic, Interior Design, Wallpaper, Metropolis, Dwell and Afar. Her work has been exhibited internationally with exhibitions in Poland, Belgium, France, Canada, The Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and the United States.
Ian Webster is a Brooklyn based artist, illustrator and writer. For twenty years he’s been producing commercial illustrations for a national and international clientele. His writing has appeared on The New Yorker magazine’s webpage and he’s recently plunged into the world of children’s books.
Magda and Ian have been married for 16 years and have travelled the world together twice. In 2007 they sold everything, quit their jobs and traveled around the globe for a year. Inspired by the creative output of that journey, they made it their goal to do it again. In 2013 they traveled the length of the Americas, from Antarctica to Barrow, Alaska—the results of which you can see in this upcoming book.
Risks and challenges
Every effort will be made to deliver your rewards by December 2019, but please understand if unforeseen circumstances cause delays. With an experienced publisher such us Kehrer Verlag publishing the book we’re confident we will be able to deliver all gifts and rewards on time. "The Edge of Knowing" will debut at Paris Photo, the risk is that we won’t be able to entirely fund it.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (35 days)