Photographer documents Bookman’s Alley turning new page


Source: Marc Perlish

Marc Perlish’s photography exhibition features shots of Bookman’s Alley, the Evanston bookstore that is due to close. The exhibition will run through November in the Evanston Public Library.

Jennifer Ball, Reporter

On the second floor of the Evanston Public Library, among the thousands of books, 20 photographic prints, 15 in color and five in black-and-white, hang on gray panels.

The exhibit bills itself as a “poetic documentary” designed to “pay homage” to the used bookstore Bookman’s Alley and its owner Roger Carlson, whose lease runs out at the end of December.

The exhibit, which runs through November, is part of a larger body of work started in October 2011 when Evanston photographer Marc Perlish first heard Bookman’s Alley was closing.

“I wanted to show people who have never been there what it was like to walk around Bookman’s Alley,” Perlish said.

Perlish’s work is part of the Evanston Public Library’s “Local Art @ EPL” exhibits that feature Evanston-area artists and last about a month each.

About 33 years ago, Carlson opened Bookman’s Alley in the alley between Panera Bread and Saville Flowers in downtown Evanston.

“I spent 25 years doing things I did not enjoy, and I thought if I wanted to continue to live, I should do something I did enjoy,” Carlson said. “I thought I could make a living in the book business. I was just barely correct.”

Bookman’s Alley sells used travel, mystery and western books in the store with different sections marked by hand-written signs and relevant artifacts like Sherlock Holmes’ hat to signify mystery.

“I thought he did some beautiful work,” Carlson said of Perlish. “He used various items in the shop and combined it.”

Lesley Williams, head of adult public services at EPL, remembered the bookstore fondly.

“It was a community gathering place, not just a bookstore,” Williams said. “Bookman’s Alley has been a legendary institution for Evanston for years and years.”

Perlish plans to publish a much larger body of work that will turn into an e-book in 2014. It will comprise an introduction, and each photo will be accompanied by an original piece of music.

“Music was a big part of the feel of that place,” Perlish said.

Perlish, a flutist, will work on the original music with his friends, who are composers.

“It’s really turning a major page,” Perlish said. “All things do come to an end.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the number of prints the exhibit displays. There are 20. The Daily regrets the error.

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