As a child, I often listened to my father’s stories of his boyhood in 1950s Czechoslovakia; adventures taking place in the narrow cobblestoned streets of his hometown or near the fields and lakes of his grandparents’ village. I never met any of his family. And by the time I was born, the streets and buildings that came alive in his descriptions were gone: they were demolished together with eighty other towns in the area to make way for expanding coal mines. With no way to connect my father’s memories to physical locations or even images, the stories I heard sounded like make-believe, no more real than the tales I read in my storybooks. A House with No Walls is an artist book born from my need to fill these voids in family history and geography. Referencing a rich tradition of bookmaking in art, craft, and alternative publishing, the book combines photographs, historical maps of the town of Most where both my father and I were born, drawings of my walks in the area, and text addressed to my father. While the photographs suggest an interplay of presence and absence and the ability of landscape to simultaneously obliterate history and reveal it, the historical maps printed on transparencies point to the transitory nature of cartographic practices in a location subject to frequently shifting borders. Finally, the text highlights the significance of oral narratives for our understanding of history. Together, these elements speak to the difficulty of photographically representing the past and suggest an alternative mapping of history and geography. Offering an interactive experience through accordion binding, foldouts, and map overlays, A House with No Walls invites readers to walk through a real and imaginary landscape and consider the fractured identities in regions and lives affected by resource extraction and the impermanence of our concept of home.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Photography, Artistic--Themes, motives; Artists' books--New York (State)--Rochester; Landscape photography--Czech Republic--Most; Families in art; Geography in art; Walking in art

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Photography and Related Media (MFA)

Department, Program, or Center

School of Photographic Arts and Sciences (CAD)


Joshua Thorson

Advisor/Committee Member

Angela Kelly

Advisor/Committee Member

Willie Osterman


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes