Norton Juster



So a month or so ago I had a chance to attend a conversation with Norton Juster.* There wasn’t much new information or anything if you’ve already read the Annotated Phantom Tollbooth but it was still wonderful. 2016 has been a rough year for everyone’s heroes. I’m very happy that I got to see, meet, and thank one of mine.

*It’s available on podcast now.

My favorite part of the talk was Juster’s response to the “which of the characters is your favorite” question. While mentioning the Tollbooth demons in general is funny enough, zeroing in on the bird and taking things “out of context” is the perfect answer. It also reminded me, again, how much context matters and how aggressive changing the context can be. And while Juster does this with wordplay, I know that much of my photo consumption—heck, this entire blog—is really just about context.

There are too many posts on here to link to all of them but they range from taking photos out of the context in which they were originally made to questioning the context in which art is displayed and labelled to playing with my own photographs and the contexts in which I display them. Again and again though, Juster’s point about questioning and being willing to change the context is key. And while the Phantom Tollbooth isn’t why I think like this, I’m grateful that I grew up with kids books which encouraged that thinking.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

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