The week began on a low, the bug that had developed in the last week reached it’s climax, somehow I managed to deliver to the Shoreditch gallery the print that had been accepted into the London Independent Photography (LIP) group’s annual exhibition. Quite a narrow Sunday evening time slot on a day where the key London Overground line was only partly working.
I was not much better when we had the opportunity to hear the book designer Victoria Forrest give a web presentation. The talk was very informative, covering three books that she had been commissioned to design and arrange the production of.
Victoria stressed the importance of accompanying text, alongside the photoedit to pick the most appropriate good looking images to go with that text. The cover material for the book is vitally important. Need to gives the right kind of feel to the buyer. Cloth is very good, but hard to print on. Therefore paper better, but as paper is not durable it has to be laminated. Can have cloth underneath and paper cover. Trade preference to do this.
Interestingly each book she covered had a very different approach. Clearly the photographer’s view came first.
She normally first sets a format with the agreement of the photogpraher. i.e. Description-place-date-country. The use of a graphic device to present the beginning is good. Best to set the atmosphere first, don’t rush to the images. She felt each chapter should be supported by text in some way, the use of text is alway best judged by the photographer. The photograph should however come before text.
The first book, ‘Ili’ by Thomas Hafalla made great use of space and was very minimalistic in design. Possibly a little hard on those with poor eyesight, the text accompanying the images was quite small, but very stylishly began. She introduced me to a word I was totally unfamiliar with; ‘Colophon’. Which apparently is a technical description of how the book has been put together. From looking it up afterwards it’s common in older books, not so often seen in contemporary publications.
The second book, ‘Guantanomo if the light goes out’ by Edmund Clark was less minimalist with much more text. Again, not perhaps the biggest of fonts that might have been used, but still very stylish. It even used different paper in certain sections to add extra discrimination to then meaning of that page. Bleed very important. Means using 3mm round the edges. Always gutter loss if an image spans two pages.
The third book Victoria reviewed the making of was ‘Santa Muerte’ by Angus Fraser. This had much less text and no image captions. Like Clark’s book it did contain a poem to support the narrative and did contain an essay contextualizing that narrative.
Victoria felt the key aspects were:
What is your story?
What MUST you say?
Do your images support this?
She also added that there were two type of book image, the showstopper and the less-dramatic. The latter are often needed to fully support the narrative, making the point it’s a photo-essay. Important to be as objective as possible.
Victoria said that in some cases it’s necessary to conduct more shoots, to get the type of image that fits a missing gap. Though she also added much depends on the subject, if it’s event or time that’s gone by then that’s clearly not possible. In her experience 20-30% of the books she’s designed have needed additional shooting.
I asked Victoria how important she felt referencing was,, I’ve often had difficulties with images in certain book saying where that image could be found. (Photogpraphy-archive websites references generally more certain). She did say that it was important for Galleies to be able to find the plates, but I don’t think she felt it that important compared to how the book looks to the reader-viewer. I guess the answer is the major audience isn’t planning to cite the images they see in the books they’ve bought, there’s always little strips of sticky yellow paper after all.
She also added that dealing directly with printers is always difficult. Important is feld-publishing to avoid large print runs, only print what you expect to shift in a year. Slip covers are a luxury, and can be annoying. Attention to detail vital, important to have close contact with the printer, though British printers are not so good and number of European ones are. She uses a Verona printing house, as does the publisher Dewi Lewis.
She finished with her view that silk surfaces were to be avoided. Go either gloss or matt.
The next day we I was fortunate to have another Falmouth web-presentation. Dr, Susan Bright on her experience as a curator and author. Susan remarked that curating has changed since she started working within the Arts twenty years ago. It is now much more acceptable as a middle-class profession. She is also much happier curating than writing.
She tends to work with Museums that lack someone with her specialty skills. She likes the dynamic learning aspect of curation, particularly the exchange of ideas. At the same time she did not think it was easy, you are forced to be nimble, crisis management is always a need. She felt the two key aspects were:
Deciding how it will function - Display - Aesthetics. Has to be more than just pictures on a wall.
HAS to be entertaining. The architecture mustn’t get in the way, design considerations paramount. It must keep people interested
Susan compared writing to a ‘blood-letting process’. She tries to write intuitively.
Currently based in Paris she discussed how she designed and installed a recent exhibition entitled playground / leikkikenttä, showing work by Elina Brotherus at a Finnish museum, Serlachius Museum Gustaf in the North of Finland. Working with a designer she desrcibed the process of moving from a maquette model to the final hang.
She felt the curating tasks with the greatest complexity is group work. More thematic in nature she sent into some detail on a ‘Motherhood and Identity exhibition at the Photographers Gallery that also resulted in a book, Mother Reader: Essential Writings on Motherhood’.
Susan then described a related exhibition at she set up at The Foundling Museum. The small space available making this much more difficult, which she then made smaller by adding a video piece. But it did add humour and movement to what otherwise was a rather sad exhibition.
The resulting book was much larger than either exhibition in terms of content. She described editing as a harsh process, adding that it had to be. But at the same time certain work HAS to be in.
Moving on to a very different book on how food has been depicted through the ages; ‘Feast for the Eyes’, Susan gave a brief appraisal of this vast project. Describing how the book is a much longer process that the exhibition, and as is typical in exhibitions that accompany a book there were items that missed the book’s deadlines that were included in the exhibition. Pointing out i guess that generally books are already a little dated by the time they reach the shelves. Certainly true in my old area of Science anyways.
Susan concluded with a new book, co-authored, aimed at BA students it is based on her long teaching career and covers ten large topics. To be published next year. In response to a question on whether age can be a basrrier to bcoming known Susan said not. She felt it was much more important to keep putting material into the public domain. She did however query whether exhibitions on-line are successful. She felt there should bea place, but had yet to come across one that she felt worked. She finished with the point that ideas gel through a collaborative process.
On Thursday I attended the evening opening event of the LIP exhibition. Here is a shot of where I found my mounted print had been hung. As is usual with this group the general quality of the prints exhibited was high. I had to regard myself as fortunate for one of my images to be included, several of my friends who are also members of the group hadn’t had any of there submissions accepted for hanging.
The same evening I made my way from Shoreditch to the British Journal of Photography (BJP)building, close to the Northern entrance of the Blackwall tunnel, to see an exhibition of prints and a display of the wares of a new start up company, Intrepid Camera Company, developing and selling large format cameras, and enlargers.
The exhibition of large black and white prints was probably the least interesting part of the event for me, there weren’t many images and those that were exhibited were a bit too deadpan for my liking. It was interesting to see their cameras and whilst I didn’t regret picking my 5x4 Wisnta Field Camera, it was good to see this physical expression of resurgence in large format photography. It was also good to talk to yet more photographers.
This was my second visit to this building, I’d been there for the launch of the BJP’s ‘Portrait of Britain’ book that had been published by Hoxton Mini Press. I’d mentioned in my week-3 blog that I’d been able to get quite a decent photo of a fellow photographer in a corridor of the building. It was the corridor that led to the toilets. In the much quieter event it was easily possible to photograph the location:
As can be seen, there were actually two overhead light sources. The Security lady in the image did ask why I was interested. Resulted in me trying to reproduce the effect with a portrait of her in roughly the same position using her mobile phone. Nothing like as good as the result with my Fuji with it’s 85mm equivalent lens, but she was happy with the result. A bit of a surreal experience.