Jump to content
Nowhereman

Photobook Publishing and its Discontents

Recommended Posts

Advertisement (gone after registration)

This is very cool. The idea reminds me of a montage sequence in a motion picture, where a lot of elements can be seen together, strengthening their relationships. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, christoph_d said:

...Curious to see the result in the real world!

On 2/22/2019 at 7:52 PM, semi-ambivalent said:

I'm not sure even groups and pairings are necessary, the mind will create them just as it "sees" the constellations. Besides, there is the danger of getting too cute with groupings. It's hard for most to even see it happening because one is invested in one's images. It's like editing, few do it well because few do it with sufficient brutality.

I think that selection and sequencing are extremely important, and have been fascinated to see how the editor approached this. As stated earlier, he read only the first part of my initial email in which I stated the concept ‚ÄĒ a point of departure, really ‚ÄĒ of how a photograph¬†can work the¬†same way as a haiku, expressing a feeling directly through an image rather than through description. In fact, he intentionally did not read the rest of that email because I described the thirty-odd¬†themes and leitmotifs that I saw in my sequence: he wanted to edit and to sequence on the basis of what he saw in the images, not by what I said about them.

This worked well from my point of view because I wanted to create a book without any explanatory essay or text. Beyond this, rather than ‚Äútelling a story‚ÄĚ, I was interested in putting together a poetic sequence, in the manner of Ralph Gibson and of Paulo Nozolino. The designer wanted to work the same way.

I had 103 images and 12 haiku in my original sequence; the editor reduced this to 72 images and five haiku. One of the 12 haiku was the the famous poem by Ezra Pound from, which that lay at the basis of much of modern poetry:

IN A STATION OF THE METRO
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Highly influential, this short poem had a major influence on modernist poetry, including, for example, Pound’s Cantos, which are essentially built up from images, and on The Waste Land, by T.S. Eliot. The following exegesis from Hugh Kenner’s The Pound Era is worth quoting:

Quote

...it was English post-Symbolist verse that Pound's Imagism set out to reform‚ĶEzra Pound, on a visit to Paris in 1911, got out of the Metro at La Concorde, and "saw suddenly a beautiful face, and then another and another, and then a beautiful child's face, and then another beautiful woman, and I tried all that day to find words for what they had meant to me, and I could not find any words that seemed to me worthy, or as lovely as that sudden emotion.‚Ä̂Ķ

…We need the title so that we can savor that vegetal contrast with the world of machines: this is not any crowd, moreover, but a crowd seen underground, as Odysseus and Orpheus and Kore saw crowds in Hades. And carrying forward the suggestion of wraiths, the word "apparition" detaches these faces from all the crowded faces, and presides over the image that conveys the quality of their separation:

          Petals on a wet, black bough….

Flowers, underground; flowers, out of the sun; flowers seen as if against a natural gleam, the bough's wetness gleaming on its darkness, in this place where wheels turn and nothing grows. The mind is touched, it may be, with a memory of Persephone…

So this tiny poem, drawing on Gauguin and on Japan [from haiku], on ghosts and on Persephone, on the Underworld and on the Underground, the Metro of Mallarmé’s capital and a phrase that names a station of the Metro as it might a station of the Cross, concentrates far more than it need ever specify, and indicates the means of delivering post-Symbolist poetry from its pictorialist impasse. "An 'Image' is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time": that is the elusive Doctrine of the Image. And, just 20 months later, "The image . . . is a radiant node or cluster; it is what I can, and must perforce, call a VORTEX, from which, and through which, and into which, ideas are constantly rushing." And: "An image . . . is real because we know it directly."

…This setting-in-relation is apt to be paratactic. "In a Station of the Metro" is not formally a sentence; its structure is typographic and metric. Words, similarly, without loss of precision, have ceased to specify in the manner of words that deliver one by one those concepts we call "meanings." "Apparition" reaches two ways, toward ghosts and toward visible revealings. "Petals," the pivotal word, relies for energy on the sharp cut of its syllables, a consonantal vigor recapitulated in the trisyllabic "wet, black bough" (try changing "petals" to "blossoms"). The words so raised by prosody to attention assert themselves as words, and make a numinous claim on our attention, from which visual, tactile and mythic associations radiate. Words set free in new structures, that was the Symbolist formula. And as we move through the poem, word by word, we participate as the new structure achieves itself.

As suggested above, Pounds short poem,¬†like haiku, works through parataxis, a literary technique of placing phrases or clauses or images side-by-side, without any conjunctions that show one part is related to another. That is also the basic idea for the sequencing of my book. Also at the back of my mind was¬†a Portuguese novel by Antonio Lobo Antunes, Fado Alexandrino.¬†This novel, uses what is referred to as a "polyphonic technique", involving four characters who speak in "overlapping monologues", reminiscent¬†like in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying,¬†but with greater¬†complexity, so that¬†sometimes the point of view changes three time in one sentence. This contrapuntal technique was also at the back of my mind for the sequencing ‚ÄĒ and this is the way the designer was thinking as well ‚ÄĒ for the "layered" design that you can see above. With this approach a theme that emerges from a few photos in one section¬†is sometimes¬†picked up by an image in a subsequent section; and the five haiku are not always placed right next to the images¬†¬†that could appear to bear the closest relation to the text.

When I have time, I'll try to write some more about the background to this.
________________________
Nowhereman Instagram

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Strictly speaking you will need clearance from Faber if you are going to put one of Pound’s poem’s in your book, Mitch.

Edited by wattsy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@wattsy 

Ian - I should have made it more clear: the Pound poem was one of the 12 haiku in the original sequence I gave the designer/editor, but it is no longer in the final version with five haiku. When there were to be only five haiku in the book, it seemed preferably to have only real haiku, rather than a poem inspired by haiku. There are, of course, other issues with Pound, interestingly discussed in Loius Menand's New Yorker article, The Pound Error. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
On 8/22/2019 at 11:26 PM, oldwino said:

This is very cool. The idea reminds me of a montage sequence in a motion picture, where a lot of elements can be seen together, strengthening their relationships. 

Thanks, that's indeed what I was trying to do in the selection and sequencing; and in the concept of a "layered design" that I wrote about in post #123, as well as in considering the pace and rhythm of the placement of images. 

As the various version of the book progressed I found, increasingly, that I had to come to grips with how street photography works: much of it may appear meaningless unless you find that you've engaged with the subject in some way or that the image has some immediacy. Also, you come to understand that street photography to some degree has become a spent force as, earlier in the thread, I mentioned David Alan Harvey saying. Also, you may find that the book works better if street photography is not the only or even the major genre in the book.

I also wrote about how the layering and sequencing was related to a paratactic literary technique that relates to a short Ezra Pound poem that I wrote about, as well the polyphonic, overlapping voices and contrapuntal technique of a masterpiece novel by Antonio Lobo Antunes. I’m not trying to get literary here but some readers of this thread may be interested in the more general literary background of what I was thinking about that was important in how the book emerged from its earlier forms, when it was an altogether different type of book, as discussed earlier in this thread. So, below are some resources that are available on the web.

I wrote that I was seeking not to ‚Äútell a story‚ÄĚ but to create a poetic sequence, the way Ralph Gibson and Paulo Nozolino have organized their books. For the poetry background there is an archived Yale University course, English 310: Modern Poerty. If you click on the ‚ÄúSessions‚ÄĚ tab, you can see a list of the 25 lectures. Anyone interested in what I wrote about Ezra Pound may want to watch lecture 8 (Imagism) and lecture 9 (Ezra Pound). I went through the whole course over a period of two years, and found it rewarding. You can find all the assigned poems in poetry sites on the web.

The first online course I audited a the Harvard course,¬†The Ancient Greek Hero. This fascinating course involved a "close reading" of the Illiad and the Odyssey, as well as several other works of Sappho, Sophocles, and Euripides, and some other readings as well. I was particularly interested in the The Bacchae by Euripides, in the sense that it is a tragedy about tragedy ‚Äď and in the broader sense about¬†civilization and the irrational. I cannot speak too highly about this course.

Equally good and fascinating is the¬†Wesleyan University course,¬†The Modern and the Postmodern, which starts with Kant and the Enlightenment and goes through the nineteenth, including, among others,¬†Baudelaire, Flaubert, Emerson;¬†and¬†goes on to postmodernism, including, among others, Freud, Wittgenstein,¬†Foucault,¬†¬†Slavjo Zizek. Professor Roth is a superstar as lecturer and can distill complex philosophical arguments into simple terms and can make everything fascinating. Quite remarkable. Please note that the course is now in two parts, so if you go to the link to see the syllabus make sure to look at both part I and part II. In doing this course, I found it useful not only to do the reading but also to write the 800-word assigned essays ‚ÄĒ I wrote all of them except the last one. If you follow this course as it is taught, rather than an archived version, you can spend 5-10 hours a week on it. You get what you put in.

 

Edited by Nowhereman

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Advertisement (gone after registration)

The book was printed in the Netherlands last week on a Heidelberg Speedmaster offset press. It's a huge machine with eight print units, two for each of the four quad-tone (B&W) inks, verso and recto. The one-year old press produced dazzling results, with deep, rich blacks. As people often say about photographic prints, the images in this book look better than what you see on the monitor in Lightroom. I had no idea that this quality was possible on uncoated (matte) paper. Also, it became obvious why it's desirable to have a lithographer on the production team. He worked together with the master printer and the print manager to get the best possible quality in terms of tones and gradation for each sheet.

There are ten sheets, using 20 plates (verso and recto) for this book. We examined a proof for each of the sheets before embarking on each of the ten runs. On the first sheet proof, we found that the tones were too bluish: one of the quad-tone ink has some blue to compensate for papers that somewhat yellowish. We had to run another two more proofs for the first sheet and then also had to make adjustment on a few more sheets. This is time-consuming and involves a lot of wasted printed sheets, as the master printer has to flush the inks out of the machines each time he charges the ink composition. The large control panel for the press has a great number of adjustment that can be made to any of the tones.

The following day, I was in the north of the Netherlands, in Friesland with the bookbinder, and we made the first four copies, which can be considered as the final dummies, the making of which worked out the potential problems in cutting, folding and assembling the book. Yesterday, the bookbinder did a bulk cutting of whole print run and folded the sheet by machine. The final steps are making the cover and assembling and sewing the sections together, which has to be done by hand on a 100-year old three point sewing machine.

Earlier in this thread, I've written that the the point of departure for the book was the idea that photographs can be read the same way as haiku poems are read: from an image, without any additional explication. The book contains five haiku and the photographs present a variety of themes and leitmotifs on contemporary life, which emerge in a fast-paced, non-linear manner that is underpinned by the foldout, and layered, structure. The book's title stems from the most famous Japanese haiku, one that includes a frog leaping, written in 1686 by Basho. Syb Kuiper, the designer, has written the following about the book:

Quote

As is it should be, everything is connected. Time and place fold into one frame. And again and again and again. Continents melt into each other. Lions and pole dancers, shop girls and fish mongers, buddhas and mannequins: they are all ‚Äėhere‚Äô, they are all ‚Äėnow‚Äô.¬†

Mitch Alland has this great sense of intuitiveness that he himself only seems to be able to harness by rigorous analysis: he doesn‚Äôt succeed ‚ÄĒ of course he doesn‚Äôt. Mitch identified 42 leitmotifs, and although he could probably have found more, they still don‚Äôt encapsulate the richness of his work. All is layered, all is connected.

The choice to link his photos to haiku however, is spot on. Much like Mitch’s photos, haiku poems are all about concentration and emptiness, rendering the sense of time obsolete. To some extend they’re about what’s not said, urging the reader to make an interpretation of his or her own.

In the context of all this, it seemed only natural that ‚ÄėFrog Leaping‚Äô should attempt to defy the linear narrative that is so strongly associated with books in general. Seemingly chaotic at first, it tries to lure you in, encouraging you to peel wafer-thin layer of skin from wafer-thin layer of skin, so you might eventually find the core of what drives us all ‚ÄĒ¬†being alive.¬†

The book has the following characteristics:

WxHxD: 240 x 320 x 26 mm
Weight: 1080 grams + packing
Printed on Munken Kristall Rough paper in quad tone UV offset. This has achieved a stunningly rich tonal range.

Photography: MieczysŇāaw Alland
Design: SYB (Sybrien Kuiper)
Lithography: Color & Books (Sebastiaan Hanekroot)
Printing: Jos Morree Fine Books
Binding: Fopma Wier (Wytze Fopma)
ISBN: 978-0-578-57403-5

You can see the flip-through video here. You may also want to have a look at posts #118 and #119 on the previous page of this thread.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Congratulations Mitch, the design and execution look very well sorted. Making a book like this is a huge effort, so congratulations for making it all the way through. I should be at Paris Photo this year, so I look forward to seeing it at Offprint. I am sorry I did not write to the thread earlier...I was primarily coming to the forum for technical issues...in general the photograph taste on most forums tends to skew a bit further from contemporary art photography, so I usually consume that elsewhere. I noticed you mention Jörg a lot. He is a very good reference for all this...I just finished an MFA at the Hartford Art School where he is one of the professors. His photobook class was excellent, both in terms of the selection of books and pedagogy, as well as the more practical considerations of publishing. I wish I had been able to take it before I self-published my first book. I am not unhappy with it, but I would have done a number of things differently had I some of the experience he offered. These days, however, I am getting ready to follow his lead. I start teaching students at the photography school here in Iceland a course on the photographic book starting in two weeks. One of the biggest challenges is what to leave out...there have been so many superb books over the years, it would be impossible to give a good overview even in a year long class.

Edited by Stuart Richardson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, Stuart. Interesting to look at your books ‚ÄĒ¬†before and after the MFA and J√∂rg Colberg. If you'd like to get together in Paris please PM me ‚ÄĒ I'll be at Offprint Paris and it would be great to meet. Looks like I might also have a book signing at the¬†POLYCOPIES¬†photobook event on a boat on the Seine, which a¬†photobook store exhibiting¬†there¬†may arrange.

We're now working on distribution arrangements, a headache all on its own. I'll post about that later probably after the Paris events, after the plan has been worked out.
_______________________
Nowehereman Instagram

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So very much enjoyed this thread, your links, ideas and thoughts, and of course the journey you have so admirably undertaken with the development of your book. 

My biggest question now is, when and how can I get a copy?! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, Nowhereman said:

Thanks, Stuart. Interesting to look at your books ‚ÄĒ¬†before and after the MFA and J√∂rg Colberg. If you'd like to get together in Paris please PM me ‚ÄĒ I'll be at Offprint Paris and it would be great to meet. Looks like I might also have a book signing at the¬†POLYCOPIES¬†photobook event on a boat on the Seine, which a¬†photobook store exhibiting¬†there¬†may arrange.

We're now working on distribution arrangements, a headache all on its own. I'll post about that later probably after the Paris events, after the plan has been worked out.
_______________________
Nowehereman Instagram

Thanks Mitch, Polycopies is really nice as well. I like the group of people/publishers that choose to be on the boat. Of course, Offprint and the main fair have their charms as well. Good luck with the distribution...logistics are one of the biggest challenges to photobook publishing, unfortunately. But if you can line up with a good distributor, that should go a long way towards helping. I hope to see you at the fairs! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, mikeamosau said:

So very much enjoyed this thread, your links, ideas and thoughts, and of course the journey you have so admirably undertaken with the development of your book. 

My biggest question now is, when and how can I get a copy?! 

Thanks for the kind words. The aim is to have a dedicated website for ordering the book by the opening of Offprint Paris on 7 November. Shipment will either from the Netherlands or Germany, probably the latter, to be decided in the next couple of weeks. Some books will probably be available to purchase on the spot at Polycopies in Paris between 7-10 November. I'll post the details of this and the link to website here.
________________________
Nowhererman Instagram

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your early indecision and hand wringing whilst researching the way forward have proven to be worthwhile qualities in the final production of an imaginative and  impressive book. Congratulations. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At last, the book is finished and the website is up: frogleaping.org. 

The book is being shipped from Germany with a fantastic shipping cost to Rest of World (beyond the EU) of ‚ā¨12.89 ‚ÄĒ and ‚ā¨7.39¬†to the EU, and less than that in¬†Germany.

More great news is that I have a book signing at the Polka Galerie in Paris on Saturday, 9 November at 13:00. Here are the photographers particpationg in the Polka book signing program on that day :

BOOKSIGNING DAY
WITH JOEL MEYEROWITZ, BRUCE GILDEN, MATT HENRY, SEBASTIAO SALGADO, MANFRED THIERRY MUGLER, THOMAS SAUVIN, GIULIA LACOLUTTI, MITCHELL ALLAND, LAURENT ELIE BADESSI, MIHO KAJIOKA, CLAUDE NORI. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The book signing at the Polka Galerie was great fun: besides meeting the photographers listed in the last post, it was fun speaking with the people who attended and bought books: Frog Leaping was well received and people liked it. As things worked out, I had longer conversations with Joel Meyerowitz and Matt Henry. So many people came for Sebastião Salgado that I was only able speak with his wife. Originally, I was supposed to be there for one hour, 13:00 - 14:00 but, seeing the extensive interest in the book, the Polka Galerie people asked me to stay on for the day; so I stayed until 19:00, and then went to dinner with a couple of people that bought the book. The Polka Galerie staff were great to deal with.

In my last post, I wrote about the low rate for DHL shipment of the book to outside the EU ("Rest of World"):¬†for ‚ā¨12.89. As mentioned earlier in this thread, the book was produced in the Netherlands. We shipped it to Germany because the DHL shipment rates are so much lower from there,¬†compared¬†to¬†shipping books from anywhere else that I could see. From other countries the shipment rates to far-off countries, for example,¬†the US, Japan and Brazil, were simple prohibitive.¬†

For people who placed orders: we expect the orders received in the last few days to ship on Friday, 15 November.
_____________________
Frog Leaping website

Edited by Nowhereman

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Congrats for the success Mitch! It seems my copy should arrive tomorrow! It will be interesting to see the final product and go back to some of your post here which¬† describes your thoughts¬† in the process of making it. For sure I'll learn something about book making! ūüôā

Edited by robert blu

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This has been just an incredibly rich thread on avant-garde photobook making (at least from where I sit- that being a long-time photographer hobbyist and newbie bookbinder). I took up bookbinding as a realistically cost-effective way to get to see my photos printed, formatted, sequenced and bound to my satisfaction. Along the way, bookbinding developed into something worth pursuing as and end in itself. I came across this thread searching for the best sub-forum to post my first two photo books.  I've looked at your schematics and video of your book as aspirational to both content, formatting as well construction.  After the holiday season, hopefully you'll still have copies available for purchase.

Edited by Marcial

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for sharing this journey with us, Mitch.

I came to this thread hoping to pick up a few pointers. I've gone through a few commercial printers (of individual photos) and never found satisfaction in their work. I'm currently printing a very short run (a dozen-odd copies) of a brief book (8 photographs with 8 textual slipsheets) with my inkjet printer and binder because I couldn't imagine enjoying the results from anyone else. But your experience has certainly demonstrated otherwise: attract the attention of experts in their respective fields and the results can be stunning. Even if takes persistence (in addition to the value of the fundamental assets) to get there. In essence, a photobook can be just like a film, where many different skillsets combine into one body of work that surpasses what any one individual can bring to the table.

My point: it took a while for people to convince me that better cameras could be better photographic tools. And the skills to use them. Then lenses. (And the skills...) Then software. (And...) Then printers. (And...) And now books. You've convinced me that good photobooks are worth their effort. (And the persistence to find the right team to supplement the skills you as the photographer can bring to the table.) Thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing ¬†¬†0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

√ó
√ó
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue., Read more about our Privacy Policy