In a flurry of activity one Sunday morning, as the baby slept on her dad’s chest and daughter number one played upstairs… I finished my book. When there is a window these days it’s grabbed. Being mum to a small baby makes you increadably productive in short spaces of time. Spaces that are snatched, at anytime around the clock. So in my dressing gown early in the morning, assisted by Steely Dan on Spotify… I finished my book. It took only a couple of short hours. Images were cut up & additions made to the edit, text – most of it discarded but for two quotes and the essay, cover image in the bag. The End.
I’d thought about it for so long that when I had the opportunity it all flowed. Having a break from it, long enough to have a baby, helped too.
This week the dummy is being printed & bound. Throughout Bristol, and no doubt much further afield, book dummies are being made – all in time for this weekend’s Photo Book Bristol. Last year’s festival was the first. No one knew what to expect from it, but this year we do.
Anticipation is high…
I’ve made a start on the design of my book with Victoria and the editing process is about to begin. I still have a few unfinished ideas floating around in my head. If they are to stand a chance of making it into the book; I have to pluck them out quick and get them onto film. The book is all about a single colour and as an end shot I like the idea of using a rainbow to emphasise the full spectrum. I took a picture about six months back on my phone. It’s of my daughter with a rainbow of light over her eye. It was a quick snap, as the sun came into the bedroom one morning, and bounced off the edge of the mirror on my jewellery box. It was early summer.
Now it’s mid January and the sun no longer reaches around to the bedroom window. I’m desperate for some direct light. In deepest darkest winter my window of opportunity has decreased drastically . I know that the back of the house gets direct sun from about 1-4pm. I know because each time it comes out I watch it, in envy. By the time Ruby is home from school the light has gone. To stand a chance of getting a shot we are down to weekends.
And weekends have a habit of getting filled up with life. But I am desperate for this final shot. It’s Saturday. The sun is out. I grab the jewellery box and find a tiny pool of light coming through the bathroom window. I make Ruby sit there on the bathroom floor, trying to catch the rainbow on her face, but I’m seven months pregnant, my body awash with hormones, tiered and with no patience. I’m short with her and command her into different positions. I’ve lost it. I’ve lost the skill of making the process any fun. She sits, grumpy face, but still there doing this for me, to help her mum. I feel dreadful, and shoot one frame before the sun goes in behind a cloud. The light has gone and I give up.
Later the light shines through her bedroom window lighting up a doll’s house. I curse it. The next weekend I ‘book it out’ for photography. I tell Tony this is what I need to do. It’s my sole focus. But will the sun even come out? Saturday after lunch we have sun! I leave the lunch stuff and we run upstairs to the bathroom. I muster all my patience. we talk about her, about how strong she is, about what a fast runner she is. We catch the rainbow. I exhale.
I don’t know if I’ll use this shot. It doesn’t matter. I did it – we did it.
7 days till my Kickstarter campaign… if it all goes to plan..
With Christmas fast approaching these recent images will be amongst my last serious photographs for this year. I have been working with book designer Victoria Forrest. Even when I thought all the work for my book was done – Victoria told me to keep shooting. So there is more in the pipeline, but now that will have to wait until the new year.
For now my attentions are set on planning my Kickstarter campaign. I am on a mission to self publish my book, in time for a launch at Photo Book Bristol next June. I am aiming to raise £12,000 over the next few months. People have told me that I am a quietly confident person. I am confident about my photography work and even the process of making a photo book for the first time. With other people’s help I have gained enough confidence to embark on self publishing. However the thought of raising such a small fortune, by crowd funding, is seriously worrying. If I don’t reach my target- I won’t get a penny.
I have the confidence in my own work, but somehow I need to turn that into other people having confidence in the project, enough to want to preorder a copy, with their own money. From what I’ve learned, crowd funding campaigns are all about momentum, and people having faith that it will be successful. So what can I do? I have never taken on such a huge challenge as this before. All I can do is to research and plan. I have been talking to other photographers who have run successful crowd funding campaigns and self published. Asking as many questions as possible, trying to gain tips and advice and and understanding of the whole process. I have been compiling a mailing list, planning a video shoot for the campaign, gathering endorsements etc etc. All I can do is be prepared and give it my best shot. I will be launching the campaign towards the end of January. Look out for it. You’ll be able to pre order the book or back the campaign. I need to move a 12K mountain and I won’t be able to do it alone.
Big thanks to Rudi Thoemmes, Rosie Barnes and Tom Groves for their generous help.
I went to a screening of Martin Parr’s film ‘Turkey and Tinsel’ last week. Martin Parr makes films, but we don’t get to see them that much. There were books for sale too, but it wasn’t a photo book event as such. After the film there was food and music. As Martin busted his moves to Slade on the dancefloor I was in the back room hudled around a table looking at photo book projects. This is where I have ended up at previous Photo Book Bristol events. It’s my favourite spot, for after the main event the nurturing environment and the shared love for photo books in Bristol takes hold.
My own photo book will be self published next year and it will be a direct product of this environment. It will be ‘made in Bristol’. Akina’s book making workshop, and all the talks I have been to at IC Visual lab and Photo Book Bristol have seeped into my work. The relationships I have made with the Bristol photo book crowd have helped me to think about, edit and give me the confidence to pursue self publishing my own book. The book will be designed in Bristol by Victoria Forrest.
I’m not the only one. There are many of us working on book projects. There will be more photo books ‘Made in Bristol’ – a lot more to come. The scent hangs thickly in the air. If you come and visit, breath deep and don’t be afraid to inhale that luscious scent of the photo book.
I am in deepest darkest editing. I’m working on the edit for my book Generation Pink, going through three years worth of work. Over the years I have picked up the language of photography. Now I must learn the language of the photo book. I already have a few phrases tucked up my sleeve, but I need more fluency. I have so been busy trying to get the point across, in my photographs, that the work seems to shout it out. I am in the process of cooling it down – spacing out – my ‘in your face’ busy shots, with some quieter pictures. In an effort to communicate more clearly and effectively.
I worked on this edit with two of my trusted photo book friends. The workshop I did with Akina made it clear to me that I wasn’t going to be able to edit my own work, by myself. Alex, Rudi and I spent an evening last week, making a start on it. The process is ongoing, as I live with it on my wall and work at it over the next few weeks. What becomes most apparent is the sheer amount of work that doesn’t make the final cut. From 2,143 images around 50 will be in the final book. From 223 additional research images I might use one. From the pages and pages of text in my notebooks, this will probably become 10 quotes.
And that is the beauty of making a photo book; only the best work, the images that communicate most effectively, work together to create a whole. The work is translated into a photo book and becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It’s the cream off the top and everything else gets chucked down the sink. And I am ready to be ruthless. I remember reading novels and being irritated when the author includes his/her research in the story. The research qualifies, and allows you to tell the story, but to include it dilutes the story for the reader. With this in mind I am intent to let go. There is no need to show my workings, that’s what this blog is for.
Recently I have been thinking about how important it is, to listen to the people I photograph. I read a review of Vanessa Winship’s book ‘She Dances On Jackson’ by Jorg Colberg on his Conscientous site (you can read it here). He describes Vanessa’s portraits in a way I hadn’t thought of before – that she had listened to her subjects. This stuck in my mind. As a photographer I am busy looking. I look until I see something, something that I think I might be able to capture to make a photograph. But ‘listening’ – that is exactly the word that describes to me the next stage of making a portrait.
I then went to a talk by photographer Jim Mortram in which he described his own process of making portraits. Jim visits people in their own homes and sits down with them, gets them to talk about themselves – and he listens. He often does this without taking any photographs. So this idea of listening to people has been present when I am making portraits.
I know that I am not a spontaneous person. When I am preparing for a shoot I visualise how the portrait might look. Whilst I think it helps to have a starting point, bringing too many preconceived ideas to a photograph can be detrimental. I have witnessed how I can get so involved in trying to make the picture, that’s in my head; I miss the wonderful nuances that other people can bring to the photograph. The very elements that can make a portrait, and the details that I could not have imagined. These missing moments have lead me to strive to adapt to each person and situation and above all listen to people.
These two portraits are photographs that I never expected to make. I went to photograph Liz and her baby Ione for my book Generation Pink. In the middle of taking pictures Ione needed a feed, so we took a break. I asked Liz if I could take a photograph of her feeding and I’m glad I did, as in this frame Liz’s expression is very different from the others. Her face softened as she looked at Ione. Below is Liz’s son Felix. I knew his favourite colour was pink, but I have found it difficult to get a good portrait of a boy who likes pink, but there he was dressed in a pink t-shirt with a pink bedroom wall, that I didn’t know he had. There was no time for preconceptions.
I have only just got these scans back from the lab, so they are not final images yet and I still have another roll to look at. I don’t know, at this stage whether they will make it into the edit, but I am happy to be listening more and seeing where that takes me.
Many thanks to Liz, Felix and Ione.
It’s that time of year again, when the ‘best of’ photo book lists roll around. In the absence of good book shops, with so few good ones left, we rely on the lists, to edit out the wheat from the chaff. We look to them for their recommendations and for some inspiration.
So far I have seen, PDN’s Indie Photo Books of the Year Part 1 and Alec Soth’s Little Brown Mushroom Top 10. Christina De Middel’s self published book, The Afronaughts features on both these lists. It was announced last week that this book has gained her a nomination for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize alongside Adam Bromberg and Oliver Chanarin, Miska Henner and Chris Killip. It’s the only book featured on both lists and I’m sure will be included in many more. This really goes to show the power of the photo book. That a self published first book can achieve a nomination like this. The photo book is the perfect vehicle to elevate an unknown photographer to the status of successful artist in one amazing book.
I was lucky enough to see a copy of The Afronaughts in the flesh last week. It is an incredibly beautifully made book. Christina’s images are humorous and beautiful at the same time. I saw the book at the newly launched Photo Book Labs in Bristol. It’s a new group set up along the lines of The Photo Book Club. It’s been set up by Instant Coffees Photography Platforms for anyone who enjoys looking at, and sharing photo books. It got off to a good start last week, by taking a closer look at Walker Evans, American Photographs. Each of us shared one of our own, favourite photo books. There was a great selection and variety of books, including a couple of jems that I hadn’t come across before.
Thanks to Kathleen, Beth and Jamie for this photo above.
Special thanks to my Mum for the photo below.