Handmade book part 3
by Les Picker
Now that my "Mountains in the Mist" book is coming together - actually the first experimental version of it - I was reflecting the other day on how it came about that the renowned calligrapher Yuming Sun came into the project.
Yuming's art is considered amongst the very finest in Chinese calligraphy. So how did we come to collaborate on my photography book?
When the idea of the book first began to simmer in my mind, I never considered needing a calligrapher. But, as you've read in Part 2 of this series, once I honed in first on mountains, then mountains in mist, and then Chinese mountains in mist, I began to think about stylistic issues. I had some concerns.
I knew that I wanted the book to be handmade. I also felt a strong urge to make the book a meditative, as well as an artistic, work. That meditative sense is what I felt when I hiked amongst China's ethereal peaks, photographing them.
With layout after layout, I wasn't really satisfied. Yes, the images printed on Awagami Unryu, a paper with embedded and swirling mulberry plant fiber, were beautiful and the poetry by Hsieh Ling-Yün (385-433 A.D.)was evocative, but I felt that something was still missing.
I've always admired Chinese characters hand-written by accomplished calligraphers. Compared to the strict functionality of English characters, Chinese characters are complex, nuanced, artistically beautiful. I thought, since I am focusing on Chinese mountains, how would it look if I included Chinese characters? I clipped Chinese characters from the Internet and tried various stylistic elements. Now the final piece of the puzzle snapped into place. I would marry my imagery with poetry and calligraphy.
Sometimes providence makes an unexpected entrance. I asked an accomplished photographer colleague I knew, a Chinese-American woman, whether she happened to know anyone who could do Chinese calligraphy. Serendipity! She just happened to be friends with Yuming Sun. She set up the meeting immediately.
I'll admit that my first meeting with Yuming was intimidating. The perfection of his hand-drawn characters, their flow and grace, his ability to stretch the rigid norms of traditional Chinese calligraphy was breathtaking. I knew then that this master would become an integral part of what I was trying to accomplish. And, he understood my intent from the get-go.
So, that's how Yuming Sun joined Hsieh Ling-Yün, allowing me to produce "Mountains in the Mist" a handmade work of meditative art that I hope will synthesize three entirely different artistic modalities. I'll post more later, as I combine Yuming's artwork, Hsieh's poetry and my prints into the first trial of the book. We are photographing the process as we go along and I can't wait to share that journey with you.