The Birth Of A Print Project
Handmade Book Project Part 1
Consider this an introduction to what can be considered a pop-up newsletter. A series dedicated to one particular project that goes away when the project is complete.
Although the absolute beginnings of this project were a few months ago, the project is so new there’s no official name or title at this point. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it went from a mere notion to what could be considered a project. I can say that as of today, it’s a project. The confluence of three separate endeavors together in an unexpected way as the main ingredients.
Les’ diving into hand-made bookmaking and kicking around ideas on how to offer a practical one or two day workshop.
Our shared love of Awagami papers and subsequent announcement of Awagami naming Les its first ever photographic ambassador.
A folder full of Les’ photographs made over the last few years that have not been printed for any shows, clients, or portfolios.
Sure there are projects that one sets out to do that may have specific goals. Those may have strict details of what the outcome needs to achieve. New ideas crop up that may influence or change those original notions. This project, however, started out as a folder of loosely related images. Images that Les loved from various excursions over the last few years. Images that never made it into a portfolio or any other project. They've never been commercially printed.
A significant portion of those images were mountains from various corners of the planet. Photographs made in Antarctica, the Yukon, and the Far East. Other images created on the same trips related to those regions were also there, everything from cultural pictures to wildlife The theme that immediately came to mind was mountains — so that’s what we went with.
The first step was to do an editorial culling based on the broad theme and aesthetics. We still had over fifty photographs left. The second editorial effort was to make small proof prints on our go-to paper for black and white, Moab Entrada Natural. Both Les and I consider hard proofs and an area to spread them out essential. It’s far more effective and enjoyable to rearrange, resort, remove, and add physical prints when trying to figure out how a large group of pictures go together. What story are we trying to tell? What story is screaming out to us that wants to be told? What fits, what doesn’t?
After a few sessions looking at various themes and selections the story that emerged became clear. It’s not mountains, it’s the mountains in a specific atmosphere, in China. Half of the original proofs went away but still far too many for a portfolio and not quite enough for a traditional book. That notion was the ”eureka moment”. Les immediately recalled his love of a particular Chinese poet and decided to make a book that married those photographs with the work of Hsieh Ling-Yün, the most famous Chinese nature poet. The target of a hand-made book set up the broad constraints of what the project was.
Our next steps are:
Determine which poems go well with the images and how they relate.
The size and shape of the book.
Find a Chinese calligrapher to collaborate on projection of the text.
Figure out a layout that supports what we want to do.
Find a Chinese calligrapher to work with to add a hand-made element of design to the text portions that are included.
Les and I will be issuing brief updates and sharing all of the ups, downs, decisions to be made, and progress over the next few months. Feel free to chime in with projects you’re working on and the challenges you’re facing, or any questions you might’ve about our project. We hope to inspire fellow photographers that love prints as well as break the myth that finished projects appear fully formed exactly as planned from the very beginning. This is an experiment, so please bear with us and let us know what you would like discussed.