Photobooks: design and publishing

Print-on-demand and self-publishing

The expansion on print-on-demand services now makes self-publishing fairly straightforward. These enable direct sales through companies like Amazon at price mark-ups decided by the photographer. There are a number of services on offer that I looked at:

Review of options: https://www.cnet.com/news/best-and-worst-photo-book-making-websites-for-you/

But the one I chose – it is UK-based and offers the most flexibility together with full integration with Adobe CC Lightroom and InDesign is

This was very competitive on pricing with frequent price reduction deals once you are signed up. Shipping from Netherlands keeps postal costs reasonably low (will Brexit add taxes????) – though it is still more cost-effective to wait and order multiple publications. Blurb has teamed up with Adobe to enable easy compilation of books using plug-ins for Lightroom and InDesign. Blurb has its own software, but this offers less flexibility to edit images as they have to be sized, cropped and processed before they are laid out. The greatest flexibility for editing of the images is given in Lightroom. InDesign allows for much more sophisticated layouts of tiff images that can then be edited in Photoshop.

However the choice of book format and size, and paper stock is still limited compared to professional book publishing services.

Professional bookbinders

Bookbinding is a very specialist craft. Professional bookbinders can offer a range of quality services: mixing paper stocks, customised endpapers, gatefold pages and matching slipcases and boxes. A professional bookbinder can offer advice on materials and other design aspects, such as how easy it will be to physically open your book with your particular choice of paper, and how far your image needs to be printed from the gutter to be viewed properly, for example.

For an overview of different types of binding see

http://design.zemniimages.info/4-materials-and-process/binding/  (to be fully developed)

Book design issues

Some points to consider when designing or evaluating

  • Rationale: What is the purpose of the book? What is the main concept? Who is it for? Why do you want to present your work in a book? Is the book format really the most suitable medium in which to present your work? A badly printed or poorly designed book of your photographs will not be as well received as a simpler portfolio of good quality prints.
  • Selection and Editing: Edit your work strictly before even considering the layout.  Do all the images sit comfortably next to each other. Do any seem out of place? Can this be resolved, or should they be omitted?
  • Sequencing: Sequencing is paramount: consider how certain images relate to each other (graphically as well as in terms of the ‘connotations’ of an image, or the juxtaposition of images within the sequence).
  • Text: Will you use text? What will you say? Will the text complement and reinforce the images, or challenge the viewer through contrast or contradiction?
  • Typeface What typeface and style will you use? Pay as much attention to the words and their layout as you do to your photographs. Your choice of typeface communicates a lot about how you want your photographs to be read.

Book Module in Lightroom

Webinar from Blurb

Using InDesign series of videos

Adobe InDesign gives much more control over layout and also links to Blurb, or can be exported to pdf for other Print on Demand services.

For more discussion see my Book Design blog (to be completed by May 2017):

http://design.zemniimages.info/principles-and-process/typography/

http://design.zemniimages.info/principles-and-process/images/

Photobooks: Inspiration

Types of Photobook

Surveys and catalogues

  • catalogues for exhibitions
  • ‘Survey’ publications draw together a collection of individual images or a group of practitioners working in a similar area. Some surveys seem more didactic or
    directed at the art market, such as 50 Photographers You Should Know (2008), Vitamin Ph: New Perspectives in Photography (2009), reGeneration: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow (2005) and reGeneration 2: Tomorrow’s Photographers Today (2010).

Monographs and artists’ books

Monographs are mass-produced (relatively speaking), but often they are the primary context for the photographic work. A monograph published to coincide with an exhibition of an artist’s work may  draw together several different bodies of work, but it will be devoted to one practitioner alone.

An artist’s book may be produced in editions, but is generally more individual in terms of its design, the materials used and the printing technique or finish. Some may be printed, stencilled, stitched and embossed by the maker themselves. Others will be a collaboration with a professional bookbinder and a graphic designer.

Early photobooks

Many of these were topographic images for travel and tourism.

  • Francis Frith photographs from travels to Middle and Far East
  • John Thomson photographs from travels to Middle and Far East
  • Maxime Du Camp (1822–94)
  • Auguste Salzmann (1824–72)
  • Josiah Dwight Whitney (1819–96) published The Yosemite Book in 1868.

Some developed more innovative design

  • Soviet and Fascist propaganda books with novel design features, such as fold-out pages that extend the dimensions of an image

Inspiration

I have a large collection, but not had time to look through or properly review apart from getting some layout ideas.

Colour

  • Martin Parr: documentary photographer. Some of his works have been mass produced and re-printed (e.g. The Last Resort, 1986 and 1998); others have been limited editions or even more exclusive artist’s books such as Cherry Blossom Time in Tokyo, 2001. See: www.martinparr.com/books/. Layout in Last Resort has one, or very occasionally two, large images per spread, with white margin around and no border. This focuses attention on the content of the socially complex saturated colour images. There is a short introductory text at the beginning.
  • Paul Seawright : Invisible Cities a very large hardback book of colour images. Some images are full bleed crossing the whole spread, sometimes with some space to one side or top/bottom. Other spreads have only one half page image generally placed full bleed to one corner with the rest of the spread as white space. There is a text introduction to African cities at the beginning.
  • Urbex ‘Beauty in Decay’ this has beautiful limited palette images . The book is divided into chapters with some introductory text. But the book is mostly large images with  whitespace. Some images and spreads are on black background. A few text passages are on beige background. Some have black or white boders and vignettes to increase contrast.

Black and white

  • Daido Moriyama  Tales of Tono – small portrait format book of very high contrast black and white images. Full bleed in landscape across a double spread on black background. This makes the abstract flashes of white shapes in the often barely readable images standout. Text is reserved for a narrative section at the end. I like the moodiness of this book and all the images demand close attention in themselves, as well as producing an overall edgy impression as a apparently random narrative.
  • Algirdas Seskus ‘Love Lyrics’ Lithuanian 149 contrasty documentary Black and White images in landscape format. No text except the number of each photo and date. One or two large images per spread. No border with generous white margin.
  • Arunas Baltenas  Vilnius  2007 images from 1987. Small misty sepia images one per spread with no border and lots of white space. Delicate handwritten titles and date. One page introduction in English and Lithuanian at the beginning. No other text. I find the delicate nostalgia of this book really beautiful.
  • Henri Cartier Bresson in India  Thames and Hudson. 1987 with forward by Bengali film director Satyajit Ray. One large black and white photo per page with short caption. Black border on white paper. Occasionally one large and one small. The images themselves are quite low contrast. The black border makes the eye focus inwards.

At the Brighton Photography Biennial I saw a lot of interesting innovative designs, but did not have time to note all the details.

  • David Galjaard Concresco. A book about Albania. Has a brown opening cover with short explanatory text. Then  double page spreads with small white text insert pages. For this and other work see his website: http://www.davidgaljaard.nl
  • Dara McGrath ‘Deconstructing the Maze’  This has two coloured photographs on one side and page of text on the other. The strength here is in the photos. For this and other work see his website http://www.daramcgrath.com/index.html
  • Xavier Ribas  ‘Concrete Geographies’.  Photos of concrete blocks in Barcelona. See his website: http://www.xavierribas.com. This has inside views and links to vimeos of other books like Sanctuary – no text, one photo per spread. Sometimes a cross-over image. But the onscreen resolution is not good enough to really see the images.
  • Alessandro Rota A Neocolonialist’s diary.  Small paisley pattern cover. Coloured photos of sheets in Lusaka. Dark night streets. Lights. See his website . And vimeo of the book. https://vimeo.com/28099164
  • Irene Siragusa ‘Six weeks in Dublin’.   Lots of photos of spattered blood. Small juxtaposed rectangular images. website

Unknown author/title glimpsed over other peoples’ shoulders:

  • Book with glued images folded.
  • Aids (author???).  Small and simple brown cover. Photos of slits one on a page opposite a blank page.

 Sources and overviews

  • The Photobook: A History, Volumes I,  ll and III Gerry Badger and Martin Parr
  • The Chinese Photobook: Martin Parr and Wassink Lundgren from the Photographer’s Gallery exhibition
  • Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and ’70s Ryuichi Kaneko and Ivan Vartanian
  • Channels on YouTube and Vimeo with videos of certain books;
  • Tate video about William Klein which shows his assistant with one of Klein’s early maquettes:
  •  José Navarro discussing OCA students’ photobooks

OCA Student links

Joe Wright

Assignment 5: Perspectives on Kyrgyztstan

Martin Parr

Martin Parr (born 1952) trained in photography at Manchester Polytechnic.

Described in the past as Margaret Thatcher’s favourite  photographer, Parr caused a stir when he tried to join

Magnum Photos. The issue was one of integrity. Photographers within Magnum’s ranks guarded their territory jealously and felt that the work that Parr offered was voyeuristic, titillating and
meaningless. Parr was eventually accepted at Magnum in 1994 and went on to become one of the leading authorities on photography in the UK.

Parr has an ability to turn the snapshot into art. There is however something of the satirical about this work – many of the images raise a smile. Parr worked mainly in colour and his approach was to over-light with fill-in flash, causing a frozen moment in time to be even more false yet far more real.  His work is quirky and opportunistic. He makes no bones about the latter; invited to an event, he takes the opportunity to produce images that will lead to further projects. His approach is direct. He doesn’t ask permission and if someone sees that he is photographing them he will continue on the basis that it’s his job to photograph them, record their reaction, etc. The characteristic Parr style is still there 30 years on.

Listen to Martin Parr talking about his images and practice:

 

Parr has produced a wide range of work.

  • Last Resort: Photographs of New Brighton (1986). One of his first
    major colour pieces.This style was to become synonymous with Parr and his ability to create from the ordinary. The little girl could be the focus of the image but the boy is also interesting. The car and the lighthouse are both essential to the composition.
  • A recent project in the suburbs of Paris depicts ordinary
    life within a diverse, mainly immigrant, community.
  • St Moritz series shows the rich at play in a way that only people who work there would normally get to see.
  • Luxury – a recent Martin Parr project where he looks at the rich and their pastimes.

The Parrworld (2008) show exhibited some of Parr’s extensive collection of kitsch souvenirs and other disparate paraphernalia: a watches with pictures of Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, bubblegum pop pin-up wallpaper. He compares photography to collecting: the world is out there for the having.

Parr has edited three volumes of his collections of postcards:

  • Boring Postcards (1999)
  • Boring Postcards USA (2000)
  • Langweilige Postkarten (2001).

The subjects within Boring Postcards are what we judge to be mundane or prosaic, such as motorways, service stations, tower blocks, school and other modernist municipal buildings – structures that we take for granted and might even consider to be ‘eyesores’. They weren’t necessarily photographed for their beauty in any traditional sense, but because of their novelty value as photographic subjects. [Many of the images in the UK edition are attributed to the Frith photographic company.] They are in fact often quite unusual and remarkably intriguing.

 Exercise: Getting the Parr ‘feel’

For this exercise, photograph people engaged in a fun or social activity outdoors. For example, you could go to a seaside resort and photograph people having a good time. Or photograph people at an outdoor party or function. Try to capture the Martin Parr ‘feel’.
Use your camera flash or a flash gun to balance the daylight. You need to take light readings from the ambient light and then set the flash gun to produce a small amount of flash – not enough to turn the scene into night – running the camera at a slower speed than the flash would normally synch at.
Getting the flash /ambient light balance right is the key to the technical side of the whole look.
This is the camera’s reaction under normal circumstances. A slower shutter speed than the recommended flash setting may help a lot.
This will work very differently for a range of cameras and you may need individual support and advice for this relative to your personal camera equipment.
Produce a set of eight colour images. Ensure that the colour is bright and reflects the nature of Martin Parr’s work. How does this lighting effect change the nature of your images? Make
some notes in your learning log.

Paul Seawright

Paul Seawright is best known for his ‘late photography’ of battle-sites and minefields. He often uses vintage technology and a much older approaches to conflict photography. But rather than reportage, his images are made for museum-going audiences and gallery patrons by people who call themselves ‘artists’.

website

If it is too explicit it becomes journalistic. If it is too ambiguous, it becomes meaningless…The constriction of meaning is done by the person looking at it. The artist has to leave space for that’

‘Paul Seawright, Voice Our Concern Artist’s Lecture 2010’ is a 40 minute illustrated artists lecture by the artist photographer Paul Seawright given in the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in November 2010. Paul talks about the use of photography in conflict situations as often being unreliable and how his work as a photographic artist is a response to this. He presents photographs from the Crimean war and discusses the influence of photographer Paul Graham on his work. He describes the difference between photo journalism and art in the context of artists defining their subjects and in the construction of meaning. He goes on to discuss and present examples of his Sectarian Murder Work series. This Voice Our Concern lecture was a joint project organised by IMMA and Amnesty International Ireland.

The Forest 2001

17 photographs of desolate roadside lay-bys, ditches and car parks shot at night and lit by what we assume to be streetlights. By day they would probably be ordinary, but at night with the lighting they take on a sinister tone (like images we are used to seeing in detective TV series). ‘Because there is such a division between what we can see and what we cannot see (the fall off of the light does not allow for much penetration into the forest edge) what belongs there (the trees, underbrush and roadside curbs) and what doesn’t belong there (us), these are photographs that place the viewer into the shoes of the vulnerable’ (Paul Seawright’s website)

Hidden (2002)

In 2002 Seawright was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum London to undertake a war art commission in Afghanistan.In spite of the climate in which they were made, have a cool, Becher-like objectivity to them. Tension is created by concealing as much as is revealed in the photographs and their caption. Through unorthodox framing, selective focusing in places, and at times seemingly banal viewpoints, there is a palpable sense of unease in this landscape that is strewn with concealed lethal hazards. For example another image shows recently dug up mines – done by hand because they cannot be identified with mine detectors against the rest of the iron in the land., as well as America’s most wanted outlaw, who would take a further nine years to track down. His photograph of shells in Afghanistan explicitly echoes Fenton’s famous image from the Crimea.

For some of the main images and reviews (eg John Stathatos) see: http://www.paulseawright.com/hidden/

Invisible Cities 2007   

after Italo Calvino book.

Seawright travelled to major cities in sub-Saharan Africa, exploring communities on the edge of conurbations, both geographically and socially. Comprises varied photographs, some of which are recognisable as landscape pictures, or environmental portraiture. None of the titles of the photographs refer to specific locations or people, which emphasises the indistinct nature and anonymity of these places and their inhabitants.

Bridge (2006) the road bridge, presumably an interchange of major roads on the edge of the city, cleanly divides the frame in two. A yellow bus heads along the road towards the city from, we suppose, the sanctuary of the suburbs, taking children to school or their parents to work. The sky is empty and bleak, echoed by the detritus that sprawls below, shielded by the flyover from the view of the bus’s passengers.

Things Left Unsaid

Biography

Paul Seawright is Professor of Photography and Head of Belfast School of Art at the University of Ulster. His photographic work is held in many museum collections including The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Tate, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, International Centre of Photography New York, Arts Councils of Ireland, England and N.Ireland, UK Government Collection and the Museum of Contemporary Art Rome. They have also been exhibited in Spain, France, Germany, Korea, Japan and China.  In 2003 he represented Wales at the Venice Biennale of Art and in 1997 won the Irish Museum of Modern Art/Glen Dimplex Prize. He is represented by the Kerlin Gallery Dublin.