on photo books

I love quilts – the way tiny running stitches create texture and pattern where form is both functional and beautiful. I love quilts so much I was willing to spend years piecing and hand-stitching them for friends and family.  Every quilt I made was a work of art that contained something of me.

I don’t make quilts these days. Too much strain on older eyes. Too much sitting for an older body.

But I feel the same love for photography, where the end product of pictures is worth the work. I’d like to say that I’ve worked hard to master the craft, but the truth is, just as in quilting, I’ve learned the parts that interest me. And this is the joy of a hobby. We can pick-and-choose.

I don’t have a desire to photograph wildlife or learn to use my flash or create stunning effects with Photoshop. My heart belongs to the stories photographs tell – and photography books are my love language.

I spend hours turning the pages of my favorite photo books, studying the pictures, reading them, immersing myself both in what I like and what I do not. The more I learn, the more I love them.

I’ve designed several photography books of my own work –mostly compilations of my favorite pictures.  This year I’m making a book for each quarter of the year.  I’m trying out a new company that makes handcrafted photo books, MILK.  And while I’m waiting for my book to be printed, MILK sent a link for an online version of my book, When Work is Play, to share.

In the meantime, I am continuing to learn about Photo Books. Thanks to CJ Chilvers for recommending the article, The Art and Process of Sequencing Photo Books, from Photo District News.

"What makes a successful photo book different from a slide show of images? Experienced book editors say they strive to create a narrative arc that carries the reader from the first page to the last."

. . .

“If you simply select the best 50 images in a series, it’s not an interesting book, because the tension in the photos is always the same,” says Teun van der Heijden, who has designed many acclaimed photo books including Black Passport by Stanley Greene, Interrogations by Donald Weber and The Autobiography of Miss Wish by Nina Berman. “Like in a film or a novel, you have to build up to the tension and then you need to release the tension.” He typically begins by asking to see the photographer’s outtakes, he says. “Sometimes lesser quality images that capture a certain mood, or are empty, or even vague can function ideally as a release.”

I have a lot to learn. But I’m certain of this. I want to be a book artist.

Every once in a while, I take a picture that seems as though it is all me – not a copy or something I think I should take - but something that called out to me and only me.

These pictures are a gift and they are trying to tell me something. I am listening.