By coincidence, the day after I had my Assignment 3 tutorial with Wendy and got such useful feedback on how to take this concept forward, I was on a small group (six person) handmade photobook-making workshop run by Joe Wright. I’d been asked to prepare around 20 small prints to use in the workshop and I had already decided to take the Assignment 3 set.

The format of the workshop was interesting: after the initial demonstration of a simple Japanese stab binding technique and a practice run on a copy of one of Joe’s own books – but before being let loose to do our own book – a good portion of the workshop was dedicated to peer reviewing each others bodies of work, with a view to identifying a potential sequence and edit of each person’s set of prints. For my work, which I had already sequenced into a run of 21 pairings of images and text, and produced in a stapled booklet format for submission, this raised some challenges and led to some lightbulb moments:

  • The set needed to be edited down as the book format for this particular workshop exercise required a maximum of 12 images
  • The set would, in the first instance at least, be produced without the paired text, or an introductory artist’s statement…
  • … meaning that the images needed to stand on their own two feet (or five fingers) much more than they had in my previous version
  • Presenting the images without the text made me realise the importance of Wendy’s feedback of the previous day – many of the images simply aren’t visually engaging enough in their own right, they really only ‘worked’ as part of the text pairing

I confess to being somewhat nervous presenting my set; the other five participants were all landscape photographers of one form or another, some working in a very abstract aesthetic and some more traditional, but all delivering photographs I’d consider ‘aesthetically pleasing’ in a purely visual sense. My urban snapshot typology set stuck out like a sore thumb. However, once I explained the idea they all ‘got it’ and made some very useful suggestions on editing and sequencing.

Editing and sequencing

I found editing down from 21 to 12 quite straightforward once I applied some ruthless judgement on whether the photo was, in its own right, a ‘good’ photograph (in terms of visual appeal – composition, lighting, novelty of subject matter etc).

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I hadn’t previously considered many different ways of sequencing the set: the main criteria I’d had in mind in previous edits was to include as many different colours as possible, simply because almost all gloves I’ve found are black, and I wanted some visual variety. The other students encouraged me to look at the edit and the sequence in a few different ways:

  • Grouping visually similar images together
    • colours
    • formal elements: shapes, leading lines
    • vantage point, framing
  • Showing a transition from beginning to end in some way
    • children’s gloves at the beginning, moving to adults’ gloves at the end
    • moving from wide to tightly-cropped or vice versa

In the end I went with the ‘life stage’ construct: starting with kids’ gloves and working though to adult gloves, particularly those I thought looked like they had belonged to old men (leather driving gloves, for example). For me this carried an additional element of signification, evoking the decline of memory faculties with age, an aspect that had previously been absent.

Finishing touches

On the workshop day I got as far as producing the book with the 12 images inside, but it didn’t feel complete until I got home and printed a cover/title image, then added handwritten text to the facing pages.

I see this as a natural end point to this version of the project. I have learnt a new skill in terms of bookbinding, but perhaps more importantly I’ve also learned a lot about visual appeal, discernment, selection and sequencing.

As noted in my last post, my next steps are to capture a new set of glove images, with all of this recent visual thinking and learning firmly in mind.


Sources

Handmade Book Making Workshop, Leeds. 4th August 2018. Joe Wright at JW Editions.