PHO703 Week 8: More on Photobooks

This week I have really enjoyed two video presentations on making photobooks published on Vimeo by Self Publish, Be Happy.

The first is How To Design a Photobook by a designer and publisher, Brian Paul Lamotte (Lamotte 2020). The second is How To Edit and Sequence a Photobook by an editor and publisher, Bruno Ceschel (Ceschel 2020).

I found both absolutely fascinating and, running to a couple of hours each, full of very useful information. So far, they are the find of the module. Lamotte covered all kinds of photobook design, often highly experimental and creative. I simply had not realized how much variety there is and how much is now possible working with printers, binders and designers. He offered a clear breakdown of the steps involved at the start of any book project:

  • Who is this book for?
  • What does this book consist of?
  • Where does this book need to thrive?
  • When will this book be produced and published?
  • Why does this book need to be made?
  • How will this book be made?

Lamotte also said that successful books were designed for the smallest number of people (primarily, the artist, designer and editor). Surprising, perhaps, but I think correct: one has to have a particular kind of audience in mind. Designing a book to satisfy every audience will dilute the final outcome. After that, he divided the planning into three distinct stages: reference, collaboration and process/production.

Ceschel covered the curation and editing of images. I liked his comparison of sequencing to following the arrangement of a piece of music (he illustrated this by breaking down the blocks of a pop song) or the techniques used in cinema narration. He also went into sequencing by using the tones in an image. Both Lamotte and Ceschel emphasized the importance of pulling in the reader right from the very first page and then keeping them entranced deep inside the world of the book with astute shifts of mood and approach. ‘The world of the book’ as something to be created in itself is emerging as a key concept here.

These videos are causing me to rethink what a photobook can be and how to approach it from the ground up. I am very glad I have found them. Not long ago, Ceschel wrote Self Publish, Be Happy : A DIY Photobook Manual and Manifesto (Ceschel 2015) and I will try to find a copy.

These videos are a helpful counterpoint to Jörg Colberg’s Understanding Photobooks (Colberg 2017) which I read a week or two ago. That is really helpful too but in a different way. It is more formal and is more concerned than are Ceschel and Lamotte with clarity of concept, identifying an audience, marketing the work and selling it, the other and equally important side of the coin to the editing and design process.

Nick Sethi Khichdi (Kitchari)
Fig. 1: Nick Sethi 2018. From his book Khichdi Kitchari (Dashwood Books, New York), designed by Brian Paul Lamotte. The idea, here, is to convey the chaos and life of the Indian streets – the world of this book, a world created by close collaboration between artist, designer and printer. It was nominated for the Paris Photo/Aperture Foundation First Photobook Prize.

References

CESCHEL, Bruno. 2015. Self Publish, Be Happy : A DIY Photobook Manual and Manifesto. New York: Aperture.

CESCHEL, Bruno. 2020. How To Edit and Sequence a Photobook. Self Publish, Be Happy video. Available at: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/howtoeditandsequence?autoplay=1 [accessed 21 Jul 2020].

COLBERG, Jörg. 2017. Understanding Photobooks: The Form and Content of the Photographic Book. New York: Routledge.

LAMOTTE, Brian Paul. 2020. How To Design a Photobook [Film]. Self Publish, Be Happy video. Available at: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/howtodesignaphotobook/434056549 [accessed 21 Jul 2020].

Figures

Figure 1: Nick SETHI. 2018. From his book Khichdi Kitchari (Dashwood Books, New York), designed by Brian Paul Lamotte. The idea, here, is to convey the chaos and life of the Indian streets – the world of this book, a world created by close collaboration between artist, designer and printer. It was nominated for the Paris Photo/Aperture Foundation First Photobook Prize. From: Brian Paul Lamotte. 2020. How To Design a Photobook [Film]. Self Publish, Be Happy video. Available at: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/howtodesignaphotobook/434056549 [accessed 21 Jul 2020].