Book Dummy Construction V1

Now that I have collected together a range of images from my archive and created a number of experiments with the images, I thought that it would be a useful exercise to create a small book dummy to see how these elements might come together.

I aimed with the dummy to create physical ways of connecting the reader of the work with some of the themes that are running through the project so far. Themes of correspondence have started to run through the work as I piece together the narrative and also in the way that I have started to create letters and messages to reach out to family members (Fig: 1).

Figure 1: Phil Hill (March, 2021) ‘Unreliable Narrator’ Book Dummy version 1 spreads.

Carbon Paper.

Figure 2: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Carbon Copy page opposite image – showing carbon transferring to image page
Figure 3: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Carbon copy paper opposite image – non transfer side.

The use of carbon copy paper has become an interesting way to create links in the way that the photograph is indexical. The copy is also an indexical link to the object that it copies – usually a letter or some other kind of physical media. From the rubbings that I made, I decided to place a sheet within the book (Fig: 2&3). This creates an interesting page to look at and I could potentially use it to display either a rubbing or one of the copied letters and text that I have been working on. The carbon paper acts as a ‘memory’ of the letter, which creates a link to the idea of indexical and memory in my work. It also is an abstracted version of the original, another step removed from the object that it copies – much like the photograph. Another interesting use of the paper is the way that it continues to change and leave impression from anything that applies pressure, which is translated to the opposite page. I quite like this as an ongoing changing process in a book. Usually, the book is linear and static however, the use of carbon copy paper means that it is forever changing, much like a family narrative from an unreliable narrator might change their version of events.

A future version of the book could include a page opposite a blank sheet to show this transfer across.

  • Alternative to this method and possibly less destructive might be to continue to create a photographic reaction to the carbon copy paper in the same way as I have been working on with the back lit versions
  • It might also be possible to create an acetate version of the carbon copy paper and screen print it, which further abstracts the process and gives a higher level of craft to the book making process.


Figure 4: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Unreliable Narrator cover with typewriter title.
Figure 5: Phil Hill (March, 2021) First spread showing typed letter (with 5×4 clear negative overlay)

I have continued to apply ways in which I can create more physicality with the work. The images from my families archive are mainly based in the late 70s and the 1980s. My own memories of this are also from the 80s and based in the 90s. Aesthetically, there is an opportunity to reference the period in as many ways as I can, through the use of design, typeface, and materials. A typewriter is firmly rooted in this time period and I also have memories of them around the time that I did have a relationship with my grandmother (Fig: 4&5).

The typewriter creates a physical link to the person typing and the outcome of the letter (or other material). Of course, there would be more of a link to a handwritten letter, however, within the archive that I am going through, there are many typed documents too. There is an official nature to the typed document, which links to ideas of state and narrative and it also works really well with the carbon copy paper (as it was designed).

There are really nice aesthetic and conceptual links to my project in the use of the typewriter.

Basildon Bond Letter paper.

Figure 6: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Archive image printed onto Basildon Bond Paper – Backlit and re-photographed.
Figure 7: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Archive image printed onto Basildon Bond Letter paper

I started to use this to create my correspondence. In continuing to explore this, I then produced a number of images printed onto the paper using a laser printer, which creates a photocopied aesthetic. This in itself connects to the archive and indexical links to the object being recorded. I also quite enjoy the way that this creates another level of abstraction to confuse and obscure the image – and also the inherent narrative.

I have photographed these photographs by backlighting the paper to show the grain if the paper and also the watermark within the page (Fig: 6). For the dummy, I decided to include sheets of the Basildon bond paper from the letters I have written and also the images (Fig: 7). I like the idea of including different paper stock into the publication with the potential to lead to new discoveries each time that you review it. Having both letters and images on the same paper stock creates links between them in the way that I am purposefully utilising letter writing material.

The use if Basildon Bond places additional links to the decade that the images are coming from. The paper stock is very ‘of its time’ and people from the era would be very familiar with the use of it in comedic sketched by Russ Abbot, for example. My use of it might serve to continue to link to the time period of my family album and a kind of surreal and farcical nature to some of the materials in the archive. Basildon Bond paper was a way of projecting an air of quality to the recipient of the letter – it is quite a middle-class object, even if the person was not.

Further research might be useful however, to determine whether I could use this for publication and any copyright issues that might arise from the use of the watermark.

Manual Intervention

Figure 8: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Torn edge of Unreliable Narrator book dummy.
Figure 9: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Deckle Edge paper

One of the main areas of interest I have had in the archive is in the ‘manual intervention’ photograph. The intrigue and mystery of what might be in the part of these photograph that has been cut out is something that I want to explore.

For this book dummy, decided to tear one edge of the booklet as if there was additional information outside of it (Fig: 8). I quite like the finish of this and there could be great potential in including something like this in the resulting book dummy. The impact of what I am trying to achieve with the tear is lost somewhat when the whole book is torn. It almost appears as a ‘Deckle edge’ that is seen in some paperback books (Fig: 9). Instead, I may aim to look into individual pages or groups of pages to create additional intrigue and mystery. This would work to serve the overall narrative and impact of the book.

Removed photographs

Figure 9: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Unreliable Narrator V1 images of the ‘Snapshots’ album
Figure 10: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Unreliable Narrator V1 cover with peeled image trace

Within the archive there was an album with the majority of images removed (Fig: 9). I like the way that this creates additional intrigue as to what might have been there in a similar way to the cut image. I also noted the absence of the image says as much, if not more regarding the context on its removal than any benign image that might have been there. The still life of the page also created an interesting photographic object of the empty pages and how the glue and sugar paper page has been damaged from the photographs removal.

I created an experiment where I glued a piece of paper to the cover of the dummy and then carefully removed it to reveal a similar trace to the ones left in the ‘snapshots’ album connecting the dummy to those images and also referencing the mystery once again (Fig: 10). With the project themes of unreliable narration, there is definitely information and confusion to be sort from the absence of images as much as the ones that are on display – also linking to an absence of memory.

I was quite pleased with the result of this experiment. It works well to feel the concept and ideas. It also creates a unique object in the way that the removal of the image degrades the page. If I make more than one dummy, each one will be slightly different, much like the way that the carbon page will do the same and again feeding the idea of how unreliable the narration and narrative is.


Figure 11: Seri Hanunn (2012) Japanese ‘Stab’ Binding technique
Figure 12: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Unreliable Narrator V1 Back Cover

The book has been bound using a Japanese stab binding method (Fig: 11), which allowed me to piece together the different materials into one publication (Fig: 12). If I am to do this as a final outcome however, I will need to refine this process. Already, I understand the need to use a good book binding vice to keep the pages together and bind it neatly. I also would need to look at methods of uniformly cutting the edges that are supposed to be straight. The tutorial that I followed suggested that the margin needs to be quite wide, however I have overcompensated leading to the margin being far too wide to view the content. The method is quite useful as a way of putting together a book of this type and could lead to some quite aesthetic ways of sewing it. It is essentially a ‘perfect bound’ binding and could also be utilised as a way of streamlining the process or considering the cost and time of producing many.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.