Building on the V2 book construction, I have started to look at methods of combining some of the more intricate elements of the book, which reference ideas of memory and trace and also working in more text within the main body of the book.
Focusing on the physicality of the object, I have used a typewriter to create the title and some of the pages containing the quotations I have collected (Fig: 1&2). The typeface is quite small – roughly 12pt – however, I enjoy the link to the material and the way the typed letters look on the page. This also links to ideas of manuscripts that I am aiming to emulate with the publication in this version and also to the novel and the nostalgia associated with typewriters and writing in this format. The typed letters are also a kind of trace left by the act of pressing keys in a way that is different to using a computer and word processing software. However, there is always the option to do this in later editions of the book.
Carbon copy paper
I managed to source a blue version of the carbon paper, which is what I have memories of. The blue also highlights the nature of the copied page (Fig: 3). I am considering using this in a couple of ways. At the start of the book, flanked by two blank sheets, which can be used for editions, numbering and signing (Fig: 4). There is potential to scribe onto the top blank page and create a copy of anything written (Fig: 5). Carbon copies are an idea that I came to after listening to Sara Davidman discussing her project ‘Ken. To Be Destroyed’ (2011), in which she found carbon copies of letters sent by her mother – a trace memory of the object letter. This is something that I could apply to my book. The collection of quotes that I am going to put into the book could be typed using letter paper and the copy paper included in the binding (Fig: 6).
The carbon paper is also not fixed and any pressure applied to the page would leave a trace on the opposite page, which creates a book that is always in flux – just as our memory and histories are in flux.
Manuscripts tend to be bound using brass split pins (Fig: 7), I have added some to this version of the book but am finding that they are quickly reaching breaking point when interacting with the book. A future version could instead use a kind of book binding screw (Fig: 8), which is a common feature in portfolios and more importantly, family albums (Fig: 9).
I also used this version of the book as an opportunity to continue experimenting with cover options and created a hard cover (Fig: 10). I quickly realised however, that owing to the nature of the binding, my margin was off and cut some of the images and text up (Fig: 11). This also meant that the book no longer opened wide enough to enjoy a double page spread. The hard cover also does not really work in the context of the manuscript idea and its inflexibility reduces the enjoyment of picking it up and leafing through the pages. Bruno Ceschel comments on the experience of interacting with a book: “you will have to take that into consideration: what experience you want to give your readers, and especially how that experience might enhance or be in tune with the content of the book” (2015, p. 494).
There is potential for the hard cover to work, if it was a traditional case binding, however making them myself means that I won’t be able to produce this kind of binding, which will look professional. This kind of material will also push the unit price of the book much higher. I am keen for the experience of the book to be nearer that of a manuscript, or even that of a paperback novel, which denotes the idea of the unreliable narrator in its feel and experience of picking it up and working through the pages.
More of the indexical
I made a series of acetate sheets that could be used to create photograms in the darkroom. I made a series of fibre-based prints using these and am currently exploring ways that I can incorporate them into the book (12 & 13). The photogram is usually made by placing objects onto the photo sensitive paper blocking the light. This indexical link to the object is another way of exploring ideas of trace and memory. This also brings the physicality of the photograph into the book, that might be lost through the way that the book’s pages will be printed. To extend this idea, I also am considering turning the archive imagery that will be used into small 6×4 glossy prints that could be stuck onto the page instead of printed to reference the family album that I found them in. I could also make some of the same physical cuts that those prints have.
Other Books analysis
Critina De Middel: Afronauts
De Middel’s book is a fiction based in some fact. Her book is a reflection of this (Fig: 14) and uses it to build a story through her personal imagery (Setanta Books, 2019). There is a great physicality to the object, which also includes types elements and place these on lined paper that fold out from the central gutter (Fig: 15). I also enjoy the use of illustration with the photographs and there could be potential to include some within my own sequence. In Joerg Colberg’s review of the book he notes: “I had seen photographs from the project on the internet, but I thought that they were just a tad too cute. But then I came across the book, and that made all the difference” (Colberg, 2012) suggesting the way that the book can change the interpretation of a body of work.
Middel’s approach to the series is also worth discussion. In her own words: “it had this fact/fiction game in terms for the documentary value of photography — it’s something real but unbelievable, so if you take pictures of it, you end up with this weird thing, which you don’t know whether to believe or not” (De Middel, 2013). And this really resonates with my own project however, there are some ethical issues that are also worth noting and some that play a role in the development of my work. It could be argued that Middel is mocking or othering in her Afronauts project, something that she rejects, noting the work is more about the perception of Africa that it would be impossible for them to reach the moon: ‘The images are beautiful and the story is pleasant at a first level, but it is built on the fact that nobody believes that Africa will ever reach the moon. It hides a very subtle critique to our position towards the whole continent and our prejudices.’ (Setanta Books, 2019).
Alec Soth: Broken Manual
Soth creates a really engaging object with his book ‘Broken Manual.’ Soth’s book is housed within another book creating elements of secrecy and mystery (Fig: 16). Soth created a character for this book in the form of ‘Lester B Morrison,’ a construction of Soth’s he uses to create further intrigue. In a sense Lester B. Morrison is an unreliable narrator when you realise that it is in fact Soth writing: “I was trying to develop this secret, private language – the way people who’d spent too much time with themselves do” (2020).
Both approaches add something to the images and create a more experiential object that time can be spent and enjoyed. This is something that David Levi Strauss argues for in ‘Photography and Belief,’ which is opposition to the way that we consume images digitally: “Images that appear on the screens of our devices go by in a streaming flow. Individual images are seldom apprehended separately, as a singular trace […]. The images consumed in a flow are seldom dwelled on, so their individual effect is limited” (2020, p. 63).
I am still photographing this project, so the way that the book comes together will inevitable be a reaction to the images that I have to create. That said, after reading Bruno Ceshel’s ‘Self Publish Be Happy: A DIY Photobook manual and manifesto’ it is clear that the work can exist in its iterative form and continue to evolve even as I share the work (2015, p. 486), which is also something that Wendy suggested in a previous meeting. I am relatively happy with the way the work is coming together and initial sharing of the project is proving positive, including FT editor Emma Bowket, who found the concept interesting. I plan to create the next version of the book in a more polished form that can be shared with industry professionals for feedback.
Ceshel, B. & Senior, D., 2015. Self Publish Be Happy: A DIY Photobook Manual and Manifesto. 1 ed. New York: Aperture.
Colberg, J., 2012. Review: The Afronauts by Cristina De Middel. [Online] Available at: http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/2012/07/review_the_afronauts_by_cristina_de_middel/ [Accessed 06 May 2021].
Davidmann, S., 2011. Ken. To Be Destroyed. [Online] Available at: https://www.saradavidmann.com/work#/kentobedestroyed/
[Accessed 07 May 2021].
De Middel, C., 2013. CRISTINA DE MIDDEL: THE AFRONAUTS [Interview] (25 April 2013).
Levi Strauss, D., 2020. Photography and Belief. 1 ed. New York: David Zwirner Books.
Setanta Books, 2019. The Afronauts. [Online] Available at: https://www.setantabooks.com/product/afronauts/
[Accessed 6 May 2021].
Soth, A., 2020. Broken Manual: Alec Soth in Conversation with Aaron Schuman [Interview] (11 August 2020).