As I am making a book project, I am considering the number of images that I should include to properly realise my narrative. Looking at the photobooks of others, I have seen a great variety in the number of photographs present and suggests to me that this should always be based on the subject and the way that they are flowing together. For example, two quite different examples of Rinko Kawauchi’s ‘Illuminance’ (2011) and Pieter Hugo’s ‘kin’ (2015) both contain 80 images, presented very differently.
Kawauchi’s practice explore elements of beauty contained within the banal elements of everyday life and the design of her books actively reflects this, which build on one another to create this sense of luminescence. Nearly all of the book is presented as uncut pages of square diptych’s (Fig: 1&2). 80 images in this format with the occasional single page to break up the pacing becomes experiential upon interacting with it.
Hugo uses differing sized pages, which overlap and create interesting collages of people, environment, and object (Fig: 3). Kin has the same number of images as Kawauchi’s book but feels very different because of the sheer variety of content. Hugo’s book is formed from a long-term project which considers the problematic history of his home, South Africa. The overlapping pages add to this sense of how nuanced and layered everything is once you begin to look closely at it.
Both these books function well in relaying their story to the reader, even within the high number of images that they include. During a discussion with Bryan Schutmaat and Matthew Genitempo, they discussed the photo book and suggested that books with 70 plus images rarely communicate effectively. Schutmaat, who has produced some highly successful books of his own and also run Trespasser Publishing with Genitempo, advocate for a tighter edit of around 40 photographs making for a much more effective narrative (Schutmaat & Genitempo, 2021).
My image sequences
For my project, 40 images is actually a good number to work with. My Unreliable narrator narrative needs to include ambiguity and mystery. It should also consider adding misdirection as a tool to lead the reader through the story but also hint at connections between images that may not necessarily exist. Elements of the sequence do also relate to the story that I wrote. For example, I make reference to the Spanish holiday where everything changed after (Hill, 2021), so I added another cut image from this holiday that was in the archive. I also juxtaposed this image with some discarded bullet casings (Fig: 4), which my brother found metal detecting. The suggestion that this is a kind of smoking gun piece of evidence by placing them together. It is also important to note that the background is different to the blue of the other still life images, to create a link to that change and pace in the written story. This is also after considering the idea of Barthes ‘Micro-Sequences’ within the larger narrative (1977, p. 103).
Effectively, I have designed a narrative presenting a number of options for the reader to form conclusions based on their own inherent bias from the evidential value of the photographed objects and also any of the characters within the sequence that a reader may make connections. Some of which is referenced in the text, and other, which are purposefully not referred to at all although still completely relevant to the project. This is so that the text and images don’t become illustrative of each other. As pointed out by Geoff Dyer this can lead to reducing the narrative potential of either element (2021). Therefore, some of the images are working with the text to reveal elements of the unreliable narration and others are there to suggest that everything is still unreliable and ambiguous enough to create a level of intrigue
I have been very much interested in the mystery, which is built through the image sequence, I feel that I have managed to achieve this here. For example, I included both images of the incinerators (Fig: 5), which feels quite surreal followed by the bag of shredded paper on the next page (Fig: 6). I enjoy the juxtaposition of the bag of paper next to the image of the water fountain placed in the window (Fig: 6) to connect it to the belief system that my family hold. Aesthetically they connect through the materials of the printing paper in different states. I had more images of the fountain however felt that with the placement of both incinerators, it would be better to hint at the superstition aspect of my parents’ beliefs, especially as my project developed. The four images I think work well as another micro sequence in the way that they play with the idea of materials and evidence (shredded paper), fuel for the fire (incinerators), and the image of water to close.
Dear Sarah & Derick [sic],
Thought of you two when I picked this card out – hoping of course this will never happen to you. Hope everything is ok. Give my Brucey a kiss. Weather isn’t too special here worse luck never mind.
Sarah can you tell the man that calls around for Simon’s money that he hasn’t been very well and that the doctor advised him to take a holiday with us. You can tell him that Simon caught whooping cough badly and it was the last minute he had to go with us – on doctors orders. Can you tell him that. Thanks.
Much Love Mum xxx
Figure 7: Phil Hill (April, 2021) Postcard from Archive and transcribed message [right]
I have intentionally added images of objects from the archive to build this mystery. The postcard for example has always intrigued me with its message that feels like it’s trying to convince someone over the normal use for a postcard to talk about the weather, the food, and location whilst on holiday where it begins. The message on this one is suggestive of something else happening in the background (Fig: 7)
I have sought the opinion of others to support my edit, my peers have been really valuable in supporting the sequencing of the work. One of my Peers, Tim Stubbs-Hughes said:
Your FMP is so detailed and you can clearly feel and see the profound journey you have been on, from the initial direction you started with – I can remember back in Feb you talking about and then the discoveries on the way. The photography and text is personal and beautiful. But what really lifts everything is the attention to detail. Not only in the work but how you are intending to present it, either in its book or exhibition format. Great great work.
Followed by Ross Trevail, who suggested that I include my story as it is presented as the intended for the publication:
the images all look really good. Love the new portraits I hadn’t seen before. The only thing I wondered was whether spreading out the Latchkey Kids essay over a few more pages. I found it a lot to look at when over 2 columns. Maybe the writing on the book dummies could be spread over a couple more pages as well to give it a bit of room. It’s great though, really strong work.(Trevail, 2021).
Barthes, R., 1977. Image, Music, Text. Translation edition ed. London: Fontana.
Dyer, G., 2021. Coversation with Geoff Dyer – Falmouth Flexible [Interview] (8 July 2021).
Hill, P., 2021. The Latchkey Kids. [Online]
Available at: https://philhillphotography.com/sketchbook/2021/07/24/the-latchkey-kids-narrative-development/
[Accessed 24 July 2021].
Hugo, P., 2015. Kin. 1 ed. New York: Aperture.
Kawauchi, R., 2011. Illuminance. 1 ed. New York: Aperture.
Schutmaat, B. & Genitempo, M., 2021. A Small Voice, Conversations with Photographers: 155 – Matthew Genitempo & Bryan Schutmaat [Interview] (26 May 2021).
Stubbs-Hughes, T., 2021. Whatsapp Direct Message. [Online]
Trevail, R., 2021. Whatsapp Direct Message. [Online]