FMP Sequences

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.

Figure 1: Rinko Kawauchi (2011) Double Page Spread from ‘Illuminance’
Figure 2: Rinko Kawauchi (2011) Double Page Spread from ‘Illuminance’

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.

Figure 3: Pieter Hugo (2015) Double Page Spread from ‘Kin’

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

Figure 4: Phil Hill (August, 2021) Two image ‘micro sequence’ from ‘Unreliable Narrator.’ Bullet Casings [Left] and cut images from the Spanish Holiday [Right].

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

Figure 5: Phil Hill (August, 2021) Two Garden Incinerators used to destroy documents
Figure 6: Phil Hill (August, 2021) Shredded Paper in bag and Water Fountain image pasted to window sequence.

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.

(Stubbs-Hughes, 2021)

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:
[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]

Book Updates

I have been continuing to work with Emily Macaulay of Stanley James Press on my book design. I had sent over a range of the experiments that I had been working on to give a sense of where I was heading with the ideas generation. This has proved to be really valuable as she is able to determine, which of these work on a practical and concept level for the book that I am aiming to produce.

Figure 1: Phil Hill (July, 2021) Result of using Carbon Copy paper to copy quote onto paper.

Macaulay really liked the way that I have been using carbon copy paper (Fig: 1), noting: “it feels fragile. I like the marks it creates are different every time. I like that it feels official, like a receipt to prove something happened” (2021) This connects to ideas around trace and memory so this will be a feature for the dummy that we are going to produce. Macaulay has also provided a good amount of insight into some of the images that I will be considering including for the edit. Although she is not an editor, Macaulay made a really valid point about the inclusion, or more importantly, the non-inclusion of certain images as this will create the sense of mystery that I have bee working on with this project. This again links to the conversations that I was having with Karl Ohiri and Paul Sng who also suggested that I can control which parts of this story can be seen and that not everything should necessarily be included (Fig: 2).

Figure 2: Phil Hill (July, 2021) Conversation with Karl Ohiri and Paul Sng

Figure 3: Bryan Schutmaat (2013) Detail of Screw post binding for ‘Grays the Mountain Sends’

Macaulay has taken quite a few of the ideas that I have been playing with. There are lot of links that are being made to the photo album, which is important to the experience of the work. I am aiming for the reader to have a similar experience to how I made my own discoveries of the archive. Screw-post binding was an area that has been suggested as this is how albums are bound. Bryan Schutmaat also uses them for his book ‘Grays the Mountain Sends’ (Fig: 3). They have the benefit of allowing for a modular approach to the content, meaning that it could easily have a range of different paper stocks and other mixing of elements within. There is also possibilities of having subtle differences between each book to connect to the unreliable narrator concept.

Figure 4: Phil Hill (July, 2021) Photocopied photograph of grandmother over and over. 8 image sequence from 40 images photocopied in total.

Macaulay added a really great idea that I have been spending time experimenting with. We discussed creating an object of memory and trace and I am keen to incorporate this into the physicality of the book. It was suggested by Macaulay that I could photocopy the same image over and over until it begins to degrade. I have made some experiments by using the found image of my grandmother (Fig: 4). I quite like the way that the image has degraded and considered ways that it could appear at multiple points throughout the book’s sequence, gradually being revealed as I discover more information. In preparation for a crit with Dinu Li, I placed them into a sequence of 8 images to show. The response was quite positive and unexpectedly, this was also because of the way that I placed them on the page. The grid layout communicates in the same way that I was considering placing them throughout. It was also suggested that I could use these at the end of the sequence and show them over and over in succession.

Figure 5: Macaulay (2021) Example sun bleached photograph.

Another idea is to incorporate the way that a photograph fades onto the page over time and Macaulay suggested that this could be achieved by making a series of sun-bleached pages (Fig: 5). These are also quite like cyanotype and even photograms so there could be room to include these in some way. Sun-bleaching is also an interesting feature to include as it would naturally continue to age over time. I enjoy the idea that the book will continue to evolve, which is something that I discussed at length with Karl Ohiri (Fig: 2) who made reference to the way that narratives change and evolve after the photograph has been taken.

Figure 6: Phil Hill & Unknown (June, 2021 & 1970s) Cut photograph from album.

Macaulay also suggested that there could be something that sits within the pages of the book, which would be discovered/fall out as the book is being read. This could either be one of the quotes, or a negative. I think that the idea of adding a negative strip of images is an interesting concept so have been working on producing some. My story starts with the cut image (fig: 6) and is about finding the answer to the question why it has been cut. A logical image to ‘find’ might be the full image of the cut picture – the one that I myself found and confirmed that it was my grandmother cut from the photograph. This becomes one of the payoffs in the sequence that could work very well.

Micro Sequence

Figure 7: Phil Hill (July, 2021) Copy set up to copy artwork onto 35mm film.

To do this, I have taken the original scans and then printed them out to then re-photograph them as if copying artwork. This will create a new negative from the image (Fig: 7).

As well as the negative of the full image of my grandmother, I was first considering adding some other arbitrary images from the archive that you would expect to see as part of a negative strip. However, There is an opportunity to work with what Barthes’ referred to as a ‘Micro sequence’ within the wider story (1977: 103). Barthes effectively breaks down the narrative into its constituent parts, point out the grammar and its syntax that provides the structure for the story. He raises some good points, even related to how I am planning to sequence my images: “for example in the portrait. Which readily juxtaposes data concerning civil status and traits of character” (pp. 97-98). Each image in my sequence is providing an important role for the understanding of the wider narrative. In the case of the quote from Barthes, this serves to introduce a character into the story and provide background information on them. The negative contained in the book loosely, serves as one of these ‘Micro Sequences,’ so it is important that the additional images that I select also serve the story.

For this, I went back to the film that the image of my grandmother was found. Analysing what I can see in the images, I can infer that this was at Christmas from the decorations within the setting. There are images also of winter fields that confirm this. Knowing what I know now about this story, provides some context for how my mum in particular must have been feeling at the time that the photograph was taken. This links well to the conversation I had with Ohiri. Only through the intervention of the photograph much later, the innocence of it drops and we can we begin to understand other narratives over what can be visually described by looking at the photograph.

With that in mind, I have taken images from the roll of film and re-sequenced them for this micro sequenced to provide some additional account to what may have been taking place at the time, or at least in the time between the photograph was taken and now:

Figure 8: Unknown (1970s) Scan from complete negative in archive showing Grandmother.

Image 1: The Gran photograph (Fig: 8). I am intending to place the cut photograph early in the sequence of the book as this was the catalyst for the project. I later discovered the full negative when going through the bags of film that my parents keep. This discovery is important and part of the mystery of the narrative that I am presenting. This is the main image to be discovered on the negative strip. I refer to this in the story that I wrote, so it becomes a payoff after reading the story. An interesting detail has appeared after I scanned this image, I notice that there is a Boots film processing envelope on the side table.

Figure 9: Unknown (1970s) Detail of room with picture frames and Christmas decorations.

Image 2: I made a crop of another image on the same film (Fig: 9). This shows details of the house they are sitting in. I am assuming this is the home of my paternal grandparents. There is tinsel around the frames to show that this is winter and Christmas time. The angle could denote an accidental photograph has been made, potentially due to some altercation, or off-hand comment that changed the mood. Conceivably the result of some kind of exchange.

Image 3: I made a blank frame by shooting with the lens cap on, and also variations of this with my hand partially obscuring the frame. This is to continue the feeling of the above image. One accidental frame could be excused, but adding another might subtly hint at this narrative I am constructing.

Figure 10: Unknown (1970s) Winter Landscape from same film.

Image 4: One of the winter landscapes (Fig: 10). This image was on the same film strip and feels quite peaceful compared to the other images. I included this as a way of concluding the micro sequence. Potentially the need to stop on the journey home after the visit.

Upon reading the book, I am keen to give the audience some level of discovery as I had when carrying out the project. I also want to place the narrative throughout the book in a way that you can read and then re-read it to differing conclusions. The construction of the micro sequence creates another opportunity for this.

Figure 11: Phil Hill (July 2021) Film envelope from archive
Figure 12: PhilHill (July, 2021) Film envelope from archive

Additionally, within the archive there were a number of retro film envelopes, with the cliched message ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and ‘all the magic of your memories can be shared with your family and friends by sending them a photograph’ (Fig: 11). On the reverse of this is the message to ‘never cut the negative strips into individual frames’ (Fig: 12). As I have been arching the negatives that I found into sheets, these became redundant. However, instead of throwing them away, I have collected 11 so far, which can be used to contain the copy negative for the micro sequence. This adds an extra level to the narrative, through its language connection to memory making and also the way that commercial film processing used to handle film orders. In addition to this, the inclusion of these envelopes into my book dummies places a direct link to my archive into the object that I am producing. After discussions with Macaulay, she agrees and suggested that future versions could be made using a copied version of this object. This makes the initial dummies much more of a rarity.


Barthes, R., 1977. Image, Music, Text. Translation edition ed. London: Fontana.

Macaulay, E., 2021. Unreliable Narrator Ideas . [PDF]

Book Designer Meeting

I had a meeting with Emily Macaulay today of ‘Stanley James Press’ to talk through how I might turn my project into the book. This was highly productive and extremely valuable to hear her extensive experience in creating book projects with photographers. I was very pleased to be able to discuss the project with her, as she has worked on some titles that I really enjoy, including Alma Haser’s Cosmic Surgery (Fig: 1), a Limited edition of Sugar Paper Theories (Fig: 2), Simon Robert’s ‘Brexit Lexicon,’ and also Portrait Salon exhibition catalogues, which always bring a unique quality to them over the standard image and caption on page (Fig: 3).

Figure 1: Alma Haser (2015) Spread from ‘Cosmic Surgery’
Figure 2: Jack Latham (2019) Limited Edition ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ box set
Figure 3: Portrait Salon (2015) Portrait Salon 2015 Catalogue

Macaulay, was interested in the project and how I have been considering the published object to be about trace and memory, we spent some tie discussing this and how it might come together as a book. McCauley is keen to understand how I have been putting together the project up until now and her process would then be to look at how formatting would best serve the story. Should we end up working on the book together, it would become a collaborative process over a period of time that could involve both the design and the production of the book.

There is much potential to develop my project in this way and dependent of the economics of the publication – an unfortunate but essential consideration – it could be either a full book, or closer to a zine. I am hoping for something in the middle, akin to the book that I produced with Out of Place.

One of the key questions that I was keen to talk through was the idea of fund raising for the title. This of course depends on the outcome. Cosmic Surgery, for example was funded through a highly successful Kickstarter campaign but this comes with it’s own pitfalls. Kickstarter expects a fee for its service and according to Macaulay was an extremely intense period of promoting and pushing the project through this platform. Alternatively, there is an opportunity to ‘pre-sale’ the title but that would of course depend on the amount of interest I was able to generate in the book and would also mean that I would need to produce some to show the product that people are buying into. That said, Macaulay did suggest that it was possible to ‘pre-sale’ the idea but that this would need some specific marketing to allow people to get on board without seeing the finished product.

A real positive from the meeting was how Macaulay was very used to working with independent photographers, such as myself and aware of the process of creating a book with varying budgets. Moving forward, I will follow up soon to see if it is possible to create my book designed by Stanley James Press.

Book Dummy Construction V3

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.


Figure 1: Phil Hill (May, 2021) Typewriter for book text.
Figure 2: Phil Hill (May, 2021) ‘Unreliable Narrator’ title using typewriter.

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

Fugure 3: Phil Hill (May, 2021) blue carbon copy paper in binding of book.
Figure 4: Phil Hill (May, 2021) Writing in pencil on opening page, which could be done with any pressure put onto the sheet.
Figure 5: Phil Hill (May, 2021) Carbon copy of pencil.

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).

Figure 6: Phil Hill (May, 2021) Typed pages ready for future version of book.

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.

Split pins

Figure 7: Phil Hill (May, 2021) Bound V3 book with brass split pins
Figure 8: (2021) Book binding screws
Figure 9: Suharu Ogawa (2014) Photo album with screw post binding.

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).

Hard cover

Figure 10: Phil Hill (May, 2021) Hard Cover experiment

Figure 11: Phil Hill (May, 2021) Margin error

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

Figure 12: Phil Hill (May, 2021) Photogram on fibre based darkroom paper made from acetate overlay.
Figure 13: Phil Hill (May, 2021) Photogram torn and mounted to front cover.

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
Figure 14: Cristina De Middel (2012) From’Afronauts’
Figure 15: Cristina De Middel (2012) From ‘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

Figure 16: Alec Soth (2010) ‘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).

Next Steps

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: [Accessed 06 May 2021].

Davidmann, S., 2011. Ken. To Be Destroyed. [Online] Available at:
[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:
[Accessed 6 May 2021].

Soth, A., 2020. Broken Manual: Alec Soth in Conversation with Aaron Schuman [Interview] (11 August 2020).

On Photobooks

I spent a good amount of time during the MA debating the value of the photobook in terms of a key way to disseminate my work. Photobooks can feel like a limited way of putting work into the world, which is supported by arguments put forward by Simon Norfolk who has suggested that they can be esoteric and only really consumed by other photographers (2019). However, I have since started to consider the photobook as one of a range of ways to disseminate my work, which in part has been inspired by that way that my own small book was distributed and shared, leading to additional ways in which work can be seen (Fig: 1). This in part has been formed from starting to look at the ways that I can use the format over an in-person exhibitions, owing to the pandemic. Martin Parr, one of the biggest proponents of the photobook also notes their significant place for the dissemination of photographic work: “The photobook has been a fundamental means of expression and dissemination for photographers since the earliest practitioners pasted their images onto pages resembling those they would once have filled with sketches” (Parr & Badger, 2004: 7).

Figure 1: Phil Hill & Out of Place Books (January, 2021) I hope this finds you safe and well photo book.

The book creates an opportunity for my work to be experienced in a tangible way, even when it has been impossible to do so over the recent months. The physicality of the book also places an enhanced experience of the work for the reader through the materials and the way that the work is presented. Bruno Ceschel expertly provides the basis in which I can now approach my own photobook construction for the project: “The first thing you must do is demystify the idea of the photobook. As soon as you have demolished every single convention about what a photobook should be, you fee yourself to dream up something new, exciting, and most important – completely doable” (2015: 485). It is important to put down my initial reservations about what I thought photobooks represented and consider the ways that I can add value to my project with a physical art object, which can be distributed and shared easily, meaning the experience of the work is not lost through the computer screen. Crucially, Ceschel makes a further point: “The book is a journey, not a destination […] Making a book should be both challenging and fun. It should be an adventure that will make you aware of your own practice, ideas, knowledge and skills” (p. 486). This above all, has been the biggest revelation in the process of the MA and indeed this FMP.

Figure 2: Alma Haser (2015) From ‘Cosmic Surgery’
Figure 3: Alma Haser (2015) from ‘Cosmic Surgery’

Therefore, I am looking at constructing a self-published book in the first instance. One that includes elements of trace and memory and how unreliable these things are. My book should be able to be reproduced easily in potentially different versions. I am considering creating a short run edition of between 5 – 10 highly unique books with an individual hand-made aesthetic and will be a higher end product, much Almar Hasser’s first edition of ‘Cosmic Surgery’ that that contains many more intricate elements than the subsequent editions (Fig: 2&3). I will also do a further edition, which is more easily producible on a larger scale – potentially on demand. Both of these editions, will be able to be produced through the resources that I have available to me. As I work in a Further Education college, I have access to good quality book making materials and printers – albeit with some limitations that I am exploring. There are also a range of art studios, which I can potentially use for elements such as screen printing and letter press etc.

Self Publishing

David Senior notes: “To self publish, to decentralise the production of print media, created a new type of printed object – one in which artists and designers bent the rules, played with conventions of the format, and created new containers for communication” (Ceshel & Senior, 2015: 8-9), which continues to support the idea of experimentation within my project. I have not finished photographing for the project either, so both provide opportunity to continue investigating ways in which to best communicate my ideas.

Figure 5: Lewis Bush (2021) From Bush’s Instagram showing the process of zine making.

My plan is to build a good quality dummy, which can be shared with publishers and also through book dummy awards. The idea that I can also produce other versions of the book quickly and efficiently to a high standard also means that I can share the book with people within the industry that might be interested in the project. I can do this on my own terms and also continue to develop the book as I gain reaction to it, as Ceshel also discusses: “Another thing you can do to free yourself from performance anxiety is to think of your book as being in flux – each time you print, the publication can change” (2015: 486). Lewis Bush also noted this when promoting some later runs of his zine publications (Fig: 5), which embrace the hand made nature of the format and the way that later mistakes can be rectified and does not detract from the professionalism that he brings to his wide range of zine publications.

My project has become one that builds an unusual world for the reader to be taken on a journey through. John Gossage places this kind of world building as a key element for a good photography book project: “firstly, it should contain great work. Secondly, it should function a concise world within the book itself. Thirdly, it should have a design that complements what s being dealt with. And finally, it should deal with the content that sustains an ongoing interest” (Parr & Badger, 2004: 7). This idea of world building is still ongoing and I will need to consider the ways that the materials and the design of the book add value to this. 


Ceshel, B. & Senior, D., 2015. Self Publish Be Happy: A DIY Photobook Manual and Manifesto. 1 ed. New York: Aperture.

Norfolk, S., 2019. A Small Voice: Conversations with Photographers [Interview] (12 June 2019).

Parr, M. & Badger, G., 2004. The Photobook: A History Vol 1. 1 ed. London: Phaidon.

Publishing a Book

At the end of the surfaces and strategies module, I pitched my project to Out of Place books who were interested in turning it into a small book. The aims of my project about place fit quite well with the ethos of Out of Place, so it felt like a good place to publish this project. Start to finish, the book took the whole of the next module to put together and publish, partly due to the pandemic. This did provide an opportunity to put together some additional images that also made it into the final book.

Figure 1: Phil Hill (2021) ‘I hope this finds you safe and well’ published by Out of Place books

The resulting book was published as an edition of 60 (Fig: 1) with a risograph printed card cover and an additional print for anyone who bought the Book in the pre-sale. This was a great addition on the part of the publisher and was really well received by those who bought one.

I found it really useful to be involved in the process of producing a book. There have been times where I have questioned the value of photobooks as a sole outlet for a photography project owing to the limited nature of the audience willing to buy into the object. I have shifted my opinion to consider the book as part of a wider range of methods to disseminate work. My book was published as an addition of 60, with a fair few of those being bought by friends and family, so I am in essence preaching to the converted with the book. However, it has created a certain platform that gives a small amount of authority for then work – the publication is an automatic signal to consider my work more seriously. It has also generated conversation and increased audience over social media, which has been useful to raise profile, albeit still in a small way. As a springboard, this has been a fantastic opportunity to get people to look at my work. For example, off the back of the publication, I was interviewed by the online platform Nowhere Diary (Fig: 2), which has also led to an increased following and dialogue with peers. I do still consider the photobook not the end of a project necessarily, but potentially a central focus in which other opportunities might be afforded, such as exhibition, talks and workshops.

Figure 2: Phil Hill & Nowhere Diary (2021) Book feature and interview on Nowhere Diary platform

I am already discussing the project together with my research into my FMP project at the Communities and Communication conference at the end of April. I will also be talking to the photography course at the college where I work about the project and the book making process.

The book was really well received and in a few weeks had sold out, which has completely surprised me. The support for the work was really validating and feels as though I am on to something with my direction of research. Out of Place have also been incredibly supportive in putting the work together and getting it published under the conditions of lockdown. It is worth noting however, that because of the pandemic, I was not able to meet Chris from Out of Place in person, so much of the conversation about putting the work together and decisions over sequence and output medium were done remotely. If I am to do another, I would be really keen to be more immersed in the process of creating the work. Not to take away from the resulting book, which I absolutely love and happy with the result.

Taking the experience into the FMP, I have mooted a book as part of the potential outcomes for the project. I am not sure that at this stage, the imagery that I a m   working with would necessarily fit the type of publications that Out of Place do. However, there is potential to create another publication with them that considers the sense of place and exploration around the area that I grew up, which feed would off the themes that I am exploring. Out of Place are interested in looking at creating another book with some of the images that did not make it into ‘I hope this finds you safe and well,’ and they are encouraging me to continue with the project, which is really positive moving forward.

Responding to Ruscha

Figure 1: Phil Hill (May, 2020) Response to Ed Ruscha task

I decided to take Ed Rucha’s ‘Twentysix Gasoline Stations’ (1963) as inspiration. It has always been a book that I have enjoyed, having discovered it very early on studying photography.

The images were selected from a number of 35mm film shoots that I have been doing between the modules, which are a departure from what I have been completing for my work in progress (Fig: 1). This was as I am researching to consider the way documentary photography is perceived and see if it could play a role in developing my approach.

Figure 2: Phil Hill (May, 2020) Spread from ‘Blossom in the Time of Corona’

I wanted to create a series that first might be perceived in an arbitrary and mundane way through aesthetically pleasing images of trees in blossom (Fig: 2), which then plays on that sense of collected awareness drawn from the context of this happening during the peak of the lock down. Beautiful yet surreal when considering the time in which the images were taken. I have also added a series of double exposures to juxtapose these feelings, which I aimed to show the chaos of the situation without photographing indexical gloves and masks that have appeared en masse (Fig: 3).

Figure 3: Phil Hill (May, 2020) Double Exposure from ‘Blossom in the Time of Corona’

I aimed to use Rucha’s book as a framework to present my own work and to form the basis for the narrative within the images and followed this with the blossom images, which also utilises ‘Twentysix Gasoline Stations’ in the format of the text as a way to provide additional context in the way that the images can be read. The title is also a reference to Ruscha’s book in the graphic style of the typeface and a subtle gradient on the cover to create a sense of the aging and yellowing of the pages that Rucha’s book has been subjected to over the years since its printing (Fig: 4), which is evident in the walk through video of the book (Fig: 5).

Figure 4: Phil Hill (May, 2020) Cover from ‘Blossom in the Time of Corona’
Figure 5: Ed Ruscha (1963) Twentysix Gasoline Stations walk through video

Ruscha, E., 1963. Twentysix Gasoline Stations. 1 ed. Los Angeles: National Excelsior Press.