This week I have been focused on revising and developing my book layout and design for my Final Major Project (FMP). As you may recall, I have decided to produce an e-book as part of FMP and then concentrate on a hard copy book publication post MA. This is because, rather than being a celebration of work done on my MA, I would like it to be forward looking and a launchpad for future work. I have enjoyed a Guest Lecture by Victoria Forrest and a Group Critique where I was able to show my current layout. Both the lecture and the critique gave me food for thought and some questions and suggestions for me to ponder.
In the Guest Lecture, Victoria explained in detail the process of producing Nigel Reddy’s book Verso. Nigel was a fellow student on the MA and has just finished. Victoria started by speaking about the starting point and the question What are we saying and can we say it in 70 pages? The first cut in terms of images involved the production of 100-150 images, un-cropped – Victoria then did the initial edit. It was then a process of editing down the images. Victoria stressed that in making a book, as photographers, we must start with the photographs – what are the top images? Then decisions might ultimately be made in terms of flow and narrative. Some great photographs will not fit the narrative. The photography should also inform the design. The choice of text should fit with the images and the colour palette should be derived from the images too.
I presented my current draft book in the Group Critique. Here are a few page layouts:
I explained to the group that my book documents a personal journey from darkness and despair into light and hope. Focusing on detailed aspects of nature and spending time in the landscape allows me to reflect on my inner life – my time as a young police photographer facing death and destruction and the remnants of my youth. Through my photography and my journey I am searching for the Ephemeral Hiddenness of Skye, seeking to capture its essence, rather than a simple literal representation. I am looking for the ‘otherness’ of its geography, the vulnerability of its ecology and its ‘ephemeral hiddenness.’
I justified my square format, not only because I believe it suits my imagery but also as it tends to keep the viewer focused in the image in a circular movement – allowing them to view and re-view the image. As far as the sequencing is concerned I wanted it to reflect my journey from darkness into light and hope so starting with a series of black and white images and then moving to colour. I explained that the words were contemporaneous notes from my journal. In terms of my choice of font I decided to make it simple and unassuming to ensure it didn’t “fight” with the images but merely sit quietly alongside them.
I received lots of ideas and feedback from Victoria:
- Square books can be difficult as you are forced to centre everything. Try a more portrait layout but not too much – not A4.
- Try double page spreads for the landscape images with no words. These will help to change the pace as the continuous square format is relentless.
- The page numbers should not appear on the image pages and should be half the size. Should be placed in bottom left-hand corner.
- Have the text left justified – this is how we read. This is particularly irritating with the words against the first image.
- Text and words is always difficult – not necessary to add text to every page. Text can direct the viewer too much.
- The borders on the square images are too big – reduce by half. However, a border does make the viewer concentrate
- Text is good – Victoria likes Baskerville. Go even smaller and make it black rather than grey.
- Bleed images not working. However double page images should be as a bleed.
- Make more changes to the way the images are presented as the images are similar.
- Black and white images are stunning but the colour not as powerful. Think seriously about the use of colour. Need to be ruthless in the edit.
- Narrative not clear enough yet.
- Could I bring in “evidence” from my police work? Is my work in some way collecting evidence – eg taking notes in the field
- Not a linear memory but a scattered memory. Story of me – trauma is missing. The interpretation of the event. Archives, newspaper articles?
- Getting to grips with InDesign in the time we have is a “big ask”.