Rafal Milach: Black Sea of Concrete

As many of you know, the Blurb Photography Book Now Contest is open and running for 2011. I’m still somewhat amazed by the number of photographers who DON’T enter this contest. Yes, I work for Blurb, part-time, so factor that in if you wish, but this contest, in my humble opinion, is simply fantastic. The video below, which I found on the FlakPhoto Vimeo Channel, is of former winner Rafal Milach and his “Black Sea of Concrete.” This is the kind of work you are up against, and as important, the design you are up against. Take a look at the judges, the prizes and the potential and decide whether or not you have what it takes to give it a go. Remember, it isn’t a photography contest. This is a photography book contest. Big difference. Oh, and if you haven’t subscribed to FlakPhoto’s Vimeo page you should.

I’ve looked through this book dozens of times and find the images and design to be a near perfect match. There is a quiet feel to the design and photographs that reflect the location, the story and the photographer’s method. The tones and mood match the physical book. The cover makes me wonder and want to KNOW what is inside, and the photographs are as much like paintings as they are images. If you don’t have this book, might think of adding it to your collection.

21 responses to “Rafal Milach: Black Sea of Concrete”

  1. Robert Boyer says:

    Awesome book,

    Man I make books all the time for clients – Aperture books, blurb books, magcloud books, limited run high-end books from a few EU producers and I wish I had time to do a project of my own for this. How the heck do you find time and still earn a living……. grrrrr.

    I might switch over to be a liberal then I could get grants like everyone else. Grrrr.


    • Smogranch says:

      You just have to schedule your time like you would a client. I’m a firm believer in just buying the tickets so to speak. If you buy tickets for South America, chances are, you will go. These days, far too easy to work all the time, for others, and not enough for yourself.

  2. Robert Boyer says:

    Oh I do have one comment…. re: book design.

    I do appreciate the amount of white space in the book and “get it” but…. i think that in this case it may have good a bit too too far and that he could actually strengthen the book by backing off just a hair to save page count. and consolidate some of the images that have strong relationships, maybe take some of the text and appropriately move them to the white space on the left vs having a full white spread with one tiny bit of text. Maybe keep ONE of those with appropriate impact level but the effect wears off after a bit and increases the price/page count while not really adding to the “feeling”. IMHO the feeling could be the same with a bit more care.

    Overall a winner though. AND the nice thing about Blurb is that would be an easy change with NO financial impact.


    • Smogranch says:

      My experience with book design is that if you ask ten people……you will get….ten different views. I really like his book. I could change a think here or there, but I think the imagery is really solid, and I think the design feels light, something I think helps the imagery as opposes to competes with it.
      But, you make a good point. With POD, changes…no big deal. I do it all the time.

    • Robert Boyer says:

      To tell you the truth – that is a HUGE advantage to print on demand. I use it even when I build a layout for a more production type book from a couple of non-POD printers I use (becuase of their ultimate gorgeousnessssss.) I use POD for proofs etc just to make sure that the client is happy BEFORE a $10,000 print run.

      Having a real book of the same design helps way more than a cobbled together mock-up from a printer. It is way different having something that is close to the real effect of an actual book.


    • Smogranch says:

      For me, the Blurb books are the real book I’m looking for. I took work to publishers years ago, and the financial side was just not working for me. I just heard about another photog spending 20k of their own money to get published. What I’m seeing now is a shift in philosophy regarding POD. With new papers and covers and such, there is no reason why photographers can’t make these books the final product. A few have figured this out, many more are just starting to see the light.
      Due to economic conditions, there are photogs with good work who just won’t get published through traditional means.
      I’ve also seen a few folks, met with them actually, who used Blurb for their mockup and their printer couldn’t match the Blurb book. A few went traditional anyway, others decided to just use Blurb as the final product.
      Exciting times for sure.

  3. Robert Boyer says:


    Agreed – Blurb is a fantastic end product and I am extremely excited about their new products and materials. The only reason I still use some other printers are for extremely specialized products that sooner or later maybe matched via POD.

    None of these are the traditional publishing route for sure which as you are aware maybe going the way of the dinos. There are some specialty printers in the EU and Asia that I use doing limited runs that have a high-end product that is currently hard to match but you do need some volume to justify setup.

    I cannot wait to see how blurb continues to evolve!!!!!


    • Robert Boyer says:

      Oh, I totally agree that the local printer down the road from most folks cannot hold a candle to Blurb.


    • Smogranch says:

      Yes, that is the key with traditional printing, there are specialty things that are off the chart. I love traditional publishers and I really hope they don’t go away. Twin Palms, Radius, Steidl, Aperture, etc, etc, They are producing some incredible books. I think things are going to REALLY keep changing and changing fast.

      As for Blurb, me too. I can’t wait to see what is coming.

    • Robert Boyer says:

      I think the traditional ho-hum so-so quality printing (like your local printer possibly) are going away. I get far better quality from blurb. The big question is the super duper custom book makers/printers that where the product they produce itself is a work of art in it’s own right. The custom bindings, printing on interspersed glassine leaves, the perfection of embossing/vacuforming/foil application etc. The FANTASTIC PAPER. – When will that find it’s way to POD. Only time will tell.


    • Smogranch says:

      YEs, totally agree. The traditional publishers are still making beautiful books which are really more like art objects. POD is improving and I hope it continues along these lines.

  4. Thanks for that video, what a stunning piece of work, story and a great way to accompany the book with a video story as well. The book looks stunning too, I love the simplistic layout.

    I doubt I will get my first two Blurb books finished in time, might have to wait and enter the competition next year.

  5. Karen says:

    Thanks for posting this. I have a general Blurb newbie question though– when someone sells a book is it possible to buy with other paper options, sizes, etc? Or is the buyer bound to whatever the seller chooses? I’m asking because there have been a few cases where I’ve resisted buying a book that looked good because it’s not clear to me that something beyond the ‘regular’ paper was used (and I’m not a fan of the regular stuff). This book has me asking that question again–

    I’m already working on my next book, just to try out the new Proline…

    • Smogranch says:


      The person who created the book controls what kind of book they are selling. The control the cover type and paper options. As for the paper, it really depends on the imagery. I’ve made books on the standard paper that fit the work better than if I had made the book on the brand new ProLine. Depends on the work and what look you are trying to achieve. I typically create a book with a look in mind, then I keep my settings aimed in that direction.

  6. Charlene says:

    I’d enter it if I could make a book worth entering. Right now I’m getting my butt kicked so hard learning how to edit a set, I don’t think I’ll be making any decent books for years.

    • Smogranch says:

      Editing is a real art form. I suggest showing your work to another photographer or editor. Typically we get too attached to our imagery and have difficulty making good decisions. Back in the day photographers worked with pictures editors all the time. Today, people are just moving too fast.

  7. Charlene says:

    Oh and, what a brilliant book, and short film. Wow.

    And project. Wow.

  8. Karen says:

    After this thread and some thought, I ordered a copy. I debated– not just about the cost, but because I had never ordered a book from Blurb from someone other than, well, me. Definitely worth it! I’ve found myself going back to certain pictures for days now, and there is a lot to learn from the approach to the design (sequencing, text, etc). Thanks for pointing this one out Daniel.

    • Smogranch says:

      Hey Karen,

      Nice to hear this. I’m sure Rafal will be happy as well. It really is a great book. And who published it…..no matter.

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