Something Personal This Way Comes

You ever get the feeling that we are living in a parallel universe? I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I think it might be happening. We all blaze forward simultaneously racing on a path of security, meaning and direction and yet behind the scenes there lurks this feeling that someone, or something, is looking over our shoulder. Things connect.

So a few weeks ago I wrote a post about receiving a letter in the mail, a real, honest-to-goodness, paper letter. This letter came from Los Angeles based painter/photographer Michael Napper. The post “Art in the Mail” was about framing the letter because it was so beautiful and because it was personal and only for little old me.

Sunday night I returned from the Palm Springs Photo Festival and checked my mail. Inside, buried amid the junk mail, bills, spiderwebs and dust was a letter. This was no “regular” letter. This letter was fat, somewhat square and immediately made me toss aside the rest of the stack. This letter had handwriting on it. Real, personal handwriting. And this letter had stamps, really cool stamps with “Canada” on them.

Needless to say I was intrigued. What I found inside completely and utterly made my day. Inside was the “book” and prints you see in the first photograph. It turns out that during my workshop in Victoria BC someone named Paul Romaniuk was in the audience. Paul wrote a review of my lecture, a damn good review, and we subsequently kept in touch. Paul saw my post about “Art in the Mail” and something clicked. The result is what you see here. These images don’t do his book justice, but I think this is also on point with the message of this post.


As photographers we are products of learned behavior and our photo-environment. Heck, I know I surely am. I went to photojournalism school. I studied the masters, or some of them anyway. And much of what I did I did because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. Well, over the past ten years, I’ve been trying to unlearn as much as I possibly can. There is absolutely nothing wrong with what I learned, but I know now that range, or angle or direction may or may not be the right one for me. So, now I must find my own path. One of the things I was taught was about the book. Yes, the all-powerful book.


The book must be a monograph.
The book must be published by a traditional publisher.(Only thing that will give you cred.)
The book must be large.
The book must be entirely serious.
The book must be traditional.

Again, nothing wrong with these ideas, but they are simple not accurate, at least not all the time. A book can be SO many things. A book can be almost anything. Receiving Paul’s book was EVERY BIT as interesting and powerful as going into a bookstore and buying the latest, greatest, enormous coffee-table book. It really was. And there were prints too! Opening the letter made me feel like I’d been told a secret that nobody else knew. I felt like Paul sat at home with me personally on his mind and built this thing. That is VERY powerful.

Last week at the festival I had a long conversation with a photographer I really admire. We looked at his Blurb book, a large one, 12×12, Proline paper, etc. His book is beautiful and has been very well received. Shortly after I showed him my “best” book, a 5×8 inch, softcover book with eleven images and twenty pages total. He said to me, “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought to make a book like that.”

This was music to my ears. This is it people. We can do anything we can dream up. We don’t need permission. We don’t need a note from mom and dad. We just need time for critical thought, an idea and the will to see it to fruition. We might also have to unlearn a few things. Paul’s book you see here was yet another reminder of that. This book, and prints, will go into my collection and will grow old with me…if I make it that long.

Getting something like this is like a shot of creative adrenaline. Time for us to ride the wave.

Thanks Paul.

15 Responses to “Something Personal This Way Comes”

  1. Thank you for sharing this. This is a nice kick in the pants.

  2. Looks awesome, very inspiring. Gotta love actual in-the-house printing, well done Paul Romaniuk.

  3. AK FOTO says:

    Book’em Danno…

  4. jason timmis says:

    Makes me proud to be a Canadian…..eh? :-) ….A nice inspirational post!

  5. mike a says:

    yes yes good stuff Daniel. I had a long talk this morning with a fellow photographer about this very subject. Erie how close it was to your post. No we don’t need to fit a mold.

  6. Chris Fuller says:

    A great post at the right time for me. I am a college professor by profession. Photography is my vehicle for personal expression. About two years ago I realized how stale my photography had become. I had two digital SLR bodies (because that’s what magazines said I should have) with zoom lenses that covered from 17mm to 200mm. I had every base covered and looked duly impressive to strangers. However, my wife (who has a a great eye) was taking better single shots on her point-and-shoot than the 100+ shots I was rolling off on a single subject!

    Last year I sold everything, bought a Panasonic GF1 with two prime lenses (28 and 40mm equivalent) and I have never been happier! Now I just walk around and shoot what strikes my eye without the former distractions and preoccupations (and weight). There’s nothing wrong with the equipment I once owned; it just was not me and it took my wife’s unhindered vision to help me realize this fact.

    Now you have me thinking about creating a book just for the pleasure and creative satisfaction of it.

    • Smogranch says:

      Hey Chris,

      A college professor reading this blog…better make sure admin doesn’t catch you…might be labeled “waste of time.” Or, “misappropriation of school time.” I won’t tell. Thanks for reading.

      I walk around everyday with a Leica and a lens. The hard part for me…time. I don’t need much else. Put me in a parking lot. Put me in small town. Put me in the middle of nowhere and I’ll find something interesting. Sometimes I’ll find and make something good. Gear wise, I don’t need much. I just need something that doesn’t get in the way.

    • Paul Romaniuk says:

      Chris,

      Interesting to hear about your experience. I’ve recently collaborated on two small book projects with my wife. She likes to document what she’s currently experiencing with her iPhone, with a simple and strong compositional eye. Based on what I learned from making those books, I left my 5D Mark II at home when we went to China, and took a Canon S95 p&s and a Bessa rangefinder instead. Lighter and perfect for documenting everything happening around us in a vibrant country.

    • Smogranch says:

      Paul,

      Heck I’m having a hard time with 2 Leicas. That can’t be good. A good problem to have maybe.

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