Blurb Limited Edition: Flemming Bo Jensen

I think this entire thing can be traced back to Viking blood.

There is this guy named Flemming Bo Jensen, which sounds pretty Viking to me. Earlier this year, he and I and several others were on a long and twisted Peruvian path together. I saved him from being killed by a lethal spider, something he will owe me for FOREVER. He entertained us all with reenactments of Star Wars, with a peculiar Australian tinged English with Danish overtones. Not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, Jensen came alive as the day progressed, muttering to himself while assembling the photographic puzzle in his head. Across the barren and sometimes merciless Peruvian landscape we did our best to bond together while securing our most thoughtful and lasting images. Most of his time was spent in tireless pursuit of “Coke Zero” but during brief breaks in the hunt he managed to squeeze off a few frames with his beloved Fuji X100. The results of which you see here.

In all seriousness, I wanted you to see what he created from his time in Peru. Working for Blurb I run into a variety of photographers. There are those I run into who realize I work for Blurb and say something along the lines of “Well, if you guys had X, Y and Z, THEN I would use your platform.” In my experience these folks rarely end up making anything of note, not because they don’t have the work or the talent but more because they are always looking for a reason NOT to do something, or they are so bound by tradition they are somewhat beholden to others. As they say, “The path to enlightenment is as thin as a razor’s edge.” Another group of photographers looks at a platform like Blurb and says, “Hmm, this looks interesting, I think I’ll play around.” These tend to be the people who end up making interesting things. Our young Viking friend falls into this second category. Flemming and I had traded messages in regard to the 6×9 format. He sent a few early images, I urged him to keep playing. The book sample grew, got better and slowly took on the look of what you see here. And then he went further. Adding an editioned print, the custom leather cover, certificate of authenticity, signed, numbered, etc, which ultimately puts HIS personal stamp on the item.

This method, procedure, isn’t new people, but I’m always amazed at how few photographers do this.
The vast, vast, vast majority of photographers I speak with are all standing in line with tradition being the primary driving force. “I want a mainstream, traditional publisher to do my book.” “I want them to design, market, advertise and sell my book.” I totally understand this. I love traditional publishing and frankly traditional publishing can do things for you that self-publishing can’t and there is the perceived idea that having an imprint from a publisher means that you are a “real” photographer. Again, I get it. However, I see this as ONE option, not THE option. As we all know, due to economic factors, MUCH has changed in the publishing world. A few days ago I met with a photographer who recently took work to a mainstream publisher and was told, “If we can’t sell 25,000 copies we aren’t going to publish.” I was told by another publisher, “We don’t take chances anymore, we publish slam dunks.” Another friend called me with a “great deal” from a publisher which was roughly $15,000 out of his pocket, up front.” Again, don’t go hating people, I admire traditional publishers and buy their publications on a regular basis, but the fact of the matter is that due to these current conditions there are great bodies of work that simply will not get published. The first group of photographers complains, snipes at others getting published and waits around. The second group goes out and does something about it. And continuing with my theme of being perfectly honest…..at one point in my “career” I was more in that first group of photographers. Luckily I’m not any more, but I know how it feels. Finding salvation isn’t easy.

In essence, many of these small runs books are embracing the things that self-publishing does well, and second, embracing those things that traditional publishing struggles with.
Things like small runs, customization, books of few images, ultra-personal projects that might not have a large audience but yet still demand to be published. Sometimes we lose track of the strategic importance that having the ability to make ONE book offers us. Sometimes when I “release” a book, or make it public, I’ve already made two or three private versions of the book. I know my abilities well enough to know that “perfect” books right out of the gate are probably beyond me.

Looking at this body of work we see a story that perhaps doesn’t have an international, mass appeal, however, by limiting the copies, adding the customization, Jensen has created an “object” more than simply a book. I love this idea. If a photographer is successful, has a good database of those interested in his or her work, then creating, positioning and selling a book like this is an attainable goal. Not everything is meant for mass consumption. Not everything is meant for fame, glory and recognition. And funny enough, items like these have a remarkable way of becoming more important as time goes on.

I was able to Skype with Jensen yesterday, or at least I think I did. He began mumbling gibberish. I initially thought he was using a dialect from that planet that Yoda is from but then realized he was “speaking Danish.” After further consideration, I realized that Danish is a “fake” language because NOTHING really sounds like that, and he was unable to repeat what he claimed was our “conversation.” You spend enough time with someone and you will ultimately see the cracks in their facade. When I see an item like this I get excited about what I’m going to see next. What will he, or you for that matter, dream up. I applaud Mr. Jensen on this endeavor and hope that it sparks something in all of us.

And most importantly, don’t forget to use the force.

PS: There has been a tremor in the force. According to Jensen the books have MOSTLY sold out, so if you have any itch to buy one of these babies you better scratch it now.

32 Responses to “Blurb Limited Edition: Flemming Bo Jensen”

  1. Brian Miller says:

    Just the fact that you referred to him as “Mr. Jensen” indicates to me that his Jedi mind tricks are effective with you…

  2. Thanks amigo. Spider story is entirely true. Dan ‘Indiana’ Milnor kindly, while drinking Pisco straight out of the bottle, brought to my attention that a deadly jumping spider sat on my camera backpack, about 10 cm from where my hand was holding the handle. With that and my Star Wars reenactment on the boat, it was both one exciting and most ridiculous day ever in the history of the amazon!

    • Smogranch says:

      The look on Daniel’s face when he looked back from the front of the boat and saw me holding a bottle of Pisco…now THAT was priceless. I think this was post Amy killing the deadly spider. I think she thought it was going to get her coffee.

    • Hahaha, yeah I think Amazon-Daniel had his horizon expanded in as far as how a crew can behave! Fear and Loathing in …
      (To everyone else, our Amazon guide was also named Daniel. It’s just easier when everyone has the same name).

    • Smogranch says:

      Daniel Flemming Amazon Bo Jensen,

      After the pisco it was the only name I could remember.

  3. Sean says:

    Great work. I really like it.

    Every morning the first thing I do after waking up is sit down and write two pages of whatever-comes-into-my-head. Well, nearly every morning. It’s nearly always complete gibberish but this morning “Daniel Milnor workshop”, “make a book”, “colour and black and white”, and “Cambodia” popped off the page. What you’ve posted above is EXACTLY what I want to achieve when I head there in a few weeks. Impromptu trip to South East Asia Dan? (Angkor Beer…umm)

    By the way, I’ve been in touch with the Jedi Knight and we should be Skyping each other soon. On another note, if his English has an Australian twang then he should already know about deadly spiders :-)

  4. MarkusA says:

    Very accurate and interesting stuff Daniel. Oh, 99% of the wildlife in Australia will kill you, including the Koala Bears.

  5. Jason Timmis says:

    Flemming – Wow!!, I really like the diary / journal format and the leather bound look / feel thing ads to the personal aspect of it. I’m sure it brings a great sense of self accomplishment (and it sounds like some great times making it ;-)

    • Smogranch says:

      Jason,

      Yep, he nailed it.

    • Cheers Jason, yeah I’m quite pleased with this actually and that does not happen often…and indeed we had the best of times making the images, well most of them, a few miserable times too, bloody stomach virus thingy!

    • Smogranch says:

      FBJ,
      I remember that morning. You looked like you died in the night, then came back, then died again. You didn’t even drink a Coke Zero.

    • But then had I not suffered all day in the name of art, you would not have shot that brilliant image of me sleeping at Machu Picchu with my head in the stone wall. You’re welcome dude.

    • jason timmis says:

      So, it isn’t very often I have ‘free’ time during the day but here I am today opening up a new camera that I ordered 5 months ago and as I am unwrapping it there is knock at the door and here is my copy of Diario Del Peru from Blurb I ordered a week or so ago…..The book is awesome – very nice work, the images, the layout, the feel – excellent!! …..the new camera??…well we’ll see, but I know I’m going to be a better photographer with it…I’ll just look in my new book and make my pictures the same, it will be so easy now :-) ….All is right with the universe for at least the rest of the day!!

    • Smogranch says:

      Jason,

      Great story. Maybe the book will fuel the testing of the new cam and subsequent………BOOK.

    • Jason, I am thrilled you like the book. Go on, get shooting and create a book, it’s awesome :)

  6. Brendan says:

    Really nice work Flemming- very well done.

    How’s the new fuji working out?

  7. hannah kozak says:

    Traditional publishing has changed and will continue to do so. I am excited about self publishing and have been for quite some time. I love the idea that I can take the essays I’ve been working on for years and create self published books. Photography and books were my 1st two passions as a young girls and still are, so to be able to marry them and create my own books is a great passion for me. I love everything about Flemming Bo Jensen’s book from his concept to adding an editioned print, the custom leather cover, certificate of authenticity, signed, numbered. His passion for this project is palpable. Thanks for a great share, Daniel. I’m hearing great things about the Fuji too.

    • Smogranch says:

      Hannah,

      I just saw “Where Children Sleep,” by James Mollison, which was published by Chris Boot. Unreal project and book, so traditional publishing is near and dear. But, for so many things, POD or self-publishing is also doing interesting things. I love it all too.

    • hannah kozak says:

      I haven’t seen his book yet but I love the idea so much. Yes, traditional publishing has changed and will continue and thank goodness we are still seeing marvelous photography books being published. I just bought Tom Chambers new book; Entropic Kingdom. Self published or traditional publishing…i love it all!

    • Smogranch says:

      Hannah,
      I just came from Look3 and saw at least a half dozen books I want. But, I was on best behavior.

  8. hannah kozak says:

    Daniel, How was Look3? I haven’t been to that one yet. Photo LA, SPE, Palm Springs Photo Festival, there are so many fun places to explore photography.

    I’m in trouble. I’ve run out of space for all the photography books I’ve purchased. I can’t control myself.

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