Cleveland Musuem of Art: DIY Photobooks

So I have this book called “On Approach.” I call this book, “The book that won’t die.” Technically, everything about this book is wrong, at least in terms of traditional thinking when it comes to the photographic book. It’s only 5×8. It has eleven photos total. It is only twenty-two pages. The paper is a 60-pound ivory paper never intended for photographs, and I purposely put critical or key elements in the gutter. Everything is wrong. The only problem is, for whatever reason, the book works.

This book has literally traveled the world. It’s sold in key, high-end photo bookstores. It’s in a variety of really high-end collections, and it has garnered me, BY FAR, more accolades than any other book I’ve done.
The saga continues in a good way. As we speak, this book is part of the “DIY Photobook” show at the Cleveland Museum of Art. I applaud the museum in dreaming up and fulfilling this show, and I’m truly thrilled to be part of it. I recently received the catalog that accompanies the show and was pleasantly surprised to see one of my images.

If ANYONE ends up at this show I would love a short report. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to make it and it’s driving me crazy. I’ll be everywhere else this fall but have no plans for Cleveland.

The moral of the story is not about me, or a show, or a museum. The moral of this story is to take our learned behavior, note it, and then move on and make something new, unique, interesting or different, especially when it comes to books. There is an entire world outside of the monograph and it’s our job as the “creatives” to explore.

19 responses to “Cleveland Musuem of Art: DIY Photobooks”

  1. David says:

    Well Daniel, you did warn me – I’ve now started on my Blurb journey and got my first book through in the post yesterday. Went for the Trade 6×9″, image wrapped. Well impressed.
    Thanks also for this post, it’s got me thinking of new projects already – I’m sure that’s what you had in mind, cheers – David.

  2. Larry says:

    Congratulations! Well deserved.

  3. LionelB says:

    And I thought the 18 photographs in mine were too few …
    One of the things I like about the Wireless is that the faces of the speakers are the ones which I create for them, in my head. Seeing the real face always disappoints. I am not deprived by the absence of a screen. I create my own visual universe.
    Your book doesn’t try (as most do) to cram in every salient fact. You give only a few hints. But the imagined parts of it spill off in all directions, different for every reader and every time.
    That, I think, is why it works. You create. We create. No force-feeding involved.

    • Smogranch says:

      I’m sure there are plenty of people who would look at this book and scoff. In fact, I know there are, but it’s been a fun ride for sure. I find that the attention span of most modern folks is so short that many major projects get skimmed at best, including books.

  4. Jason Timmis says:

    If you are reading Dan’s great blog(s) and are intrigued about, or thinking about, doing anything with a book I highly recommend trying to catch one of the Blurb “meet ups” if you can. I recently attended in Vancouver and Dan shares lots more little snippets and ideas like this. It really opened my eyes to the potential of books let alone what ‘is’ a book these days.

    …Plus as a speaker he is as engaging in person as he is in print so I guarantee you won’t be bored 🙂

  5. Paul Joyce says:

    Congratulations on your continued success with On Approach, such a simple idea and I’m not surprised it has done so well.

    I actually don’t own any of your Blurb books yet (that will be changed soon) but I DO have a copy of Manifesto which features some fantastic work, especially the Vanishing Speed series.

    I’m sat at home recovering from a knee operation and I’m surround by photo books magazines I’m catching up on and there is nothing better than having something filled with pure photographs, minus any ads, like Manifesto has.

    • Smogranch says:

      Hey Paul,

      Thank you very much. That was one of the goals with Manifesto. Just images. I did have offers for advertising, and almost went that route, but found myself in an immediate compromise. I decide to forgo any ads and just run the work.

  6. I hope you get to come see the show in Cleveland! It’s right near I-80, should you be driving from NYC to Chicago, for instance. Let me know if you need a place to stay; I can probably scare up a guest room if you make it here. Barbara Tannenbaum, Curator of Photography, Cleveland Museum of Art

    • Smogranch says:


      Very kind of you. I have so many trips this fall, many around the East Coast. Hoping to skip over for a day and see the show. Again, thank you!

  7. Jeff says:


    As fate would have it, I was in Cleveland yesterday when I read your post. With just a few hours to spare before I had to leave town, I caught the bus to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

    A wonderful facility, no entrance fee! and several people who appeared to be enjoying the DIY Photobook Exhibit. Very inspirational.

    Sent you a few iphone pics before the security folks had me put my phone away.

    Keep up the admirable work!


  8. Harold says:

    It Does work! Struggling with trying to make Something worthwhile. Not something that just LOOKS like something.

  9. Mei-Chun says:


  10. Martha says:

    Congratulations. We’re proud of you.

  11. Just saw this gem at Photo-Eye the other day. Was going to get it but then someone had signed his name in it, and I thought that ruined it!

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