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.

Blurb Color Pocket and Trade Books

Okay folks, a fun announcement here. Blurb just released their trade and pocket books in color. What are trade and pocket books you ask? Well, they are the, until now, black and white only, small books used mostly for text. Now, photographers being the crafty people they are, quickly adopted this format for a variety of things including small zine’s and art books. My “On Approach” book is an example of such book. The first thing I thought when I saw the black and white trade sizes was, “I wish I could get that in color.” Well, now we can. These books are by no means a replacement for anything. These books are not heavyweight art paper or designed for the monograph. They are affordable, approachable and born to be positioned in new ways. They are made with a white, uncoated stock that actually works really well for your scribbly handwriting in addition to your photographs! For those of you Leica users, this entire book was done with two M6’s and a 35mm and 50mm lens. Panama was slightly different for me in terms of my approach. I had no story, no idea, no plan, no theme or project. I just went. I went to just look and make snapshots. I hadn’t done this in many, many years, and I have to say…it was fantastic and something that had an impact on my current project. TRI-X and Portra 400 were the films used.


Not sure I ever featured this book, but I thought this a good time revisit what these little books can do. I get a lot of questions regarding books, how I use them, etc, and the answers are often complex. In short, there are MANY uses when it comes to making books, and in my experience, the limitations are not within the book world. The limitations I find are with us…the photographers, and what we feel books represent, what they must be, etc. My most successful book, cost $5 and took 15 minutes to make. Now this might not be the norm, but it sure taught me A LOT about what a book can do, and that it doesn’t have to be the most physically impressive to get the job done.

Case in point, “Notes of Maine.” This book is 5×8 inches, softcover, about 30 pages, and is slight, small and informal. The pages are lined with dotted lines with the idea being a journal style book, or notebook…hence the name…. I’ve done several of these books now, the small 5×8, black and white only books, and will continue to produce them. There is something satisfying in the simplicity and basic nature of these books. I’ve even done a 6×9 version, with another on the way in coming days.

The idea behind this book was a simple chronicle of family trip to Maine. I shot both color and black and white, 35mm only, and took photos exactly like I was taking visual notes. Quiet moments, family time, landscape, etc, the pure essence for me to be in Maine. As you can see, the paper in the black and white only books is not bright white because these books were not originally intended for photographs. But, if I tweak my contrast, prepare my files a certain way, which is something I do with ALL my books, regardless of whether or not I’m using this black and white only book, then suddenly the combination becomes a very doable and engaging tandem. Working with the contrast I can offset the tones of the paper.

What I like about these small, informal books is that they are a perfect match for me as a photographer. I shoot all the time, both random imagery and themed work, both large and small. So I’ve always got new material, and now I have a home for that material. I don’t always need to make something grand, something super-in depth. Sometime I want the freedom that random photography and simple bookmaking tools provide. I’ve got stacks of these little, 5×8 books, stacks which I package up and send off to clients, people I find interesting, other photographers, etc. I use them like cards at times, but a card that says so much more than my name, age and serial number.

New Release: Manifesto Handbook

As many of you know, I’m a journal freak. I’ve carried and used a pen and paper type journal since about 1993. I even wrote stories as a child, in small, three ring binders, so this curse has been with me almost from the swampy beginning of my life.

So, I recently began publishing a magazine titled “Manifesto,” which will be released in the coming days. I figured it might be kinda cool to offer a journal companion for the magazine, in Blurb form.

So, this is numero uno.