Taste of Uruguay

 

For those of you wondering what happened to my Uruguay work, well, here is a little taste. This project is really fun, at least for me, and what I’ve done so far is ONLY the beginning. Different from most of my other work, this project is layered, textured and confusing to some degree. The elements are tied together with the thinnest of ideas and lines, but that is plenty for me. My first task was to edit the work down to about 200 color images and an equal amount of the black and white flavor. Then, I printed them all. In this case, 3.5×5 with the color square images printed small and centered on the 3.5×5 paper. Then I began to mix and match. I tried a little of this, a little of that. I started over. I put all the prints out on my living room floor and waited for the UPS guy. I waited for the Fedex guy. I waited for the kid selling chocolate bars. I waited for the Jehovah’s Witness people. I waited for the Mormon kids. I waited for the guy that paints the address on the curbs. I waited for the Girl Scouts. I waited for anyone who came near my house and past the three levels of “no soliciting” signs. I figured anyone with the cajones to come this far would be fair game for a little editing.

 

THEM: “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”
ME: “How bad does he want me?” “Bad enough to sequence these 400 pictures?”

THEM: “Do you want to buy some cookies?”
ME: “Ya sure, come on in, let me find my wallet.” “Make yourself comfortable, and hey, have a look at those photos and put them in the order you think looks best.” “Your only six-years-old?”
“I don’t care, I’m looking for the youth vote too?”

THEM: “Will you sign here?”
ME: “Right after you figure out if I should put the black and white with the color or keep it separate.” “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”

 

I’m still a long way from anywhere, but I did a book anyway. I want to stress this to you endearing public. Don’t be afraid. Making a “casual” book like this is an education in itself. After I loaded it, and ordered it, I made a realization about the work that I hadn’t been able to make before. But seeing it on the pages and in sequence allowed me to have an “Ahhhh….HA” moment about where the next edit will begin and what direction the work will follow. And, it’s entirely different from this book. Funny how that happens.

Ninety, savory, color, softcover pages. This will come down in page count. Plenty of fat to be trimmed off of this prime cut.

Someone asked me earlier today, “What is this going to be?” I haven’t a clue. A book? A show? Or just a reason to move my brain?

Richard Koci Hernandez + Instagram + Blurb

About ten days ago I was in San Francisco, at Blurb Command Center, and was able to meet the guy in this film. I have to say, I hear a lot of hype surrounding cellphone technology and the future of journalism/storytelling. I try to keep an even keel in regard to these things because over the past fifteen years I’ve seen a level of intoxication with technology that can, and has at times, clouded our collective judgement. However, I’d heard a lot about Richard, from people I really trust, so I was excited to meet him. When I saw what he was doing, and how he was doing it, I found something I could really cling to. For me, there are a few things about this person that I believe lay the foundation for why I can relate to what he in particular is doing. Number one, he is a great photographer. A long history in news photography, complete with major nominations, has honed his ability to tell stories. Speaking of telling stories, this is the DNA of what he is doing. Although there is a randomness to street work, with Richard I get the feeling that everything is a part of a larger goal or theme, something I have a great appreciation for. And finally, he is compulsive. Being compulsive, to me, is one of the most important traits a person in this field can have. You have to want it, and to go one step further, I think you have to want it for the right reasons. When I see him working it makes me want to get up from this chair, this computer, and get out on those streets. After seeing this film I downloaded Instagram. I also visited his site, his blog, etc, and for me this is saying a lot. I think Richard is really on to something, so have a look and see for yourself.

Street photography and Instagram photobooks by @koci from Blurb Books on Vimeo.

Homework

Okay, just decided to do another test of the new Blurb Color Trade book. This project is ongoing, and I’ve actually done a book of this material before, but I was not happy at all with my choices on the first book. So, I started over. I spent more time with the work, asked myself how it felt and how I thought it should be represented. What I came up with is what you see below. The footprint is far smaller, from 12×12 to 6×9. The images went from cold-tone to warm-tone and the the front matter and back matter changed and simplified. This work is important to me because it represents a new direction. As for the success of the images, well, there are some I like very much and others that don’t perhaps work as well, which means this body of work is the same as all my others. But what is important for me about this, other than the fact I made the images at home, is that this work has me THINKING in new ways. And fair warning…if you think THIS work is departure for me…just wait. I’ve got two new bodies of work that are really a stretch.

Tips for Making a Blurb Book

Okay, someone recently left a message in regard to tips for making a Blurb book. As you know, I’m now carrying the Blurb torch, and to date I’ve crafted about 120 different titles using the Blurb process. Now, I’m a photographer. I’m not a book designer. With having said that, keep that not only in the back of your mind, but front and center. This is a huge point. A key point. The crux of the conversation if you will. I’m guessing if you are reading this post you aren’t a book designer either, so get ready to embrace your limitations. I use mine like a warm blanket, and I’ve got plenty of them. But, I’ve learned a trick or two, here and there, and I’m happy to share them with you now, here in this illustrious place we call the internet.


1-Define what you are making.
If you put your best 25 images in a book, is that a book or a portfolio? Define what you need. A book? A portfolio? A leave-behind? A catalog? A magazine? They are all designed with different needs.

2-Define the goal of your book.
Is your goal to sell millions of copies and get rich, or do you want to edition a small art-book and sell twenty-five copies? Either goal is commendable, so embrace the native requirements. If someone asks you, “What angle are you taking on the design?” and you say, “Winging it baby,” that is probably not a good sign.

3-Understand you might not be a book designer.
Remember the front and center comment? I wasn’t kidding. Book designers are a rare breed, and they are very, very good and very, very precise at what they do. Book design has a long and storied history, but nearly every “rule” can broken, if the rule is broken for a purpose and the sum of the parts of the book add up to more than just a book. If your finger is hovering over that 40-image template with purple fog at the edges you might need immediate treatment. Step away from the computer and call a design professional.

4-The cover needs to be good.
I know, the master of stating the obvious but you would be surprised. I recently toured a independent bookstore, with the owner, who pointed out which books would sell simply based on their cover design. I see plenty of books with great content and covers that just doesn’t hook anyone in. And don’t forget your title. Mysterious titles are always fun but if your title is “Through the Wonder that is the Looking Glass of my Mind’s Eye of Dreaming Moonscapes Transparent to the Soul of the Living World of the Glorious Aperture,” you might need immediate treatment. Step away from the computer and call a friend.

5-Editing is an art and you might not know how to do it. Don’t worry, you can learn.
They used to teach editing. I’m not kidding, they actually did teach editing. Think blackboard, prof with elbow patches and a wooden pointer. There isn’t really a right or wrong, but you sure can add a significant dose of sense to an otherwise random and emotion filled mistake. A lot of us can’t edit our own work. We are too close, too emotional, too attached and that leads to enormous books with two or three times the number of images needed. The bad cliche of “You are only as good as your worst image,” is actually a pretty solid statement. I’ve seen a room full of newspaper photographers spend an hour talking about a single lame photo in stack of portfolios. It’s make us feel better to slay someone else for their ineptitude. So, get a second opinion, or a third. Heck, have your mom take a look, or a neighbor. What you might think is brilliant they might use in combination with 50mg of Nyquil to help them forget about it all.


6-Sequencing is different from editing but is equally important.

If you are asking, “What is sequencing?” keep reading. This means in what order the images appear in the book. Sequencing works in tandem with the edit and controls the flow of the book. You ever open a book and were confronted with a mind-blowing photograph, then turn the page and were released from the grip of the image by a blank page or a small text block…only to turn the page and be warmly brought back into the fold by an image that strikes you with it’s grace? That is, in part, the sequencing of the work. There are many strategies with sequencing, some I like more than others. I do think hitting the viewer with perhaps your most powerful images near the front CAN be a good strategy, but I’m basing this on the fact that most adults have a difficult time looking through an entire illustrated book. I’ve also had plenty of people grab one of my books and open it from the back, look at it in reverse order, while talking to me and gesturing wildly, completely ignoring the entire book before slamming it shut and proclaiming its brilliance.

7-Keep it simple.
Are you using eleven fonts? Do you have 32 images per page? Are you using Gothic branding elements? Do your backgrounds remind people of the crowd at a Grateful Dead concert? Did you look at the “Rodeo” font and say, “Oh man, that is COOOOOL.” If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions please unplug your computer and seek immediate help.

8-Be prepared to make multiple books.
I did a body of work I thought was pretty interesting. I secretly created a book from the material. I toiled in isolation putting final, mini touches on the damn thing. I got the book back and it totally sucked. Everything about it sucked. The cover, the typography, the layout, the edit, the sequence, the size of the images and the size of the book. It was horrible. This was after I made about 100 other books. So, if you get where I’m going here….we all make mistakes, so get ready to join the club. But, the good thing about this process is that you don’t have to commit to 1500 copies. If you do make a perfect book please keep it to yourself. Nobody likes a genius.

9-Don’t try to make a masterpiece your first time out.
If you haven’t used the Blurb system, or any other system for that matter, don’t try to hit a grand slam your first time at the plate. Make contact and get the ball in play. I was with someone yesterday who received THREE Blurb discount codes and watched them all expire as they tried to create a timeless, life-changing, career-altering, semi-Godlike creation. Well guess what? They still don’t have a book. Keep in mind that what you think is a timeless, life-changing, career-altering, semi-Godlike creation someone will look at and think, “That would be good to put under the car to keep the oil drops from landing on the garage floor.” Just make one already.

10-YOU MUST STUDY OTHER BOOKS.
I actually had someone write to me last year and say that looking at other peoples work was a total waste of time. I think this person would probably also say that going to photography school is a total waste of time. In my opinion, both of these opinions are completely off-target. If you are not looking at illustrated books, OTHER PEOPLES BOOKS, then I’m not really sure how you would get a sense of quality. In my opinion this is a must. And, if you have grand plans of selling your book, you might want to think about buying a few books, OTHER PEOPLES BOOKS. It feels good to support other folks, so don’t be shy, embrace the buy. See how clever I am.

11-Just because you think the largest book possible is the ONLY way for your work to be seen doesn’t mean you are correct.
Bigger is not always better. Bigger is just bigger. Get over it. Your photo-profoundness might actually work better in the smallest format. Small books are really fun, and they are very easy for people to approach. There is an intimacy with a small book that is different from a larger, monograph style publication. And people will cart your small book around with them.


FREE BONUS TIP!
Have fun. Yep, that’s it. That is the free tip. I see plenty of folks GRINDING over their book as if the book is an alien spawn stuck somewhere in there chest and they just can’t get the damn thing out. It’s okay. Just relax and make a book. Making a book is REALLY fun, and making a book forces you to put critical thought toward your work, much like making a print, and there is nothing negative about that. Get it….negative? Okay, I’ll shut up.

BLURB SPECIFIC TIPS

1-Remember you have three bookmaking choices.
Bookify. Booksmart. PDF to Book

2-Calibrate your monitor. Seriously. I don’t want to hear excuses. It’s fun. You get to put this thing on your monitor and push buttons. So, get a cool drink and some snacks and have a little peak at the Blurb Color Management Center. Get your geek on.

3-Don’t forget your Indesign or Lightroom options.
Yep, you can use these software gems as well. Indesign plug-in. Lightroom.

4-You can now make an Instagram Book. You know you want to. We all know you want to make one of these. We all know you are busting out Instagram snaps at an iPhone melting rate, so why not cement those to the analog world. Live a little. Instagram Books.

5-Don’t rule out multiple formats for the same work.
Maybe someone can’t afford your $200, 400-page opus regarding all the wonderful ways in which you can utilize HDR. But, they can afford a 6×9 color trade book for a fraction of the cost. Don’t keep the wonders of HDR away from those people. They deserve to learn of its beauty and power. It’s the cotton candy of imagery. Sweet, sugary and nutrient-rich.

If you have read this far you are truly a danger to yourself and probably all of us because you are now frothing at the mouth while laying out spread after spread after spread. When the book virus hits it is nearly impossible to ignore. As I write this I’ve got two new books in the works. They might be great, they might not be. All I know is that they will be made, and with these books will come the lessons learned. Here’s to taking chances, editing tight and the smell of ink on paper.

PS: At some point, when I get time, I’d like to put together a range of posts dealing with specific items related to the above suggestions. If that is appealing…let me know.

Argentina + Uruguay: Designing the South American Book


“I’m going to take my best twenty-five images of “____X________” and make a book.”

I have heard this statement countless times from friends and fellow photographers.

My question in return is “Is that a book or a portfolio?”

I know now to ask this question because I too made the bold statement above and didn’t at first realize there were many differences between making a book and a portfolio, or a catalog for that matter. But after making so many damn books over the past few years, I’ve learned at little more about book making strategy.
Defining what you are going to make is one of those critical first steps required before you embark on the journey that will be your book, or portfolio or catalog.

Allow me to regress.

A few months ago I got an email from a long, lost friend. My friend has an accent, had once lived in Los Angeles, where I met him, but had chosen to return to the land of his roots which happens to be Uruguay. My friend is Martin Herrera Soler, a photographer and technology specialist who also runs a photography workshop program in Montevideo. Latitude 34 South.

“Dan,” he asked. “Do you want to teach with us?”

You might think my answer was immediate but it wasn’t. Earlier in the year I decided to cut back on my teaching schedule so planning and pulling off a foreign workshop was not high on my list. But, a few things got my mental wheels turning. After our first few communications I realized that Martin was so intelligent, organized and enthusiastic I found myself saying, “I have to teach with this guy.” Second, Martin sent me images of Uruguay. Being the typical American, public school slacker that I am, my knowledge of Uruguay entailed little beyond a vague idea of how to spell U-R-U_G-U-A-Y. And I knew it was south of my current location. And then I saw the photos. And then I cried because where I live doesn’t look like that. I’ve included images here to give you a small taste. I’ve been to South America several times, but Uruguay looks different, and different to me means interesting and photo-rich.

So guess what? We are headed south once again. A Latitude 34 South + Milnor Pictures production of Argentina + Uruguay.

There are several things you should know about this workshop. We have a target rich plan in agenda in place including not only our time in Uruguay but also four days of work in Argentina, where the workshop will begin. We will not be lacking in material. Also, we are seriously going to “book it.” I don’t mean travel fast or get arrested, I mean we are going to create our work with the concept of “book” front and center in our mind. We are actually going to shoot, edit, sequence and design books.
If you are reading this and thinking, “But I’ve already made a book,” I just have a few simple questions for you. Is it a good book? Is it perfect? If you made that same book again would it look exactly like the version you already have? Me, I’ve made over 120 books and if I made those books again I would change something about every single one of them. This is just book life, and there is so darn much to learn. Just to hit you with a few tidbits…

Front matter, back matter, introductions, essays, titles, half-titles, pacing, sequencing, borders, typography, branding, book size, page count, etc, are just a few of the things we will discuss, decide and implement. At the heart of any good illustrated book is the illustration right? So, with that in mind, I asked Martin to round up a few images of the area we will be heading. I did this for your viewing pleasure people!




Did I mention that part of what we will photograph in Uruguay is the Carnival? Oh ya, there’s that. This particular part is called Candombe, which you can read about here.
If that isn’t enough, how about a video about this little event. And people, these images are only a portion of the Uruguay section of this trip. There is an entire Argentina portion as well.

I wanted to get the idea of this workshop out as quickly as possible. Our lives today are packed, scheduled and committed. So, this workshop is schedule for early 2012, so plenty of time to get your ducks in a row. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this little adventure. I’ve not been to either Argentina or Uruguay and seeing a new place gets my heart racing, even though this trip is several months away. My mind races with possibilities, small books, large books, essays and angles. There is much to do. I will be posting more about this in the coming weeks, months, but if there is a specific angle you want to cover in regards to this adventure, don’t be shy.