Smogranch Journal: Six Month Update

Here is what it looks like today…..the “Smogranch Journal Cover” is officially becoming a part of me. I can’t tell you how many people see the bag, and then this journal, and say “Oh man, where did you get THAT?” Arthur doesn’t know it yet…..but I’m gonna secretly work on the backpack idea. I will have to be sly, trick him perhaps, but it’s coming.


Blurb Books: Tips for Cover Design

A short piece here in regard to cover design. I get frequent questions in regard to the cover, which tends to be where people start their book, so this little piece walks you through a few suggestions. Just so you know, often times I DON’T start my book with the cover. I might have a thought or two in regard but I don’t stress about it. There have been projects where I made an image and said to myself, “That is the cover,” but those are few and far between.

The New Smogranch Leather Journal

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a journal keeper. I started taking notes, writing stories, back when I was in elementary school, but I really began in earnest when I got my first internship at the Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix. I had no money to buy books but I lived close to the public library, and during one fateful day I stumbled into a book titled “The Adventures and Misadventures of Peter Beard in Africa.” In short, it changed my life. I had been keeping a journal prior to this day but Beard showed me just how far a journal, or diary, could go. What I was doing, and what I’m doing now really doesn’t resemble Beard in any way. He makes art. I make notes, in both photo and word form. Beard’s books are incredible and beautiful, mine are informational, some might say boring.

Over the years I’ve used just about every type of book imaginable. I’ve used the super-cheap black and white journal books from the grocery store. I’ve used notepads, fancy, leather-bound books and one year I even used a single, HUGE, yearly planner which ended up becoming so large and so heavy I couldn’t actually carry it anywhere. But over the past few yeas I’ve settled on the Moleskine Cahier as my go-to book. It’s small, simple and fits in my shoulder bag.

The Cahier itself is a pretty basic book. Moleskine has a long legacy of famous users and they are readily available in a variety of local haunts. But the book itself was a little “normal” for me, which put me on the lookout for something to spice it up.

A few months ago I got a call from Arthur at Renaissance Art in New Mexico. We decided to meet in a local coffee shop, and when Arthur walked in he had the coolest shoulder bag I’ve ever seen. “You know what will happen if photographers see that?” I asked. “We all have a bag fetish that can’t be denied.” He calmly picked it up and turned it over with an expression that said, “What? “This little thing?” Inside his bag were more leather goodies, each cooler than the next. I salivated a huge pool of drool out on the table in front of me.

Toward the end of our meeting Arthur pulled out HIS Cahier notebook only his was covered in a beautiful leather cover. My eyes went shut and I began breathing in short, gasping heaves. For a brief moment I thought about mugging him in the parking lot.

So over the past few months I’ve been able to spend a bit more time at Renaissance Art and during this last visit I was able to have my own leather notebook covered, cut, trimmed, sewn and imprinted. The leather comes from Italy and is processed without the use of acids. This particular leather is thin, super soft and continues to change and weather the longer you use it.

After the cover was made and placed over the notebook I scurried around Arthur’s workshop looking for the right light to photograph it. “You should do a documentary on this book, make a picture of it every three months,” Arthur said. “Great idea but the first image will start with you.” I answered.

Over the past few days I’ve pulled this thing out at a variety of places and each time my fellow photographers begin their own drooling process. This is only the tip of the iceberg for me. I see many more leather objects in my future. Shoes, bags, covers, etc.

Experiencing the birth of my Smogranch cover turned out to be more than just time spent in the workshop. Not only an expert on all things leather, it turns out that Arthur is also an expert on tea. A short tea experience followed the leather experience and I was exposed to some of the best tea I’ve ever had. People, there are many parts of this experience I wish to share with you, beyond the fact I now have a nice leather cover for my journal. This beauty was made by hand, which for me is so important. In an age of instant everything, an age of mass-produced, sterile, cheap foreign goods, the idea of getting something made by hand is all-powerful. Whether it be a print made in the darkroom, a pair of shoes cobbled by hand or leather bag made to house your beloved M9, for me it makes a HUGE difference. This process is also about slowing down and enjoying the experience of the process. We could have had tea in the parking lot, banged down some cheap leaves, but we didn’t. We took our time, used no less than four different tea cups and Arthur even added in some flute while he was explaining the tea and the reasons behind why it is prepared the way it is. I guess it boils down to intent, to purpose and to meaning.

Okay, and for those of you looking for the bag…….next to my boots.

Spooky Good Call

Time to blow my own horn.

Yep, you heard me. Time to talk some smack.

So, I’m in the grocery store with my wife. She is picking up her dented cans of cream of mushroom soup and I’m digging for my head cheese, when suddenly I look toward the check out and see a rack full of magazines.

As we get closer, I see that one of the magazines is Outside, a popular read that most of you are, I’m sure, well aware of.

“Sam Jones shot that cover,” I said, from fifty feet away.

“What?” my wife asked losing patience with my incessant chatter.

“That cover was shot by Sam Jones, I can tell from all the way over here,” I repeated.

“Whatever,” she said rolling her eyes in disgust.

The guy in front of us was that guy who waits for the checker to tell him the total before he actually begins the great quest to find his wallet, so I had some time to kill.

I picked up the magazine and flipped through the first few pages.

As I did I saw another image, this time black and white, and said, “Yep, I frickin guarantee this is Sam Jones.”

At the bottom of the following pages, “Cover image by Sam Jones.”

“You are incredible,” my wife said, now suddenly warming to the idea that she had actually married me all those years ago.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” I said. Then I hit her with “I left my wallet at home,” erasing any positive position I had created.

The moral? Sam Jones shoots good pictures. I know his work. He has a style.

He’s a cool guy. I met him once, had a beer, talked a little shop. He didn’t strike me as a huge crew, big production, cutting edge type of guy. He was just about making good pictures yes, but you can tell by his images he has a REAL relationship with those he is working with. His pictures look like friends hanging out.

And, he isn’t just a photographer. Musician. Filmmaker(real one.) Artist. Writer. Probably a dad or brother or something along those lines too. He’s the dude that blows it for all of us who are doing just the one thing.

But enough heaping praise. Back to the style thing. Find one. Make one. Don’t copy it. Dig for it.

And here’s to guys like Sam doing what he does, and for total freaks of nature like me who can spot it a mile away.