Blurb Custom Books: Standard/Custom

I’m a big Frank Ockenfels fan. Frank’s not just a photographer. He’s more. So much more. First off, he’s fun. Like fun to be around. He laughs a lot and when he laughs he laughs loudly. He’s also an artist. Draws, sketches, paints every single day. I’ve seen him when he is traveling and he is never without his books and his ink. I’ve also been to his studio and found myself slowly turning as I took in the walls like a student at a planetarium. There was so much. Negatives, sketches, illustrations, bits of this and that, and yes, photographs.
Frank has had a great career, and by the looks of it is only getting better and better. He’s worked with famous people, unknowns and corners his own family as I also have a tendency of doing. I get the feeling that it’s all equally important, that the real idea is to create. You can listen to an interview with Frank here. He can explain himself far better than I.
Frank recently did a book with Blurb and I wanted to show a few snaps and share a few thoughts. This is what I call a “Standard Custom” book. This is a standard Blurb size, or existing size. 8×10. But the book has custom features. First off a white linen cover. The book also has black endsheets and a black, foil-stamped cover, both custom options. Finally, the book has a red place holder ribbon that provides a bit of color to a book that is primarily a black and white overall feel.
The ink blotches on the cover and the ink drawings….well, that’s Frank being Frank. The early copies were “customized” even further by Mr. Ockenfels and I was fortunate enough to get one. Now, one of the interesting things about this particular book, besides how awesome the content is, is that the book is a standard Blurb size.
“But Dan, what does it matter the book is a standard size?” Funny you should ask random blog reader. If the book is a standard size then you can utilize both print-on-demand and Ebook as well as offset. So, think about doing offset for your trade edition run, say 750 books, then doing a POD run of 10 to use as your LIMITED EDITION book. You could take those ten, have a slip case made, tip in a print and then customize them even further. You could, of course, just take ten of your trade books and do this, but with POD you could customize EACH and EVERY copy of the ten to provide a truly unique object.
Finally, with a standard trim size book you can also utilize the Ebook option. I know, I know, I’ve written about Ebook before, and how much it’s tweaked my mind in terms of possibility. I think at least three people read my last post about Ebook. Cowards! All I’m saying is if someone in “X” country in the world wants to read your book and we don’t ship there then PERHAPS you might have a digital version for these type folks. All I’m saying.
This book is utilizing our standard paper. Not the high end, just standard, and it looks GREAT. Some of the pages are a bit tweaked as I’ve carried this baby around, and Frank really went for it when it sketched and inked it up. When I look across my bookshelf and see this I feel like I have a UNIQUE object on my hands. And I do. It’s what I love about our newfound freedoms in publishing. Just about anything is possible.
I keep looking at these books and wondering if I can pull one off.(Yes, every photo “situation” is eventually distilled through MY filter.) Still debating. Actually still debating if I really want to even do a book. My goals and desires have changed dramatically in the past few years. And with Lyme just about everything is a battle requiring far more energy than I have to expend. But, we’ll see. Self portrait book?
This post at the very least, if you don’t know him already, will introduce you to a very important guy in our world of modern photography. Now, get out there and make something!

Because I Can : Wargames

Hey Folks,

This is the latest post in the “Because I Can” series about making Blurb books in an edition of ONE. Yes, you heard and read correctly. I’m making books with the intention of capping the print run at ONE book. Why? BECAUSE I CAN. We have really only had this option since about 2006, yet photographers ALREADY seem to take this for granted. I know, there is so much change on a daily basis that we are perpetually thirsty for the new, always wanting the latest and greatest. I get it. However, I for one cannot overlook the power in having the ability to make a single book. I wrote about this in a previous post, so if you want the background then go back and have a look. I pulled a selection from that prior post to set the table for this one. This is a series people. I’ve made at least thirteen books already and have eighteen more in the pipeline.

This little gem is one of my favorites so far. The work comes from a project I did several years ago, paintball and the combat that ensues upon the word “Go.” After receiving the book I drove it out to the paintball range and let the boys unload on it. The book was then allowed to dry then coated with a clear sealer. The entire mess lives in a black bag. Blurb wrote about this in their recent newsletter which went out earlier today.
As for the guts. Entire book was shot with Kodak TMZ.(RIP) If I remember correctly I used Contax G2’s because I knew I was probably going to get shot and it just might ruin a camera. I had three G2’s, so they were somewhat expendable. The book was super simple, 11×13, landscape, Proline Uncoated and all full bleed, double trucks. The case was made by Process Supplies. I loved the look and feel of the basic book itself, but it feels far more complete after the shooting.



The New “Smogranch” Bag

Feast your eyes on the prototype of the new “Smogranch” bag.

Handmade, hand-sewn in the wilds of Northern New Mexico. One bag, one photographer at a time. The leather comes from a tannery in Italy and is cured without acid. This leather has personality. Every time I look at this bag it looks different. Designed to be light, soft and simple. Take everything out and this bag rolls up tight or crushes down. It’s thin, simple and designed to hold ONLY the essentials. Slots on the inside and outside hold journal and iPad. Inside main pocket handles M rangefinder, audio recorder, sunglasses, wallet, small portfolio. Outside pockets hold film, pens, cards, music, etc. As you can see by the photos below, my “Smogranch” bag comes with a journal companion as well as a handmade internal “pouch” because I have so damn many loose ends. At home at work or at play, this bag will take you places you’ve never been and will do so in style. Not for the timid. Not for the weak. Boy bands, political pundits and safety freaks need not apply. This prototype was talked out, designed, cut, sewn and eventually born via the fingers of a true master as the moon shown full and the landscape did battle with the elements.

There are many slight changes in the works for this bag. A little more here, a little less there. Like anything organic, I must live with it, learn it and deliver it to the master once again.

Moments after sliding it over my shoulder for the first time the world took on new flavor. And faintly, in the distance, I could hear coyotes yipping and cackling just outside the light from the fire.

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… 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.