The Leica File Thirteen

Hey folks, a little something different here. I’ve posted this image before, as part of a story about my travels to Peru. I am by no means a landscape photographer, but there is something about this image that I absolutely love. I wanted to explain what this is, and also how this image fits into the realities of covering something like the Amazon with a Leica rangefinder. Please follow the “travels” link above and see how this image fits into the overall context of the photo-essay. Also, listen to the Macaw soundtrack again, if you haven’t before because one of the surprising things about the Amazon is how loud it is.

Peru black and white. 2011

Blurb Custom Books: Standard/Custom

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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“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.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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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!

Gig Magazine

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Welcome to Gig Magazine. I dig the Hell out of this. One guy, a desire and boom….a magazine. I keep waiting to see more of these efforts so get off your butts and make one. I’ve done two in the past month, but am working on my next “official” version which might be for sale….

From the “about” tab.

“gig MAGAZINE is unique because each issue features only one band at one gig.

The goal of gig MAGAZINE is to bring attention to the band, the venue, as well as the people in the background that work to make the gig happen and connect them with the fans. Our magazine is not filled with ads, each issue is 12 pages, has about 10 photographs and an interview with the band. The issues will also include contact information for the band, venue, and promoters involved to make the gig happen.”
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This beast is the brainchild of one Justin Thor Simenson of Nuevo Mexico. I thought it would be a stellar idea to drop him a few questions and pick his brain about life, love and the merger of music and magazine.
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1. Who are you? What are you?

My name is Justin Thor Simenson. I am a photographer based in Albuquerque. I photograph long term projects as well as live performances.

2. Why Gig? What is the story behind the music?

After shooting quite a few shows and reviewing my photos I realized that the story of just a single show was well worth telling. gig MAGAZINE is about a single artist at a single show. That brings a certain weight and meaning behind that show and all the effort involved in it. I also do my interviews at the show. That makes them relevant. they are open conversations that I record. I do try to talk about the artists’ creative drive or something relative to the show they played. Their words combined with about 10 to 12 photos make up the magazine.

3. Why Blurb?

I had some experience with MagCloud before gig. I had used them to make a catalog for a friend and some digest sized books for myself. I knew that the magazine size was perfect for gig because it is such a traditional size to hold. MagCloud, now Blurb, also offers an easy to use marketplace for me to sell them in both digitally and in print. Plus the price is amazing.

4. What’s the short term and long term goal?

Short term I plan to cover Albuquerque’s local music scene and New Mexico’s venues. I am still working through tweaks in the layout and different ways to distribute the printed versions locally. Albuquerque has some great talent and I feel gig MAGAZINE can help them with exposure.

Long term I would love to collaborate with other photographers around the country. I know there are other towns and cities that have great musicians and great venues just waiting to be shared with the world. I would also love to collaborate with local venues to create unique issues of the magazine.
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5. What would you like to see improved, changed or added?

It would be great to have the option of different paper selections for the cover. gig MAGAZINE is only 12 pages and because of that having a slightly heavier stock on the cover or a matte finish would be awesome.

Also, I look forward to working in Blurb’s Bookwright software. I have been creating my issues in an older version of Apple’s Pages because the new one has some ridiculous limitations for magazine layout. I am not a designer by any means and I want something that is straight forward, I hear Bookwright will be a step in that direction for me. And after further consideration and after downloading Bookwright….Justin added this thought. Actually there is one thing I would like Blurb to add. After I downloaded and installed Bookwright I realized that Blurb magazines doesn’t allow 12 page magazines. MagCloud has a stapled edge option that allows me to do my 12 page magazine and is a bit cheaper than the perfect edge.

I would also like to see a thicker cover or a matte finish cover option added. That would make the magazine stand out a bit more.

6. Influences? Who are the folks turning you on creatively?

My biggest music photography influence has to be Douglas Kent Hall hands down. His photographs from the 60′s and 70′s are amazing. There are quite a few current music photographers I follow, Peter Pabon, Erez Avissar , and Jesse Littlebird Because of the other work I photograph I also pull a lot from the fine art world and Fraction Magazine.

Hey, look at me!!

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This is a stupid action pose I’ve been doing since 1999. It means “Ce lo fata,” in Italian which stands for “I’ve done it.” It’s an inside joke. And yes I’m holding a f%$%$## mobile phone….BUSTED.

For a guy who has been a photographer for a lot of years it is remarkable how few images I have of myself. I use an avatar photo that is at least 14-years-old. No joke. It’s really the only portrait I have. I’ve got some photos I could never show you, but who doesn’t. I’ve done some horrible things and luckily there are some photos that exist of such things.

In fact, I just ran into two people I hadn’t seen in 15 years, and the first thing they said to me was “Hey, remember such and such night?” I cringed, but part of me was grinning and savoring the details of the illicit events that transpired those moons ago.
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Just as I prefer to be, out of focus.

But hey, in keeping with the modern “Look at me!” culture I thought I would post a few images of ME just for the Hell of it and because someone sent them to me. I cropped them into squares for no apparent reason.

This is me. If you feel queasy just aim for the bushes. Photos courtesy of AK FOTO.

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I love this because it makes me look like I have a huge gut. I’ve always wanted a gut but have never been able to build one no matter what I eat. Damnit. That’s not product on my hair, it’s dirt.

Blurb Custom Books

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The last few months at Blurb have been as entertaining as any since I’ve been around the company, and my history dates back to the 2006 era when things were just getting started. In a ONE MONTH period we announced offset printing, custom books, Blurb to Amazon, pick-and-pack and the Magcloud event. ONE MONTH.
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With each of these announcements comes the nuance of incorporating these into your workflow. The way I like to describe what these mean is that you can truly do whatever it is you want to do. Want to print offset and POD together? Perhaps using the offset for your trade edition and POD for your limited edition? Go head. What to do an offset run, a magazine and Ebook from the same project? Go for it. I’ve said this since 2006, the only thing holding us back today is us. I’ve spoken a lot about learned behavior, and in my world nothing showcases learned behavior more than traditional book publishing. Personally, I think there is A LOT of room to grow when it comes to this model. Contrary to what you might think, I love traditional publishing. I don’t see life as either/or but rather as a multitude of options. Yesterday someone sent me a link to these two beauties. Telex Iran and Magnum Contact Sheets. And I know…..I KNOW, even with a book buying gag order in place by my wife…at least ONE of these will end up on my shelf in the coming weeks. I have 350+ monographs and illustrated books on my shelf currently, and if I can predict the future, this will only continue to grow.
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Let me shine some light on the Blurb angle from MY perspective. Our new custom, offset offering is not a magic pill, but what it does allow for is you being the one in the drivers seat, which is how it should be in my humble opinion. The Blurb option is about freedom, time and flexibility. The publishing world is a bit slow and stodgy for me. I want to do what I want, when I want and how I want. Selfish? ABSOLUTELY. It is, after all, MY WORK. Also, my life can’t ever be entirely about a book. I can’t put my work on hold, my life on hold, my free time on hold and donate everything to doing a book, marketing a book and attempting to sell a book. Books are important for me, but as a photographer I feel my primary job is to make new work. I’ve seen plenty of folks put their entire life, and bank account, on hold and donate a year plus of their life to the cause. On one hand I admire the tenacity, but on the other I know, in many cases, what they have really given up. I also realize that a monograph style book (The Holy Grail) typically reaches a very small number of people. Remember, they are often times printed in runs of 3000 copies or less and many don’t sell. I need multiple streams, especially because I’m far more interested in what the public thinks, and those people IN my images, than editors, gallery owners, publishers or museum people. Again, I frequent galleries, publishers, museums, etc., but I find less and less relevance when it comes to my requirements as a photographer.(This was not always the case, and I know that my goals are different than a lot of other people and in many cases they are aiming their books at PRECISELY these people.) The good news is that all of us now have these options.
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I am a HUGE believer that WE are the media today, in whatever shape we want. WE are no longer beholden to middle men. Want to be a magazine publisher? Do it. Want to publisher your own monograph in WHATEVER form you want, with WHATEVER edit you want aimed at WHATEVER audience you want…then DO IT.
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We no longer need to be chosen. We no longer need permission, although many of us are still waiting around for it.(I truly do understand this. If feels good to be given a pat on the back.) This is where Blurb comes in. Hire the designer you want, make the edit you want, dream up a size you want and get the damn thing done, out and into the world at whatever pace you want. You are STILL going to have to pay for it, but why not pay for the book you actually want at the pace you want and for the audience you want? And speaking of audience….anyone see that post I sent out on Twitter a few weeks ago? About the 1000 true friends? THIS is what I’m talking about. A few years ago when I did my short run magazine all I did was ONE blog post. Boom, gone. Sold out. I remember thinking at the time, “You know, if I really made an effort to bond with those of you read this blog I could have probably sold 500 copies pretty easy.” I like you people, and I feel that there is a core group here that has a bond of photo-likeness. Imagine how dangerous you would be as a self-publisher with 1000 true friends and a minimum book run of 750 books.(Fewer in some cases.) But let me restate something….YOU are still going to have to pay for your book, and this is where the paradigm has also shifted. YOU are now in direct communication with you audience, and for the first time don’t need “middle-people” to accomplish you publishing goal. Presale is something I think many people need to explore MUCH further than they already have. I’ve always said your database is your most important tool. Imagine having an email list of 500 people who are your supporters. Maybe once you twice a year you send an email saying “Hey, I’m making an offset run on a book about X are you interested?” This is doable NOW. People have actually been doing this for quite a while now and so can you! Now..imagine getting the money upfront to pay for the offset run……you see where I’m going with this? El futuro nuevo!!!
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The images you see in this post are from a custom book that went through Blurb a few months ago. I know a little about this book because I shot some of the images including the one you see at the bottom. I have ONE copy of this left, one that has been difficult to keep a hold of due to the number of people who have asked to have it, buy it, etc. EVERYONE who has seen this wanted one. I gave one to a friend who has deep wine/food interests and within days someone had stolen it, always a good indicator of a book’s success in my humble opinion. I can’t imagine the process of having to do this via traditional channels. I would have simply never agreed to it. I’ve got too many others things on my plate. What you had was a soulful project, a few driven individuals and the belief the world would be a better place with this book circulating the pathways of life. The creator of this project wanted a simple, farm-to-table book that was small, crafty and intimate. He partners up chefs and winemakers, providing each pairing with their own mini-book which then combine to form the set. You can purchase them here if you are so inclined. I’ve had these books with me over the past few weeks, and can say without hesitation they have provided THE most dialogue, interest and conversation than ANY of the other books I’m currently schlepping around including all my new traditional monographs.

Finally, some advice. If you are viewing the Blurb offset approach like another traditional publisher then don’t bother. I really think you have to look at the PLATFORM. Not one piece….but ALL of the pieces. POD, offset, magazine, E, pick and pack, presale, etc, etc. Now, I can help, offer suggestions, explain what I’ve seen others do, so ping me if you want to hear my state of affairs.

We live in a time of choice, luckily, and my dream is to see talented people make the best decision. I would love to see people publish the project they have always wanted to publish, not necessarily the commercial choice, or the book they THINK they are supposed to publish. Be smart, work hard and the options are there…

Yesterday, while at the Blurb office, I began to understand that I MIGHT have an offset/custom book in my semi-near future. But people it’s gonna be WEIRD. I will be unlike any photography book I’ve seen, and I really don’t know if ANYONE outside of my mother would actually read this book. But what I realized I can do is write it, shoot it, build it, create a digital version and show it around, see if people run away or hug me and offer large wads of cash for my future publishing endeavors. It could happen….

FYI: Don’t look for custom book sizes and materials on the Blurb site, or in our software…..these are CUSTOM books. They are what you want them to be. Figure out what you want and then go here. Get a quote then go make history.

Stay tuned for more custom book stories….