I’ve been a photographer for a long while now, but during the past twenty odd years I’ve also held other positions in the industry. I worked for Kodak and during that time I was “The Kodak Guy.” Many people didn’t know my actual name. People would just see me coming and their brains would register yellow boxes and odd colored golf shirts, something the company was very fond of handing out. You have never seen so many hideous colors. Now I work for Blurb, and there are those of you out there who know me as “The Blurb Guy.” I don’t mind this one bit. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. For me, the ability to make my own book is the single most important aspect of the entire digital revolution. I think there are those of you who feel the same, or at least you feel the significance of this idea, and there are those of you who are not as interested in the book idea. It’s all good.
Earlier today I was on the phone with someone and they asked me about Blurb. I gave them a rundown. They asked about my job and the word “evangelist” came up. During my Kodak days I hated this term because I always felt it came hand in hand with the idea that the “evangelist” was there to provide nothing but glowing reviews and information in regard to the product the “evangelist” was pimping. That wasn’t me. I was honest. You shoot front-lit surfing at high-noon, Fuji Velvia was the film for you. Hands down. Honesty in field reps was somewhat new in those days. It’s not that field reps weren’t honest, they were, but companies, especially those like Kodak, were pretty hardline. Heck, a lot of them still are. But for me, I knew that photographers would never trust me if I bullshitted them. Being truthful was easier and more fun.
These days, as I travel the world with the Blurb torch, I also run into the “evangelist” title, but this time around I actually embrace it. When people ask me what I do for Blurb my mind stops for a brief second. I do many thing at, with, for Blurb, so narrowing it down into one simple sentence can be tricky. I don’t ever say “evangelist” but if someone comes out with it, I’ll agree. In short I work with people like you, but what I do, in my humble opinion, goes well beyond evangelism. My job is not to tell you what to do. My job is to inform, educate and show. I was going to say, “I not only work at the company but I’m a customer,” but someone already took that line. Damnit.
As you would expect, I spend much of my time talking about books, both physical and eBook. I also spend a great deal of time consuming books. For me, at this point in time, almost entirely physical books, both illustrated and wordy, but I can feel the looming presence of “E” around the corner. I just started Murakami’s “1984.” I feel that much of what I do for Blurb is educate people about the Blurb process and about what a book means. What is it? How do you edit? How do you sequence? Do you want to sell it? How do you promote it? These are the kind of things I deal with on a regular basis. As you all know, I come from the photography world, NOT the book world, so over the past five years I’ve tried to learn as much as humanly possible. I’m NOT a book designer, so I have to give my guidance as an opinion rather than fact, but I think most people seem to understand this. In short, I love this work and find helping you with your book as satisfying as doing my own. Crazy? Probably. What can I say, I’m a SAINT.
The book in the photographs above is my latest, “Chamba” which is a look at my black and white Leica work from Peru. I like this book a lot but I will tell you right now, I had no grand plans for this little publication. I simply wanted to create a book of the images, a book that would force me, or allow me, to sit with the photographs and apply some critical thought. I find this process absolutely critical when it comes to making a body of work.
This second set of photographs if from another recent “book” comprised of images from Uruguay. This isn’t a book. It might look like a book, smell like a book, taste like a book or call itself a book, but it’s not. It’s just a sketch, a mental exercise, an idea. It’s a failed relationship. It’s a winning lottery ticket. It’s a long lost friend. It’s a betrayal. It’s a hit and run. It’s jury duty. It answers a few things. But people here it is, in print, physical and capable of giving me a paper cut. It’s real. Tangible. It makes me think. It makes me relive. It makes me nervous because I know how grand it was to BE there and make these images. This “book” is about the book but it’s about so much more, and this is the point I want to get across to you. Quit stalling and do it. Make something. Make a Blurb book [EVANGELIST WARNING: DEFCON 1} or a book from you own hands, or alternative vendor of choice. Just do it.
As you can see here, and by the top image, these are all Blurb 6×9 books, my new favorite size and flavor. I posted the top image because I want you to see how many of these I have, and this photo only represents a few. I don’t just make these books I USE them, and I USE them all the time. It is rare that I don’t have at least two of these with me. Tomorrow I work with young school kids and these books will accompany me. Last week I was in New Mexico, Blurbing it and working on a long-term project and that black “Wildness” book in the center was in my bag and in my car the entire time. In fact, I loaned out TWO copies of this book, just on this last trip alone. It’s a calling card. It’s a permission slip. It’s evidence. It’s proof of desire. People get it and they respect it and it opens doors. Am I going to sell 5000 copies and make a name for myself? No. Not even close. That’s not the point of these little babies. These books are about coming full circle. KNOWING I can make these books is enough to push me even harder to go out and actually make images. These books force me to edit. These books force me to sequence. These books force me to write, to explain myself and they force me to WONDER. Have you even leaned way back and looked up at the clouds and sky. I’m guessing yes, so you know the feeling. That’s what it’s like when you get these in the mail. The clouds move faster than you think and the blue is bluer than you ever imagined.
I have another one of these books, the 6×9 softcover, in the works. This next book is about New Mexico and it is a direct result of being in the field, showing my existing book, explaining myself and knowing there is a need for a new book. Already my heart is beating a little faster. My mind flickers to hard drives, scanners, negatives and all the options that live before me. What are you waiting for?