WHY ARE YOU SPEAKING TO ME?

In Martin Scorsese’s documentary about Bob Dylan (No Direction Home), one of the folk singers he interviews says that in the early days of the Greenwich Village folk scene the question one musician would ask another, when talking about some other musician, was, “Did he (sic) have anything to say?”. That struck a chord with me because when I look (and feel) at art that’s what I’m looking for: Do you have anything to say?

Another question I ask myself is: Why are you speaking to me? And that question, why?, is a minefield when it comes to the arts.

Do you do it for status? For money? Is it a career choice, one where you’ll subvert what’s really on your mind in order to hit the trendy sweet spot? Maybe (and here we come full circle) you have nothing much to say but have developed a platform to say it.

I hear the word “art” bandied about with almost total abandon, people often call the most banal, crafty busy-work “my art”.

We all know that these days reality seems to be what you want it to be or what you say it is. We decry the fact that for some (invariably the “others”) truth is not truth and “their” perspective and beliefs seem to be based on some totally foreign (to us) foundation. And once (if) we get past our emotional, knee-jerk reactions we wonder why.

I say it’s time to apply that same scrutiny to ourselves, to our motives and to why we say what we say.

PROOF

Got the proof of After the Fact this week. Looks bang-on to me.

It’s now on the press and I expect to take delivery by the end of this week.

Here’s some pix of the cover and the inside cover with the dust jacket removed . . .

It’s an edition of 200 and already more than 2/3 sold. (Thanks to all the folks who have supported this project.) Get your copy here.

FORM, FUCTION. FUNCTION, FORM

I’m pretty sure Paul, who is designing After the Fact, is going to send me the first final PDF today.

But it’s not like seeing this first final PDF will shed a whole new light on the thing. After all, the design of After the Fact is very minimal, pared down. So what I’ll be seeing today will be nuance and refinement, not revolution.

You see, the layout, the way the photos are displayed on the pages, the spreads and the turns has already been figured out and dummied-up, shown to all sorts of people and reconfigured and revised again and again. That conclusion was reached weeks ago. The design Paul is attaching to the book is in the type treatment. And there’s not much type to treat.

Anyway . . . for the last few weeks I’ve been questioning those layout and look-and-feel decisions. You see, there is no fancy binding here, no crazy layout, no fold-out pages or complicated architecture to the book, no clamshell case or slipcover. No, the layout and design are simple and straightforward.

There seems to be a trend these days in the photobook world to gussy your book up, to add some¬†deluxe and/or complicated scheme. Sometimes that works really well, the complications do enhance to book. On the other hand, sometimes the flair constructed into photobooks seems superfluous. Not to mention that with some of them it looks like you’d need, like, four hands and a big table to lay the thing on just in order to look at it.

So where (and when) should form outrank function? Should you add complication just because you can? What’s the difference between being trendy and having style? Does the design trickery add to the books’ thesis, or subtract from it?

All these thoughts and questions are rattling through my brain as I get set to finalize After the Fact and put it on the press. And after all that agonizing, wondering if its form is too plain, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that what this work needs and wants is simplicity. The content of the photos, their look and feel, the order they are in and the story they tell should do the heavy lifting.

You can order a copy of After the Fact here.

PERMANENT

Coming to a conclusion, it seems to me, is one of the most difficult things in photography. To know when you’re done shooting, and to edit and sequence the images you have, to arrive at your point can be nerve-wracking.

Of course, if you put your edit online you can change your mind in a day or two, or in two months, no biggie . . . you just make the changes. With a photobook, on the other hand, once its printed there’s no going back,¬† it’s all locked down, permanent.

And that certainly sharpens your mind.

Now that enough money has been raised to turn After the Fact into a book I find myself in this place . . . finalizing my conclusion. Up to now it has just been a dummy. Image order, print quality, and a million design details were always in the back of my mind. Now I must move them forward, fret, second, third and fourth guess.

The zen dudes will tell you: “First thought, best thought”. In photography that most often, but not always, applies when you are there on the ground shooting. The edit/sequence process, though, requires a second and a third and a fourth and a hundredth thought. Shifting one image will cause a cascade of further changes, will skew meaning and flow, will alter the course of what’s come before and of what will follow.

So I’m having a hard, hard look at the “final” dummy of After the Fact (which I’m quite happy with) and intend to explore some nuances.

For instance, I remember when I was sequencing I was torn between these two images:

The top one is the one that’s in the dummy. The bottom one, I thought, too closely resembled an image which appears 3 or 4 pages later. But, seeing as there are repetitions and echos throughout the book, I’m now having a rethink.

Just like I’m having a final rethink about the whole thing. I’m nervous and excited and can hardly wait.

If you missed out on the Kickstarter you can still order the book here.