I find myself fantasizing about Teun pulling me aside and telling me he has to work with me on my book and that I must stay in touch with him as it develops. Rational me knows this won't happen, primal me fuels my lizard heart with visions of unbridled success and the legions of (female)fans it will bring. Rational me knows better. And then there is something that hovers between the rational and the primal. “It could happen... couldn’t it?” whispers up out of the divide.
It is a month on from the Photobook Masterclass I took. I meant to post these thoughts a long time ago, but was so behind from vacation and then the class, that I couldn't pull it together until now. It was an excellent class and I would recommend it to anyone in the throws of making a photography book.
September 27, 2016
Beacon NY - NYC
I am on the 7:04 am train heading to Grand Central Station. From there, the #5 subway uptown to the Bronx. I am on my way to photography joy and sorrow. I am on my way to find out if my work is as strong as I believe it is.
Teun van der Heijden, the book designer leading the class along with Ying Ang, is amazing. He is a master sequencer. I haven’t seen anything like it before. What he can do with a confusing pile of several hundred photographs in an hour blows my mind.
It will be my turn today. I am nervous, confident, excited and apprehensive in turns.
I have been committed to a set of rules for making an edit of my photographs. I wonder if my rules will be questioned. Having observed the editing of the work of my classmates, my gut says they will. And if they are, what happens to the foundations and skeletal structure of the work? What happens to the discipline of making the work?
So many of the projects presented yesterday were about serious and important issues. Drones over the Gaza, indigenous peoples being forced off their resource rich land in India, Islamic gorilla fighters on the India/Pakistan border, most of whom have been killed during the documenting process. The photographers have risked their lives to tell the stories they are telling. I am left feeling my work is self indulgent navel gazing. Who will care? What exactly am I adding to the universe that is of use to anyone but me?
There are so many examples of compelling stories selling the work. Ying witnessed a double murder when she was young. Her book, Gold Coast, is about that and the place where it happened. The photographs are very good, the story helps to sell the work.
I think back on the year a young woman submitted a photographic essay on her tendency to self mutilate and won the CPW Fellowship award.
I remember another set of photographs made by a woman while in a psychiatric hospital that deservedly got widespread recognition.
In all these cases, recognition was deserved on artistic merit alone, but I wonder if a quiet body of work about questions of existence can compel at all. And then I think about “The Solitude of Ravens.” Yes it can.
I find myself fantasizing about Teun pulling me aside and telling me he has to work with me on my book and that I must stay in touch with him as it develops. Rational me knows this won't happen, primal me fuels my lizard heart with visions of unbridled success and the legions of (female)fans it will bring. Rational me knows better. And then there is something that hovers between the rational and the primal. “It could happen, couldn’t it?” whispers up out of the divide.
September 28, 2016
Beacon NY - Bronx NY
I saw it coming. In witnessing the presentations of work the day before, I knew the rules I make and organize my work by would be called into question, deconstructed. I knew it would happen, I just didn’t think I would be so undone by it. My whole framework of producing and organizing “the work” came tumbling down, or so it felt.
How do I find my bearings now? How do I organize the making and dissemination of the work? What is the future of the process, the walks, the meditations?
I can, of course, reject the critique, but somewhere I feel it might be right. And what is the use of outside critique if you choose to ignore it altogether?
My photographs are beautiful it was said. But I haven’t produced the beautiful edit.
Teun sequenced my work in a way I have often tried, but never been able to do. I like it. I have ambivalent feelings about it too. It feels like it is bringing a way of working to an end.
October 10, 2016
I was unable to print my book and assemble it on the last day of class as intended. A combination of technical problems, theirs and mine. Even if they had not had their problems I would have mine. Teun offered to meet with me anyway if I completed the book dummy before they left the city. I had two weeks to get it together.
I’ve done that. I have reached out and set up a meeting. I will go see them on the twelfth. I am wondering what we will discuss. I guess my objective would be to get some thoughts on how it might improve. I want to submit it to the Davis Orton book call for entries. Due in another week.
October 12, 2016
Well, as it turned out, Teun and his partner Sandra decided they wanted an afternoon in the country, so they came to see me! I was thrilled at that turn of events and willfully read way more into it than was warranted. They came and saw the book, had some suggestions, but they did not proclaim they would take it on as a project as my feverish fantasies imagined they would. Ok, I knew better. I always do, but it doesn’t stop the primal fantasy machine.
Mostly we hung out, had lunch, went for a walk by the river, talked about this and that. It was good. Getting to know one another a bit. Teun said to keep in touch.
I will do that and maybe, just maybe, I can keep myself from reading too much into the suggestion.