First Book Prototype Is In


The first prototype of the book is out and it came back in the mail. I mean I uploaded a couple of PDFs and then someone printed it for me and sent it back. It’s just a prototype; an experiment to put the book form and structure into conversation with the photography.

That’s AmeeJay doing her wicked front smith on the cover. Hunter Long’s doing hers on the back. That’ll be the next project — a book of nothing but Smith Grinds. Oohfah.

What do I mean by that? How does a book have a conversation with photography?

Well – what I hope to accomplish with going through the trouble and expense of printing one copy of a book is to figure out what I am doing, not doing or could be doing with the photography. When I’m taking photos, I’ve largely been thinking about exposure and shot timing and a bit about composition of course. ((I’m old-fashioned — I use a viewfinder..I figure it’s there for a reason.))

The prototype is a conversation starter, really. I can put it in people’s hands and get their feedback. That’d be different if I just had people look at photos on a computer screen or the prints up on the wall in the studio. Those things are useful, too — but they can’t really help a conversation about the “book” project itself.

When I started laying out the book — actually the first, first version, even before this one you see here — I realized some simple little things like: I mostly shoot landscape, which I think is natural. But the book aspect ratio I instinctively selected was portrait. Now — that’s fine. A portrait orientation book doesn’t mean all the photography has to be portrait as well. But — it forced me to consider the orientation I was using and begin to experiment with portrait. That’s a good thing! That’s what I mean by putting the book form into conversation with the photography.

If I had waited until the end of the year, I may never have realized this or lots of other things.

Top little “conversations” the prototype has started.

10. Paper really matters. I paid extra for the one-off prototype to have the good photo paper. It’s good. It’s too heavy though. Consider the weight. And all that.

9. This “grid” thing — it was new to me. My graphic design/type design mentor told me I should think about it. I had to look and figure out what it refers to and now I have a pile of cool books to peruse. ((Mea culpa: I’ve got horrible graphic/type design kwan.)) Now I found one at least to start with that allows me to use more photographs that are more “behind the scenes” to help tell the story. For this prototype, I learned it’s okay to take more of those photos, and keep a second camera around to give to others to take photos of the set ups and stuff.

8. Composition. In order to fill the frame with awesomeness, I find that I get as close as I can and often move as I get a sense of where the shot is going to happen as the skater is rolling. This makes cropping difficult. It may be okay to not fill the frame.

7. Tricks. I lust after Smith Grinds. Good, bad, sloppy..doesn’t matter. There may need to be a Smith Grind section — or maybe that’s another book project. In any case, ask for more of them. Become an expert.

6. Story. A book of skateboarding shouldn’t be a book of only skateboarding photography. The things in and around that show more of the personality of the skaters is important, too. What’s going on before hand? What was the trip to the spot like? What’s the setup and the production? Where’d you go for lunch? What’s home life like? Who *are you?

5. Form. There’s something particular to girls skateboarding and their skating postures and expressions and sensibilities that are distinct to their sport. This is a way to show the girls skateboarding on their own terms, not in relation to guys. They’re not good skaters “for girls” — they are what they are as themselves. Something in the form is distinct and something no one else could do. Duncan and I talked about that whilst flipping through the book.

4. Juxtaposition. Two images that are similar (trick/posture/etc.) on adjacent pages is a bad idea. It’s distracting. It makes things indistinct.

3. Typography. The text was too heavy or big or something. And perhaps the wrong font. And it went too close to the border of the page. And when it was on my grid under a photo which, of course, has a straight vertical edge it looks weird when the text has a jagged boundary.

2. Illustration? There’s room to illustrate somehow. I’m not sure what — interpretation, schematics, ? It’d be cool to at least commission someone to think about it and try it out, I think. As ancillary aesthetics or something? Marginalia?

1. Length/Size/Weight. I feel like I tried to get lots in, maybe too much considering I didn’t know what story I wanted to tell. But — there were 118 pages and considering this is halfway through the project, even if I was more editorial and cut stuff or something, I could get quite large if I go another six months as the project plan says. So — volumes? A quarterly series/edition that lasts for a year?

0. What else? Well — I still think about the book as a bit of a white lie in the sense that the project *may end up with a book in the conventional sense. But — I also think of the hassles of book production, publishing and the thought of ending up with a garage full of unsold books is not quite what I imagine the result of the project being. It need not be a book in the end, is what doing the book prototype made me continue to think about.

-1. Time-based imagery. I actually thought about this more and more. *shrug.

-2. Someone said that there’s too much text! Awesome! I think this should be more photo-y and less yammer-y

-3. And then I heard that it seems like there are almost too many photographs.

-4. I also heard that images bigger would be nice. Want to see “more of it” — but spanning across the binding crease or whatever the technical term

That’s it.

Oh. I used Blurb. The full deal — spare no expense and all that. Best paper. It’s 118 pages all in. Full image wrap on the cover. I wanted to see what counts for “top-end”. It cost a bit more than $70 for one, print-on-demand. Came back in about 10 days or so.

I want to try another one with lesser parameters – maybe soft cover and paper that’s not so heavy.

Oh, the other thing is the title. That’s a working title, but the idea was to make a distinction between what skateboarding was in the popular imaginary and what it is now, and this is something different. But — the working title changed last week to something more like “I wanna do that” — which is something I’ve heard a few times when asking some girls why they got into skateboarding..usually something along the lines of having watched some guys when they were younger and then thinking to themselves — “Hey. I wanna do that!”.

*shrug. We’ll see how it tests.

Why do I blog this?Good work doing the prototype. A bit rough, but still *very satisfying. It’s important to make things. Less yammering, more hammering and all that.

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