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Much excitement at Nutt Acres this weekend as the long-threatened, physical version of No Constructive Conclusions arrived. A couple of people were interested in the process of creating it and so I thought I’d write it down…
In case you missed it, the project was the work of three photographers, Wojtek from Poland, Pavel from the Czech Republic and me, from England. We met through Flickr and were among several people invited to Poland by Wojtek, to shoot the area around his hometown of Katowice. We each travelled to meet Wojtek at different times and didn’t meet each other, but recorded the region in our own way.
We first showed the resulting pictures in January at the AMI Gallery in Wrocław, PL and since then in Katowice and Frydek-Místek, CZ. At that first show, I promised to create a book of the work, to act as a keep-sake for the three of us as much as anything. It took me 9 months to get around to it.
I had in mind a Blurb book, thinking that only the three of us might want a copy, but through the year bought a number of ‘zines or small books (booklets?) from the likes of Out of Place Books, Another Place Press and one-offs from other artists, and so began to investigate this more accessible (and fashionable) format.
Another reason for going for a ‘zine rather than a book was that I thought it might be useful to have something that I could send out to potential hosts of a UK show* for the pictures. We’d be able to get 25 copies for the price of a couple of hardback books and might even be able to sell a few to help fund reprinting of the pictures for that exhibition.
After a little Google research, I found myself playing with the book builder on Mixam.co.uk website. I already had the picture files saved to a folder in a similar format, and so could upload them easily. Only after trying to rearrange and edit the files did I find that the best method is to rename the files in order that you’d like them to appear.
Also, editing the aspect ratio to suit the selected page size saves a bit of time and frustration later as you use the occasionally clunky interface.
I spent a bit of time making sure that the images that would face each other in the book ‘worked’ together. I designed a cover, adding a little text to a crop of one of Pavel’s pictures, and copied across PDF versions of Word documents containing the text that we’d cobbled together a couple of days before that first exhibition, translating it into two other languages.
I thought about if it should be in landscape or portrait format, final opting for landscape. I like books like this to be portrait shaped, but that would have meant making the images considerably smaller. The detail in all of the scenes included, especially Wojtek’s large format (4″x5″ negatives), demanded to be reproduced as large as possible.
The bit I really didn’t understand is why Mixam consolidates your uploads into a single file, reducing the flexibility of the editing tools on their site. This isn’t too much of a problem if you named things as I suggested above and carefully prepare before uploading, but took me a while to get the hang of. It seems a sensible thing to do once editing has finished, but not while you still want to change things.
What is very good on the Mixam site is the proofing tool. Once files are uploaded and arranged, Mixam generate the artwork that looks exactly how you’ll receive it when printed (artwork for this project is here). It also allows you to share a proof with collaborators before committing to ordering.
There’s some kind of parallel to the engineer’s mantra of ‘measure twice, cut once’ in that you need to make sure that everything is perfect before you click the order button. Outside of business hours, you have a little time to go back and edit the file before manufacturing starts, but I’d suggest creating the book and then saving your final version. Then go and sleep.
Come back to the artwork fresh and you may find that you discover glaring errors, that you just didn’t spot after spending hours looking at it previously.
Done that? OK, now you can order.
The books I ordered were A5, had no cover and were made up of 32 pages with a staple binding, silk finish 130gsm paper. The first 25 copies cost £40 including delivery, or £1.60 each. Where I’ve sold them, I’ve asked for a fiver with all profits going back into the fund to print the work for our UK show*).
I ordered on a Sunday night and had them by Friday lunchtime (the printing plant is in Watford, so shipping was quick to me), and I’m really pleased with the results. The image quality is excellent, the paper good quality and is everything aligned and cut perfectly.
I didn’t think about preparing the images for printing. They’re just straight out of Lightroom with no sharpening or colour enhancement, but they look terrific (and it’s all about the pictures afterall). The text is a touch small, but readable.
Physical copies of our ‘zine arrived and they look awesome!
Read about the project here and give me a shout if you’d like a copy…https://t.co/hznwYcWyO5#NoConstructiveConclusions #zine pic.twitter.com/8XtqOReUly
— Barnaby Nutt (@BarnabyNutt) November 17, 2017
I dropped a couple of messages on Twitter, telling people what I was up to and was pleasantly surprised that other people were interested in seeing the results.
Within a couple of days, they were all gone! Both Pavel and Wojtek had a few, as did our first exhibition host and the guy that created the posters for the shows, but otherwise, they went out to people who were just interested in the project.
My hope was that even if people didn’t really like the photos inside, it might spark them into creating their own ‘zine, book or even a show, and putting something physical back into the world as a an end result to their photography practice.
Feedback has been great. I’ve been delighted by the response to the work, but even more so by the number of recipients who’ve asked about how it was created, what site I used, the costs etc. with a view to putting together their own books.
I’m not going to be all holier-than-thou about printing your stuff because I’m rubbish at it myself. What I can tell you though, is EVERY time I do get my pictures printed, as a book or just a print, it feels very special. I’ve been making small books for the family for a few years and still love finding one tucked away on a bookshelf somewhere and browsing through it for the first time in a couple of years…
YOU should try it!
*I’m hoping to show the work in the UK somewhere and to help promote it, have created the ‘zine you can see above. If you’d like a physical copy then please let me know.
If you’d like to show the exhibition, then I’d be even happier to hear from you…