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Back in December, I put together a zine of the work Wojtek, Pavel and I created for our No Constructive Conclusions exhibition and followed that with Nighttime Adventures in Neopan – a collection of nighttime, TLR shots by Dan Smith and I.
As it was January, a time of resolutions and unlikely ambitions, I got carried away and decided that, as I was already 2/12ths in, I’d have a go at creating a ‘publication’ each month for twelve months. I have a few ideas for projects shot in a day and event based publications, but I’m hoping that several can be collaborations (give me a shout if you fancy it). Like the Neopan work with Dan, our pictures were shot on the same film, using similar technology (or lack of it) and all at night, and so it worked as a set.
The idea built on a feeling that I’ve had in recent years that I didn’t really have an end result for my photography and needed to do something about it. I was keen that whatever it was, the result should be a physical thing – I should return the pictures back into the world, rather than them just languishing on my hard-drive. Twitter doesn’t count and Flickr seems to by dying a slow death, and both of these outlets, while fun, sociable places to hang out, were still just 0s and 1s.
I wanted to produce books, prints or products that were cheap enough for people to take a punt on, and the sort of thing that would hang around the house for a few days before being put away on a shelf or in a drawer somewhere. But (and here’s where the magic happens) because they were a physical thing, they could be found in a few years time. While looking for something else, people might stumble across them and have five minutes discovering the work all over again – something that’s never going to happen on TwInstaFlickr.
I believe that the resurgent ‘zine movement is a powerful one, particularly as a reaction to the ethereal and temporary nature of our social media feeds, and I hoped that other people might feel the same way. As a result, I’ve tried to be active in encouraging people to put their own work out in some form and offering help and advice where I could regarding the processes as I’d discovered them.
And so my ‘release’ for February was Fabryka, a photozine featuring pictures made in various post-industrial spaces across Europe, shot over the last few years. I’m drawn to these places; fascinated by the way that they show their history.
I’ve worked in the same factory for 27 years and sometimes imagine how it might look to a future version of me, a visiting photographer, twenty years after it has been abandoned and how the history of the factory and the passing of my colleagues and I will be visible in the remains. I’m interested in the idea that employees like me (and the 600 others) can spend so much of their life in a place, and place that is so central to their life, and yet at some point it’ll become redundant, empty and decayed.
When I came to put the book together, I had learned from the previous two and other zines and books that I’d bought in the last few months from Twitter buddies and various small publishers. I was keen to present these tired, abandoned, decaying places in a clean, consistent way. While the images are dark and grainy, they are surrounded by a crisp, white border; the cover has block text with sharp edges. I standardised the 3:2 landscape format too. All in an effort to allow the viewer to concentrate on the mood created by the pictures, rather than my design choices.
The pictures themselves had been taken with both film and digital cameras. I treated each picture with similar processing as I wanted to impart some of the mood that I feel in these places that for the most part were visited on cold, winter days with little daylight. Despite the varying technique and equipment, I wanted the collection to have a cohesion and consistency.
Creating books teaches you a whole new dimension to photography. Having to sequence pictures into a flow, even if that means discarding a favourite image, is a challenge. Choosing what paper to use, how the cover is going to look and feel, and even how the book will be bound are all design decisions that will add to the result and make the difference between a collection of pictures that are thrown together, and something a little more satisfying.
Maybe I’m taking myself too seriously, but either way, the design and creation part of the process is something that I’ve really enjoyed and found tremendously satisfying.
I’ve sold more than 200 copies of the first three zines but made only enough money from them to be able to give a few away to people that have inspired or helped me to make the work. I’ve tried to sell at a price that means people will buy them and be pleasantly surprised by what they got for their money. (Because Fabryka was printed on heavy paper and a thick cover, it came in at more than 100g, meaning that the Royal Mail treat it as a ‘large letter’. That means posting a copy to the USA for example costs £4.75!).
The satisfaction that comes from opening the box when it arrives from the printers and seeing the finished article for the first time is incredible, as is the feeling when people get in touch to tell you why they enjoyed the thing that you’ve created.
Next up is something completely different.
Last year, I spent the middle Sunday of February following our daughter around, taking pictures of ‘A Day In the Life’. I put these together into a Blurb book and had one copy printed for my wife as a mother’s day present.
I spent the middle Sunday of this February following my daughter around again, this time shooting her day on film (as it turned out, that roll of Agfa Vista that I thought I was using was actually Precisa!). The pictures have been processed, scanned and printed and I’ve begun making them into a hand-bound book that will be this year’s gift, once I’ve learned and practised stab-binding a few more times.
There’ll be another post here at some point, explaining how I went about it and sharing the results…
I still have a few copies of all three zines. If you’d like one then please get in touch via Twitter. https://twitter.com/BarnabyNutt