The Hard Copy: Two new photo books, hot off the presses

by Jim Cornfield

March 17, 2014

Here’s a question: Putting the vast digital soup of cyberspace photography aside for a moment, what—for you—is the most satisfying form your pictures assume in the real world? More than likely, it’s not as a few megs of data pixellating on some blog for a quintillionth of a second, but rather it’s the hard copy, right? Paper. The tangible, permanent objet d’art that the photograph was originally meant to be—a print in someone’s den or in the wedding album on their coffee table, maybe hanging on the wall of a gallery, or as a spread in an actual magazine rolled up in your carry-on bag. In the best of all possible worlds, it’s a page—maybe many pages—in an actual book.

A couple of recently released titles seem relevant to our ongoing love affair with the tangible, printed image, each one coming at it from a completely different quarter: one from the ever more rarefied realm of the magazine photographer, another from two authors who understand the primal urge to see your work in hard copy.

See the World—Intrepid and in Print
Fashion and travel photography seem to keep easy company in a resilient bastion of print photography—the fashion magazine. In the 1960s, Vogue’s editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland, historically the reigning queen of haute couture, began assigning photo shoots in exotic locations like Bali and the “pink city” of Jaipur, India, with predictably fabulous results. What apparel manufacturer doesn’t love to see its garments glamorized by some quaint, picturesque locale? A skilled fashion photographer can put a model in a designer frock on the terrace of a sun-kissed Mediterranean palazzo or beneath the dripping leaves of a rainforest canopy and create an aura of romance around what is—let’s face it—little more than a piece of fabric, some thread and a hemline.

On location for Japanese Vogue outside Nairobi, Kenya, with two local women wearing dresses by designer Yoshi Inaba. Photographer Anne Menke recalls, “they insisted on accessorizing...with their own beaded jewelry.”

One such shooter is German-born Anne Menke, who’s been creating commercial fashion imagery in out-of-the-way, often harsh locations worldwide for the last 20 years. Her roster of clients is star-studded: Banana Republic, J.Crew, Tommy Hilfiger, Maybelline, Nike and Nieman Marcus, to name a few—and her editorial images jazz up spreads in Glamour, Marie Claire, Self, Esquire, Vogue, ELLE, Us Weekly and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. You might expect that her new book, See the World Beautiful, released last fall by Glitterati Incorporated, would be exclusively a collection of her remarkable fashion portfolio. It’s partly that, but it’s also a great deal more.

B-Roll Imaging
Whenever Menke is on location—places such as Jujuy Province of Argentina; Ulan Bator, Mongolia; and Lijang, China—she takes time to turn her camera away from the assignment and frame a few images that feature the native peoples and cultural artifacts surrounding her in some of the remotest regions of the globe. These pictures are at the heart of See the World Beautiful. It celebrates well-hidden, fantastic details of the life of the world around us, many of them tucked away in frigid mountain passes and arid desertscapes, and all seen through the refined esthetic of a fashion shooter.

Barrow, Alaska. Native Inuit women on a “snow desert,” attired in their own knits, fur hats and decorated snow boots. “Inuit” Menke recalls, “turned out to have fantastic style...Hermès has nothing on these Inuits!”

Some of this imagery is of purely scenic tableaus—a cloud-draped sweep of Andean mountain tops, or a lonely islet of fir trees that bend to the wind in a French-Canadian lake—that probably drift through Menke’s peripheral vision while she puts her models and crew through the paces of a photo shoot. When she does turn her lens toward the “B-roll” subjects, the results can be as elegant and well-composed as the most disciplined of her fashion illustrations. But she’s clearly driven to probe beyond the realm of conventional travel coverage. Menke remembers her early photographic inspirations—the work of Alfred Eisenstaedt and Henri Cartier- Bresson. “Their photographs,” she writes in the book’s introduction, “ineffably documented life’s everyday moments...while seeing beyond the quotidian of those moments.”

The Vilcanota Valley Range of the Peruvian Andes in the province of Paucartambo.

It’s no surprise that Menke defaults to portraiture for her strongest images, and less surprising still is how she seems drawn to the vernacular of native dress to tell her subjects’ stories. Collectively, the portrait studies are a kind of “anti-fashion” statement, with occasional improvised shots pairing the locals with ethnically-inspired designer clothing that Menke takes with her to even the remotest locations. The blending of high style with the ingenuous perfection of nervous, giggling native girls makes a fitting metaphor for the intertwined themes that are Anne Menke: her acute eye for all things beautiful and her passion for putting them on the uncomplicated and still potent medium of the magazine page.

All the World’s a Page
Although few of us ever get past the gate to the hermetic world of gallery-worthy, fine-art photography, it was, in fact, the fine-art community that jumpstarted a medium that is accessible to us all: the photo book. With the shrinking array of printed periodicals that once gave photography its voice, the stand-alone photo book has burgeoned as a canvas for showcasing serious imagery.
Technologies now exist for each of us to join the ever-expanding rolls of hard-copy published shooters. The immense range of digital prepress capabilities and the advent of print-on-demand (POD) have created a virtual revolution. To join is simply a matter of know-how, which is where the first revised edition of Publish Your Photography Book comes onstage. It’s easily one of the most comprehensive how-to guides in what is an already crowded field. Its publisher rightly touts it as “the first book to demystify the process of producing and publishing a book of photographs.”

 (Above and belowSample spreads from the comprehensive Second Edition of Publish Your Photography Book.

Authors Darius D. Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson are well-credentialed, but more importantly they are lucid, economical communicators who are impeccably well-organized and connected to practically everyone with expertise in photo book publishing. This all makes for a readable tutorial that starts with a historical overview of photography books and that lays out the whole process of photo book publishing, including the vagaries of the book business and the various side streets where you might find yourself during the process. The “Nuts and Bolts” section clearly maps out multiple options, “whether you intend to self-publish—making a book by hand, contracting parts out to various specialists, or utilizing POD technology—or are seeking a trade-book publisher.”

The core chapters, “The Making of Your Book” and “The Marketing of Your Book,” take you through the entire arc of book conceptualization, design, production and finally, to producing an effective marketing strategy. Thanks to the authors’ networking skills, a key chapter, “Case Studies,” follows revealing interviews with self-publishing veterans such as Alec Soth (Sleeping by the Mississippi), Paula McCartney (Bird Watching), David Maisel (Library of Dust) and Lisa M. Robinson (Snowbound). The book ends with an encyclopedic reference section, “Resources, Appendices, and Worksheets,” that’s practically worth the price of the whole book. There’s everything from a map of book anatomy to suggested timelines for workflow management; copious directories of industry resources, publishers, distributors and booksellers; and a calendar of noteworthy industry events.

Publish Your Photography Book is born of the passion and the intense energies of its creators—a work that teaches and inspires at the same time. And though the current edition covers the ins and outs of e-book publishing, the main message is a profound reverance for the ongoing renaissance of the large-format, printed photography book. “One can return to physical books repeatedly,” the authors remind us. “A lap, a few hours, and some light are all that is required.”

You Might Also Like



Tout VTS