5. Process of creating the Photo Book

5. Process of creating the Photo book

First stage

I had had the idea of this Project for quite a long time and started during Part One of the Module to scan more of the photographs I had from the 1940s to convert into jpegs. Original sizes varied from 2 ½ inch square, up to 5 ½ x 3 ½ inch so the scans enabled me to create a larger size at a good resolution to then allow for different crops.  I have to say, though that, to my eyes, a scanned photograph has a different quality from the original photograph. I could have processed them in all in the same tones for uniformity but decided to retain the original toning as much as possible.

I also did a few early experiments in layering in Part One which I took along to OCA Thames Valley group in June last year – having queries around leaving borders or not, merging or showing separation. Our attending tutor suggested layering actual photographs on top of each other then re-photographing, which I did subsequently in layering photographs etc onto newspapers/Picture Post magazines that I had purchased through the web via eBay and Historic Newspapers (pp 5, 7 , and 9 of photo book). I discovered that one of the issues about layering actual photographs on top of each other is having to resize them first to get the needed proportions, whereas it’s easier to do this by digital layering.  As part of some digital layered experiments I used photographs of sand and sandy ground which I had taken on Horsell Common plus photographs created when I placed a copy of one of the photographs into the sand.(front and back cover os photo book The project then took somewhat of a back seat in a practical sense whilst I concentrated on Assignment 1, although my mind was busy with memories and reflecting on the past. It was also during this period that I realised that my eyesight had deteriorated and I was informed I had a cataract that needed to be dealt with. This slowed me down considerably in general.

Second stage – October 2016

On the 16th I discussed the project in the work presentation session held during the Brighton Festival but was only able to show work so far on the my laptop. I described some of my inhibitions around using personal material but I was encouraged to continue working with something that was important to me. I referred here  to my comment to the tutor at the end that I needed to find a way to stop treating the original photographs as ‘sacred objects’. Later that month (28th) I had a very helpful Google hangout with my student colleague Stephanie, having emailed some images to her.


We talked about memories triggered by photographs which might even be memories I don’t have; the way sand linked photographs; using maps as a path for myself and elements that have a strong presence (such as the drawing of the camel – p. 17, photo book).

Third Stage – November 2016

I made some small prints of work so far as on these contact sheets

contactsheet-001-web contactsheet-002-web

which I took to Thames Valley group on 19th November (see here ) receiving some positive comments and suggestions for further work. With this encouragement I emailed my tutor on the 21st describing my idea for the Project, together with a proposal and outline of some visual ideas which  I wrote about here  and was pleased to get some positive feedback and aspects to think about such as how the images were linking together with particular themes of sand, space and water. The next day I was fortunate in being able to have a further discussion with fellow student John via Skype with further feedback on how the images seemed to be linking together to form a narrative, what seemed to be working and what not.

Fourth Stage – January 2017

I now needed to tackle the sequencing for the photo book so I chose  28 jpegs from extracts of letters, photographs and composites, and then created contact sheets, cutting out the small images to put on my board and play around with placement


second-selection-contactsheet-002 second-selection-contactsheet-001

I knew that using the Blurb book templates (which I now know how to adapt for further choice) would further assist me in terms of the sizing of the images and substitutions that might be needed.

I have only created two Blurb books so far but have found their templates fairly easy to use, particularly now I know how to re-size them. My main issue is in the book sizes offered – understandable in considering their economy of scale but less conducive to individuality and creativity. A square book didn’t seem appropriate this time (I could be wrong though) so I chose a small landscape size. My preference would for a book the size of Robert Frank’s The Americans (2008) which is smaller at 8”x7 ½ “. Still Blurb is one of the best sites for creating photo books so far as I know and also has the advantage of providing PDFs at a low price which remain on their site for seven days and can also be downloaded. I used Blurb for exercise 2.3 to provide a PDF and for the Assignment 2 Submission, which I have written about here 

Using the templates did help me to decide which images to replace and re-size. Choosing the images for the covers was particularly difficult in having to choose between one composite with just my father and another with composites of Google images and composites of both Egypt and Calver.  In the end I decided that the photo book was about letters home so I needed the two places to link together on the front cover.  I have had comments about the strength of the Egypt composite but will wait for my tutor’s feedback to make a final decision.

Thoughts so far

I certainly feel a sense of completion of the draft stage and that I created a particular narrative whilst leaving room for the viewer to form their own perceptions. I’m clear with myself that the tile is an interim one until I have tutor feedback. However, I feel uncertain about the inclusion of the Milly-Molly-Mandy pages (18 and 18 photo book) even though they fit the theme and will discuss the covers further with my tutor.  I knew that I didn’t want to include the whole of the letters, just relevant extracts but I’m still unsure about the sizing and placement of these.

Having looked at the PDF I decided to purchase the cheapest book because I need to hold a book and see how the images look in print. With an online or PDF book it’s simple to enlarge everything so as to read text but less so with print and it’s important to me that viewers can read the words.


Postscript: Having re-read my final paragraph I realise that the point of the Assignment was to create an online photo book not a printed book so I need to keep this in mind.


Frank, R. and Kerouac, J. (2008) Robert Frank: The Americans. Gottingen: Steidl, Gerhard Druckerei und Verlag.