At last I have finished my handmade Photo Book, A Garden, and it is printed and bound.
I have at times despaired at myself, for taking so long over this process, but in gentler moments I know that this is the way it had to be. The years (and it took years) making the photographs, the painstaking process of drafting and editing, combined with the unalterable fact that the location of my photos, my mother's garden, had to be sold, along of course with her house, following the death of my mother in 2010. Dealing with the process and the practicalities of this, as well as having to take a step back from my photographs for a while, meant that time passed.
Part of the editing process though, whether with photographs or writing, is to leave things be. To return, some time later, with fresher eyes and a clearer head, when dilemmas and decisions, and conflicting responses, somehow sort themselves out. It's a bit like dreaming. The subconscious has to be let alone to do it's work. Advice and feedback from friends is good and necessary, and I've had this from both photographers and non-photographer friends alike. But in the end we have to make our own decisions.
I don't know if my editing decisions are the "right" ones, but I would say instead that in the end there are no "right" ones. All decisions, inclusions or exclusions, tell a slightly different story, give a different emphasis. I would like to think this isn't the final story, either, and I reserve the right if not to decide that I was wrong, then to decide to re-tell it slightly in future! What is certain is that there is no absolute truth, or version, nor should there be. But this is my version, and my truth, at this moment.
So what I am left with is a book of a little over 50 photographs. The cutting down from the very many I had was hard, and I pruned, stage by stage, down to around 40. Then, after a breathing period (one of several) some crept back in. I note, looking back over this blog, that of the twenty I posted previously here (back to Christmas 2009) only 7 are included in the final cut. Some of the others of the twenty I posted didn't even make the longer shortlist. Rejections were sometimes due to the photographs themselves, sometimes to do with context and sequencing.
Another reason the process has taken so long is that I wanted to print and bind the book myself and I wanted to learn or discover the best way to do this. Eventually I decided on a fairly traditionally bound book, glued and sewn (partly due to the number of photographs finally included). The printing was fairly familiar territory, the binding was unknown. But I knew that I wanted a finished object, a book, that was unique and handmade at every stage by me. Books produced via companies online, and mass produced books generally, are great, but I wanted something a little different, and a little more special. The photographs are pigment printed onto archival 100% cotton rag matt Fine Art paper, using an Epson 3880 printer. As for the binding, I am grateful to Shepherds Falkiner, the superb bookbinders and suppliers, for advice, instruction and materials. A clamshell box is still underway.
So far, I have produced two copies of the book. Several more are in the pipeline. It is small, 6.25 x 8 inches in total, which does give a beautiful quality to the medium format negatives, and is intimate and easy to handle, which felt important.
This won't be a limited edition as such, but it will be limited by the fact that to produce each one takes a deal of time, and is, without being melodramatic, a labour of love. I am not envisaging producing this version in anything but small numbers. Any further copies will be made by request, and to order.
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In the third image, the text on the right hand page reads~
"These photographs were made in the garden of my mother's house, where she lived for over 40 years, during the last two years of her life and the year following, finishing at the end of 2011."