It would seem to be a truism in photography that the best way to appreciate pictures is to see them in book form. Whether it be a professional wedding assignment or personal holiday snaps, the photographs only really take on their full meaning when viewed together on the printed page.
I apply the same principle for my Street Photography Workshops. Obviously during the workshop itself we spend a lot of time looking at and exchanging opinions about each other’s pictures as they are viewed on the computer or projected on to a larger screen. However, I believe my overall project is not truly finished, until I have created a book out of everybody’s pictures, mine included.
6 months later, I can finally say ” I made it”, and here is the result of my efforts ! Paradoxically, the current world health crisis and quarantine conditions were a comfort, as I finally found the time required, unhindered by other work distractions, to fully commit myself to the task. Moreover, despite the time elapsed since the Workshop, I was able to view the pictures as a whole with a fresh eye.
There is a real pleasure in seeking out those photos which work well together, in terms of colour, movement, people’s expressions etc. . While I make no claims to have the skills of a graphic designer, I also enjoy the process of structuring the page layouts of the book, thereby ensuring that the photos flow in a creative and dynamic way. Though text itself is kept to a minimum, there needs to be above all else, a sense of narration.
I deliberately leave the crediting of the photos till the index at the end of the book, so that the pictures can really speak by themselves and be viewed as a unified and coherent expression of the group as a whole.
Once the book is published, the participants can, as I do myself, take renewed pride in their work, and fully appreciate what was achieved in a period of just 72 hours! We usually spend so much time and energy feeling frustrated or unsatisfied with our pictures, that the pleasure of viewing our images on the printed page provides a welcome sense of satisfaction and motivation . Who cares now about the thousands of failed pictures along the way, confined to the trash bin of the computer, when these few precious gems are preserved in a book for everyone to see.
The importance of a book goes beyond in fact its photographic content. For the Workshop itself is not solely about improving one’s picture-making capabilities. It is for me, as I believe it is for those that take part, an opportunity to meet new people with similar passions and shared values and to enjoy this interlude in our everyday life, as a group-lived experience.
From having participated myself in Street Photography Workshops, (with the Webbs and Matt Stuart), I appreciate the value of staying in touch with those that I met there. By creating these books, I hope therefore, in my own way, to consolidate and extend the community spirit established when we were perfecting our photographic skills together.
Finally I was reminded of the significance of a book as a personal memento, when Mike, a participant on the London workshop very sadly passed away. At the funeral, his family, whom I had never previously met, impressed upon me how important the book I had created was for them. It represented a precious souvenir of a positive experience for this person, who had recently renewed his love for photography. I would like to dedicate this book to his memory.