Sequencing a Photobook Lecture

On Friday 22nd February we had a morning lecture that was taken by Matt Johnston highlighting key points about sequencing a photo book. Within this lecture we were given tips and examples of different narrative sequencing, then a task where we had to sequence part of a book, followed by an artist talk that was also taken by Matt Johnston. Below are the notes that I took from this session:

  • Have to have the right ingredients
  • Need the recipe/ structure – sequence of events
  • Need to apply structure and sequence

 

Ingredients for photobook:

  • 250 bad images
  • 200 not so good images
  • 75 great images
  • 6 blank pages
  • 80bpm rhythm
  • 65 image captions
  • 1 motif
  • 1 front cover
  • 1 back cover
  • Narrative structure
  • A great concept

Alex Sweetman “…these elegant presentations of photographs fall short of being bookworks. The art here is the single image, not the expressive action of the whole. And this is true of the bulk of photography books, monographs, and exhibition catalogues which remain merely collections – portfolios between covers.”

  • Optional ingredients – depends upon audience
  • If brownies were uniform they would be quite dull – same for art and photography
  • Practice
    • Experiment
    • Constantly checked and reviewed

Gerry Badger “Sequencing the photobook is not a science, it’s an art. It’s like making an abstract painting, a matter of intuitive trial and error. But remember that the intuition of a good artist is a most powerful, a most intelligent and a frequently underrated tool”

  • Read photobooks
  • Read books
  • Watch films

 

Narrative structure:

  • Typically have a beginning middle and end
  • Flats, Arcs, Clusters and Scatters
  • Majority of photobooks will be a hybrid of these categories
  • Flat
    • Beginning – front cover
    • Middle – photos
    • End – back cover
    • Flat narrative
    • Linear
    • Reference books
    • Collection rather than narrative
    • List of books
  • Arc
    • Story arc
    • Build tension, excitement, drama
    • Tzvetan Todorov
      • Equilibrium
      • A disruption to the equilibrium
      • A recognition of this disruption
      • An attempt to restore the equilibrium
      • A restored/new equilibrium
    • List of books
  • Cluster
    • Seems disorganized
    • Allows arc to be split up or different themes to be explored in chapters
    • Don’t have to read it in a linear sequence
    • Individual book projects
    • Sections should work on its own as well as in a group
    • Is there a recommended number of clusters for a book of our size?
    • List of books
  • Scatter
    • Challenge
    • Ask a few questions
    • More rewarding for a viewer
    • We have to make the connections ourselves
    • Can use text, aesthetic pairings to put the narrative across
    • Links to ? Horizon’s
    • List of books
    • Dash Snow and Ryan McGinley

 

Rhythm/Flow, Pairings, Text, Rests, Motifs:

  • Pairings
    • Stephen Berry “Narrative, as we have seen, is not confined to written text: one image next to another sets up a metonymic chain, the ‘reader’ carrying some memory of an earlier image”
    • We are not force fed – we make the links ourselves
    • Make connections
    • Still images static in time on their own but together they make a moment
    • Chain of pairings, not just a pair
    • We can get different readings depending on the photographs or the use of blank pages
    • Can go back and take a completely different reading
    • List of books
  • Rhythm/Flow
    • Trying to curate the method of reading
    • How we can control the way the viewer interprets our text
    • Images per page
    • A person will roughly spend the same amount of time on a spread – doesn’t get affected by the amount of images
    • Eyes naturally fall to the right hand side – traditional
    • Background colour can affect the flow of the book
    • Is it appropriate for our project? – Go through my book quickly to represent the speed of the reaction?
    • Consider surprising people – consider it like music
  • Rests
    • Doesn’t have to be made with blank pages
    • Can be made by full bleeds and crossing the gutter
  • Motifs
    • Recurring aspect
    • Style of light
    • Remind us where we are going
    • Constant – aesthetic choice rather than a motif
  • Text
    • Might aid the reading of the book
    • Shouldn’t use it for the sake of using it
    • Room to think and wonder with little text
    • Some photographs rely solely on text
    • Start to make connections
    • ? “Ron Williamson
    • Text at back of book – punch line, makes reader go back and review
  • John Gossage “The Pond” – narrative structure, rhythm
  • Watabe Yukichi “A Criminal Investigation” – rhythm, text
  • Paul Graham “The Present” – scattered narrative, rhythm, pairings
  • Lukas Felzmann “Swarm” – rhythm, rests

 

Practical Guide:

  • What is my message?
  • Who am I targeting?
  • Collect all information into one location – may start to see things you that you didn’t notice before
  • Good and bad images – goes back to the message
  • Decide what sort of structure is going to be appropriate for your piece
  • Print them off
  • Make pairings and sequences
  • First sequence should include rests, rhythm (maybe motif if you want it)
  • Lay out a rough sequence and document it as you are going along
  • Should have a dummy – physical or PDF
  • If something jars, come back to it and change it

 

Sequencing Task:

  • Nathan Pearce “Mid West Dirt – DON’T PUT DIGITAL FILES ONLINE
  • 20 minutes to sequence images
  • Stack of 39 images
  • Might want to tackle one or two of the themes given
    • Space
    • Tension
    • Adventure
    • End of youth
    • Return
    • Home
    • Quiet
    • Away
    • Growing up
  • 15-30 images in the sequence
  • Quiet
  • Home
  • End of youth
  • Tension
  • Rhythm
  • Flow
  • Cluster narrative

 

Matt Johnston:

  • Media production degree – very quickly decided that he was interested in photography
  • Wasted first year
  • Making all images on film – allowed him to slow down and take time; to look
  • Predominately medium format
  • More interested in structure
  • Very much interested in the idea of home
  • Drawn to night – Geoff Bros, Robert Adams,
  • Using night as a visually pleasing subject but there is no meaning behind them
  • Continually shooting – not too concerned as to how they fit a brief
  • Always made the brief something to do with work that he enjoyed
  • Should find something you love then work out how to make commercial money from it
  • Picked up a job as a Channel 4 assistant
  • Commissioned by Excel
  • Picked up a job for the Institute of Sustainability
  • Hates images that look fake – should look natural
  • Started to work for “Build It” magazine – worked for free
  • Always an element of first time
  • Practiced a lot
  • Give them what they want but take what you need
  • Have something that you are geeky about
  • Couch surfing
  • Should have done more research
  • Make sure you have back up plans
  • Don’t think that you are above a local – always listen to them
  • Solo show in Eaton
  • Should surprise the viewer
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