University: University of Brighton & London College of Communication
Graduation: 2006 & 2013
Statement: My chosen book is Insula. It was my first foray into bookmaking and was created as part of my MA project. The book is an intimate collection of diaristic images taken over a decade long period highlighting the fractured and chaotic nature of living with mental illness. The photographs span themes of rest, hope and the body. After I created an initial exhibition copy of the book I then self-published a small run of 50.
What university did you attend and when did you graduate? I completed my Photography BA at the University of Brighton and graduated in 2006. I then went on to complete a Photography MA at the London College of Communication, graduating in 2013.
What is your favourite photobook by another photographer? I think one of my favourite books is The Epilogue by Laia Abril. The book is not only beautifully produced but consists of so many layers. It manages to display all of these incredibly, mixing photographs and text with inserted notes etc. It is a stunning example of how to tell a rich story through a multidimensional book format.
Direction: I’ve always been a person that likes to print their work. However, I often felt stifled by singular prints and decided to challenge myself into producing books. I often felt that I wasn’t very good with my hands so initially started learning how to print and stitch books which I really fell in love with. I learnt most of that from just watching videos online and getting to grips with the physical layouts of books. I also needed a good reason to learn InDesign. After my MA show people were asking if they could buy a copy of the book I had created but that version was not affordable. I researched into different types of binding etc and looked at how I could produce a small run of Insula books. It was also an opportunity to revisit the project and put in some images that I felt improved the edit.
Considerations: I put together a few dummy copies using Blurb but wasn’t really happy with the feel of the book given the content. Eventually I decided to go directly to a printers to see and feel the different binding, paper types etc. I went for tape binding which still gives the book a solid feel but was affordable, with a heavy weighted cover. The book is quite small (14.8cm x21cm) because the images are intense and intimate. I wanted the viewer to study the details and to do that alone. The book is a mixture of both colour and black and white as the images were taken over a long period of time. The pages themselves are quite thick and dense.
Interior: The book combines photographs with personal texts and also some of my mental health medical records. The narrative is intentionally quite difficult to follow because it mimics my experience of ill mental health: periods of illness and destruction, to rest, to finding light. In the book there are also some blank pages to give the viewer a moment to breathe, particularly with some very sensitive images.
Inspiration: When I first knew I wanted to make books I began looking at lots of individual books at book fairs etc. I would look at simple binding types and how that can be used (in)effectively. I think one of my first photobook inspirations was Disquiet by Amani Willet.
Seeing other artists such as Christina Riley produce personal books such as Back to Me was a real inspiration and impetus to share my story too.
Advice and Future Goals: The importance of printing the work during edits. Even if they are cheap test prints, simply to see if the edit works. Showing these layouts to people, particularly those who may not know the work, was very helpful.
There were images that I adore that did not make it into the book simply because they did not fit. If this project ended up as prints then it would be different, but the editing of the book meant that some photos which I had a personal connection to just did not fit. Brace yourself for that!
If you’re interested in hand-making books I would start by watching YouTube videos. I then went on a cheap one-day bookbinding course and learnt so much. The more you practice, the better you get.
Making photobooks really changed the way that I look at my practice by broadening the end results/product that I could achieve.