For this week’s installment of what it’s like to be in graduate school, I will be sharing a project that I have been working non-stop on for the past three weeks. While there are a number of graduate courses to take here, every now and then we find ourselves taking an undergrad level class in something that we want to learn more about. There are usually extra projects that the grad students have to do in order for the class to qualify for graduate credits.
I took an undergrad level class this semester in making photo books. I did not take the class because I want to make a book of my work. I am someone who believes that only certain work belongs in book form, and that my work doesn’t fit that. I was more interested in experimenting with other work (not my own) and seeing if I could make books work that way. About half way through the semester I wrote a rather lengthy paper about what type of work can be successful in book form and what types of books my own work would be successful in. I ended up concluding that my work would be successful only in books that would provide additional information and context surrounding my work. In other words, looking at a book containing my images, the viewer would need to get something that they didn’t get or couldn’t get from looking at the images on the wall.
So for my final project, I actually put my own work into a book. We were tasked in our criticism course to put our current work into context with other contemporary artists. I thought that it would be useful and interesting to go in depth about not only making new work, but also writing about how I made my previous work. That idea slowly evolved into my final book project, which ended up being a retrospective look at my last six years of working.
To begin with, I looked at a number of retrospective catalogs from various artists. I then spent about two weeks gathering the materials and putting the design together (I literally did nothing else but work on the design–for two straight weeks).
One thing that I knew I wanted was for the book to be BIG. My work is large, and one thing that always bugs me is when artists that work large shrink their images down to put in books. I decided on making the book 11×17 inches when it is closed. When it is opened it is 17×22 inches. This allowed me to put details of my images in at real print size as well as smaller 16×20″ images.
I also wanted a lot of context to the work, so I included a lot of my own writing, as well as interviews I had done and essays that had been written about the work. There was also an article on sexting that my images had appeared along side of in New York Magazine.
Finally, I saw the catalog for Rineke Djikstra’s retrospective. The book board had been cut flush with the pages so that you could see the bare book board. I really loved it and ended up doing my book the same way.
I began printing last week and it took a total of 12 hours on three printers to get two copies of the 140 page book printed out. Then I spent the rest of the week sewing the signatures together and getting the book into it’s case (the covers). I also made a slip cover for one and a dust jacket for the other (I didn’t have the energy to make two slip covers). Now it is finally done. I don’t know what I am going to do with it now, but it was a great project and one that I am really proud of.