julia mejnertsen

getting to the point of creating a dummy

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tokyo, japan

last weekend the handmade photo book workshop began full speed. 3 days of intensive book-making from morning to late night. the aim: to create one or two book dummies (if you don't know what a book dummy is, please refer to this previous blog post) that can be used as a starting point for our photo book creation. the next 2 weeks i'll fine-tune the result of the first weekend of workshop before the workshop concludes with one more weekend of intensive creativity on may 29th - 31st. 

just to recap, the workshop is run by belgian photographer jan rosseel and gallery owner yumi goto of reminders stronghold photography in tokyo. we are 10 participants in the workshop; 8 japanese, 1 new york-based spanish woman and then me. it is a bilingual workshop conducted in both japanese and english, and as confusing as that may sound, it actually works quite well. people come from diverse backgrounds working with photography, but also film-production, translation, dark room printing and so on. the projects accepted into the workshop contain subjects of great diversity, such as the tokyo rockabillies, dealing with the suicide of one's parents, the dutch japanese children of the 2nd world war and the development of williamsburg, brooklyn over the past 2 decades. before coming to tokyo and starting the workshop, all the participants have had two skype consultations with jan to discuss our projects and clarify the main story, its points and the feelings that we want our books to convey. this proactivity and preliminary research ensured that last friday, when the workshop began, we were all clear on the direction in which to take our books. 

ALERT, the next paragraph contains little information on dummy-making and more information on the research process leading up to the dummy creation. 

i don't believe i have shared with you exactly what my photo book is about. it is my personal story of 'existential migration' (a term coined by greg madison). i didn't know this term before i started my research for the book - all i had to go on then, was this feeling i had of being misplaced and not really belonging. this is a feeling that has hunted me for a good while, but it really reared its ugly head once i moved back to copenhagen a year and a half ago. the theory of existential migration hit the nail right on the head and aided me in putting that feeling into words. further research let me to 'migratory aesthetics' and lily markiewicz, which is from whom i borrow the working title of the book 'tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?'. the title of the book and how to decide on that, is a whole other subject that i think can be covered in a later post. anyway, i don't mean to bore you with this stuff, i just wish to highlight the fact that clarifying my subject, researching it, putting words and sentences on a feeling, visualizing it through mind maps and doing the leg work in general, helped me a great deal with moving from a hazy, introverted feeling towards a story that others can relate to as well. and in the end, it makes the dummy-work so much easier.

and now, back to the topic at hand: dummy-making. the workshop began with editing down the photos that were brought to the workshop. with the help of jan, we reduced my images from five distinct photographic series to two. archival material was discarded along with the series of blondes in denim shirts (see picture in grid below). all my digital images were taken out, leaving me with two series of images - a series of analog photos of static places around denmark and the black/white dynamic images from my dark ops series, which were to be combined in the book. the idea of combining these to series is to create a dialectic feeling of my world. i also brought to the workshop architect drawings of my childhood home, which i thought might underline the idea of home and help ask the question whether home always comes in the form of a physical structure. these drawings were piled in with the selected images.

next, i was left to do the sequencing on my own. along with the editing process of choosing images, this is probably the most difficult task. but after spending a couple of hours of consideration by laying out my test prints in sequence on a big table (this is the best way to get an overview and adapt the sequence easily), i felt that i had something viable. again this is absolutely the beauty of dummies - a dummy is just a dummy, nothing is final. so you just try things out. the first dummy was really nothing but a trial. i changed the sequence a little, after having put it into book shape, and when i felt it worked as a book, my first dummy was done. i wrapped the dummy in architectural drawings and tried to imagine that as the cover for the book. for the second dummy, i printed the images on different kinds of paper and in general tried a little harder. i included a lot of the architectural drawings (even more than in the first dummy). i tried using the drawings as back drops for the pictures and as inner liner for the japanese folded pages. i have pages in different sizes and pages that fold out. many things are happening in the second dummy.. when day 3 of the workshop concluded, i had finished two dummies. with the help of jan, the design and images were revisited and a few changes were made - among others the architectural drawings might have to go or at least be reduced quite a lot.

if we look back at my considerations regarding my book before the workshop started, it was, among other things, to have more smaller books in one. that idea was discarded quickly. the different sized pages and the fold-outs still live, as do the different paper types. but let's see, things change quickly, when making dummies, i've found out. the most important thing i've learned in this first part of the workshop is that you can make as many dummies as you want - better to try out your ideas than not. another thing i've learned is that the decisions you make for your book should be made for a reason, not just because they look good. everything needs to be considered and be in accordance with your story.

i got some assignments before next part of the workshop. before part two of the workshop, which is in 2 weeks, i need to:

  1. do a third dummy - start all over! use all the same images as in dummy 1 and 2, but change the sequence and layout completely.
  2. use white dummies (basic white copy paper folded into a book) to help decide on the binding of the book - try different binding methods on the white dummies. bindings i'm considering are hand stitched japanese binding or stud or screw binding.
  3. test print images on different kinds of paper to check, which kind to use. whoop whoop, this means i get to go paper hunting at my new favorite paper store.
  4. take the series of images 'blondes in denim shirts' and make a second book. glad to get this assignment. would have been sad not to use these at all..
  5. have an architectural drawing printed, as a building blueprint or in indigo coloring.  

so you see, i really have enough to do. besides all of this, this week's schedule goes something like this: tomorrow i'll be indesigning the layout of the book, on wednesday i'll go material hunting for paper, card board and different binding accessories, and on thursday i'll visit 3331 arts chiyoda to talk about my residency, which is coming up after the workshop is done.

life is good, i'm very happy, and i don't want to be anywhere else in the world, but here!