julia mejnertsen

when the rains come (we will fear no more)

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copenhagen, denmark

dear all,

i've been neglecting you. i'm sorry!

after my last post in mid-october (!) i've returned to life in denmark. been busy with trying to figure out what to do next, but i have at the same time been working on a new project. well, new is perhaps an overstatement seeing that i've been working on it for 3-4 years, but it wasn't until recently that i realized that i needed to make it into a photobook.

hence, i signed up for an intensive 4.5 day bookmaking workshop with toscana photographic workshops (or tpw for short) taught by teun van der heijden and sandra van doelen of heijdens karwei. the workshop was limited to 4 participants, and seeing that there were two teachers and two assistents, it was pretty much a 1:1 situation. happy camper i was. the workshop took place in bologna in a room located in a private museum of sorts in the center of the city. we were surrounded by old italian paintings, which made for a beautiful bookmaking backdrop.

my project started off with the working title while we're waiting for the rain, but the book's final title is when the rains come (we will fear no more). first thing's first though, and the whole process started out with finding out exactly what is the story that i want to tell. i already knew that my story had the possibility to go in many directions, but i am not a photo journalist nor am i a reportage photographer, so going into the workshop i had a distinct feeling that i was looking towards a more poetic style (thanks to mette frandsen for helping me realize this). am i getting ahead of myself? - i think i am.

the story: my mother is a big game hunter; a passion that has evolved in later years, and the project “when the rains come (we will fear no more)” began, without being aware of it at the time, when she back in 2012 one day asked me, ‘do you want to go with me to zimbabwe to hunt?”

but what then is the focus of the story? - hunting, killing, my mum, girl power, poaching, animals, nature, africa? you see, many possibilities - and following all of them would make for a rather confused book. the project is not a project about big game hunting as such. it is above all a project about my mother and about finding oneself, about strong women challenging themselves and their boundaries, and about never stopping to grow as a person. i have seen my mother grow into a woman of tremendous format and courage, a person I can admire and see myself in. a real inspiration to me, being somebody, who still can’t figure out who I am or where I belong. i know that hunting is a sensitive subject, but my motive and story is not one of provocation, but one of love and admiration for strong women and role models. my point being, my mum is a strong woman, who has taught me to follow my passion. the second thing i wanted to make a point of with my story is the, from my point of view, misunderstood nature of hunting. people, who do not hunt, seem to think it is all about the kill. but it is so much more. it is just as much about becoming one with nature, understanding nature. what's the name of this plant? what's the name of this flower? what animal leaves this track? do you think those clouds indicate the rains will come soon? it is about passion, it's about challenging yourself, and it's about getting to know yourself, because when all material things are stripped away and your mental and physical boundaries are tested, you get to know yourself really well. and how do you put all of this love into a book of pictures? that's what teun helped me clarify during the workshop. a couple of pointers from teun on editing:

  • your editing depends on what your outcome is going to be - is it magazine, newspaper, exhibition, book?
  • a photobook is like a slow film (visual novel) - sequence, tension building, screen play
  • senses / form / feeling - 3d photobooks play with the senses
  • build narrative layers (this was an eye opener for me) - when you build layers into your book, you often get an extra layer for free. meaning that readers will deduce their own narrative layer, which you had not necessarily intended or thought of at the time your book was made. this for me is key, because i myself love the feeling of getting it, when reading a photobook. whether i actually get it or not doesn't matter in the end, as long as a book can conjure that feeling.
"the speed and rhythm of a photobook is faster than a textbook but slower than a film" - teun van der heijden

the process: first selection of images was made, sequencing. second selection of images was made, sequencing. indesign set up - size of book was decided (which can depend on publishing - see below). diary text was scanned and added as a graphic element, diary text was added in the back of the book. handwritten text with names of plants and flowers were added to pictures. french title page, title page, spine text (this is probably the most time consuming, complicated thing to do!!), and then of course one has to consider the number of signatures (=sections) the books needs. the size of the book and the number of signatures is where the maths come in. let's see:

a printing sheet in offset printing is normally 70x100 cm. that means you get 16 pages of 24x34cm (8 pages on recto, 8 pages on verso). then if you make your pages smaller within the size of 17x24cm), you can get 32 pages on one printing sheet. if your pages are even smaller than that, you get more pages on one printing sheet. hence, if you are to publish your book, it may be a good thing to keep in mind, as the price increases every time you have more printing sheets.

click on the image to see full size

however, i was not at this point going to a publisher to have it printed, but when you set up your files in indesign, you still have to be aware of your signatures, as they should be dividable with 8 for booklet printing purposes.

in the end, i came away with a first dummy of my book that i am very satisfied with. i love that it has a handmade, sort of rough feel to it. i hand-stitched the 7 signatures together (took me 2 hours) and then it was glued to make it more stable. lastly, the cover was added and the book was cut. you will understand the cover, when you look at the last picture in the book. i give all credit of this fantastic cover idea to teun :)

i hope you like it!