Monday, June 8, 2020

14 Pictures & A Secret

For the latest round of Fourteen Pictures And A Secret just completed, I used small black notebooks for the main body. These are made by Borden and Riley. Each one holds 40 pages of 100 lb watercolor paper. I get mine from Jerry's Artarama but they're available online in a variety of places. 

The cover label usually peels off easily, although it can sometimes pull bits of the surface with it.

For the interior photos I use 5 x 7 RC darkroom prints, which I accumulate gradually over months of printing. These are test prints made on the way to my final versions. They are photos I like but for various reasons the prints are not quite perfect. Nevertheless they're good enough to be usable in books. Every 1000 prints or so, I take a stack of them...

...and winnow them down to 350 favorites, ditching photos with obvious marring or defects.  I then divide them into 25 piles of 14 pictures each. The groupings can follow all types of logic, but most often they follow none, and are intentionally sequenced as non sequiturs. The only general rule (broken a few times) is that no photograph is repeated in any book. 

Since the pages are slightly narrower than 5 x 7, I trim a bit from the sides to fit the book. 

I use a waterbased paste called Nori to cement the photos into the book. It's nontoxic, archival, and easy to clean up. Newspaper laid out under the whole project helps contain the mess.

I use a flat putty knife to spread a thin layer on the back of the photo (much thinner than shown here)...

Pressing the photo onto the page, I'm careful to align top, bottom, and right side flush with the edges. If it's off a bit, the photo can be adjusted slightly before the paste dries.

I learned the hard way that it's best for pasted photos to be pressed flat as they dry. Otherwise the page tends to curl from water absorption. Luckily I have the perfect tool for this, a large bronze B which my mom gave me long ago. I don't know exactly what it weighs but let's just say it's quite heavy. 

While one photo is being pressed I work on the next one, trimming, pasting, and prepping. If I feel a photo requires it, or even if not, I sometimes hand color accents using sharpies.

I space the pictures every few pages throughout the book until all fourteen are placed. Next I paste a colored envelope inside the back cover, following the same steps as the photos.  

Inside the envelope I place the titular secret. I'm not at liberty to reveal it here. But I will say it comes with a purple baby and some highlighter marks. 

I seal the secret inside the envelope. Then I press the entire book under the B where it dries flat for a few hours.

When the book is dry, I run through the whole thing to make sure no pages are stuck together. I remove the blanks, leaving a couple pages at the start and finish. The blanks make good scraps for grocery lists and daydreams. 

Next I handwrite the title page with blue fine point sharpie and yellow highlighter.

On one of the back pages I handwrite the colophon and stamp it with a red seal which means something in Chinese. I'm not sure what it says but it looks cool. Hopefully it doesn't say Pigfucker or something like that, which would be embarrassing. "1 of 25 such books pigfucker edited shot..." Yikes. But no, I'm pretty confident it doesn't.

Next comes the exterior. For the first two editions, I taped Instax photos with silver duct tape to form a cover. For this edition I switched to books with a heavier cover, and I thought I'd mix it up. I trimmed the borders off Instax prints.

Without the protection of the white border, the Instax print can be peeled into its constituent layers.

The Instax photo layers can be combined into collage, to which the pink layer can be added as a translucent overlay.

You can find more samples of these on my Instagram page.

Each book is unique. I've made 3 editions now of 25 books, 14 photos in each. That's 1050 images so far plus covers, and I've barely scratched the surface of my archive. I have a lot of theories on books which I won't go into here. But let's just say I'm partial to unique objects, and handwriting, and DIY, and that sort of thing. And these books scratch all those itches for me.

When I'm done enjoying a book I slip it into a clear pouch with the recipient's name, then ship it off to some far corner of the world. 

I like to imagine that collectively they form the components of a sprawling global museum. Only 8 billion more to go...

I guess my current plan is to keep making these every few months as I build up batches of darkroom prints. They're fun to make, and it's a good reuse of photos. I would like to leave behind a trail of 50,000 different photos tucked in 50,000 corners of the world, avoiding any style or connection between any of them. I'd like them to follow the old folktale about elephant parts and blind people. 

That's my ideal. But who knows, things may change. They always do.


Julia Bradshaw said...

This is terrific Blake. Love the step-by-step.

Edgar C. Jones said...

Nice to see your post is informative and your decoration of the post is so beautiful. Thanks
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Don Hudson said...

Love this!

Martín Molinero said...
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Unknown said...

I enjoyed reading about your creative process and the books look very interesting. A very nice use of extra photos.

M.L. Dawson said...

Great idea!