For the past week I’ve been working on creating my new book, that I will take out on my next series of meetings to show potential clients my new work. Before I can do that, a few million decisions will have to be made so it comes out as the photographic world that I want the person looking at it to experience.
There are many things that can rob your sleep: which paper? The question about the best paper for printing alone had lead millions of photographers to sleepless nights in madhouses. I love baryta paper for its brillance in color and sharp details and great surface, but when you put those heavy, thick sheets into a book, the person seeing it has the impression lifting heavy slabs, not turning pages. It’s truly an exhibition paper that wants to be on a wall, and I need more pliable paper, that actually gives the impression on how this image would look in a magazine story or ad. Matte paper can be printed on on both sides, and a book can achieve the impression of a real, produced book or high end magazine. The downside is that matte paper has a much smaller contrast range and the colors don’t shine as bright. This leads to a lot of twisting and turning and rotating in bed. At the beginning I was counting matte paper out for the lack of glossiness. Fashion needs glossiness! But then it slowly gained on me with a certain sensuality. So I decided to go with matte paper for this current high fashion portfolio book.
After all, one of the things a printed book is important for: how does my work print? It’s all nice and great to see my work on a high end display with superb contrast range and a wide color gamut. But magazine paper has a very limited contrast range, far less than what you get with online images. Also, it’s quite easy to create an image with a fantastic color – only to find out that most of these colors won’t print – out of gamut, out of luck. One of my favorite images, a high fashion girl floating in earth orbit, had very distinct blues in the oceans. Only, those particular blues were unreachable for paper, and would turn into a blue that could advertise baby powder, but not feel water waves below earth orbit. Blue is probably the most difficult color to get right in print, and you can tear out all your hair and bump your head against the wall getting the blue right – and not losing other colors into a color molasse. One has to edit the image specifically for the paper one is using to prove to a potential client that they actually can get a print ad that looks like my image.
But there’s more to a portfolio than colors and paper. So many choices that have a great potential to send the photographer to the nut house. One is montage: which images go well together on a page? There are always some images who seem to go well with others, and every other image wants to be on a page with those popular, cool images. And then there are others, more difficult images, the lonely wolves, not playing well with others, highly individualistic. As you can only put one to three images with the popular images, you have to find out on how to tell a story with images who are not that easy to access, but are very special. It’s up to me to show how these other images can play well with the mind of my potential client.
And, finally, there’s sequencing. The downside of sequencing is that there is only one page 1. And all the images want to be on it. And again, some images are more page 1 material than others. Those are the openers. All the others have to be in sequence. Now: in which sequence would I like to show my work? The mathematical potential of permutations of forty pages are hair rising. Everything is possible – that’s the problem. A Hollywood movie has an absolute advantage over a photographer’s portfolio, because a movie is much more limited because of its causality. It is clear that the murderer has to first approach the victim, and then gun it down. In a photographer’s portfolio, not so much. You can have the victim on the ground first, and then show the murderer advance, with the gun in his hand.
But, causality will help as well. When I’m done, going through my book will be like reading a story. First I will set genre, then location, and then come the small details, the intricacies, the sophistication, the play of creativity. My current number one is the futuristic, Greek goddess with a silver headpiece, pictured above. But several other pictures try to push the queen off its page one position. There’s the shot of two girls in baroque style clothes in a wide, sunset landscape – which currently have the pole position on my website – and are not willing to give up their rule. Pictures can have such egos!
The movie analogy works well for me, as my style of work is cinematic fashion photography – and the lighting also has influenced by the movies. Well, the night is long, but I can see the morning light already at the end of it like at the end of a tunnel. I will keep shifting and replacing and will find a great, challenging image combination, only to ask myself the next day if I had unintentionally ingested mind disturbing substances, and what was I thinking yesterday, because these images don’t the hell go together at all! So, just like in poker: reshuffle, and new day, new game.
The good thing is there’s a deadline looming, when my next campaign will go out. And there’s a lot of printing to be done. So I’m circumventing the pitfalls of safe, creative decisions (which would then be uncreative decisions), and try to fall into the abyss of going too crazy so I come out at the other end of this with a book that opens a world to the person who opens my book, giving the experience of opening a door, stepping through it, and disappearing in a new realm.