Day one of our workshop, and a day of books. At least at the beginning. This is our third year of teaching this particular class, but each year we change things up. This year’s class is a lecture, discussion, questions, and conversation but no physical or digital bookmaking. The book still holds a critical position in the world of photography, so these classes, and these discussions are always front and center in this community.
Thursday was Michelle’s day. She presented in regard to trade publishing. This is a complex business, in some ways, while in other ways the business hasn’t changed in decades. Trade publishing is what most photographers want to do, even though the potential pitfalls are ominously present. Michelle is well versed in all aspects of the process. She is also painfully honest about how the business works these days and how photographers coming to the table with cash upfront is a standard operating procedure. If you are planning to do a book you need to start with defining what that means, defining what your goal is and defining which publisher best fits your project and your aspirations. If you ever get a chance to take her class it is well worth the effort.
As the final part of our book day, we sprinted across campus for a book panel which Michelle moderated. The panel consisted of Michelle and her imprint Minor Matters, the director of Chroma Books which is an imprint of Chronicle Books, the owner of Arcana Books in Culver City and finally Jane Brown from DAP. Loaded. Totally loaded. The truth; they dished on how they work, how the industry works and how best to navigate this field. Truly critical data for anyone wanting to venture the trade book path.
But this, my people, was just the beginning. During the late afternoon, the entire festival ventured to the Palm Springs Museum to see a screening of the new Stephen Wilkes Film, “Jay Myself,” which is about legendary photographer Jay Maisel and his fifty-year history living in a six-story bank building in New York’s Bowery neighborhood. This film is f&^%^%$ great. Funny, sad, personal, historical and frankly absurd in so many fantastic ways. My advice, find it, watch it and then watch it again. Now, the cherry on top was that Jay and Stephen were sitting right in front of me. I can’t even begin to describe how many insightful moments are in this hour and a half documentary feature. “Shoot for an hour, edit for a day.” I walked out of the theatre with Rick from Beyond, my Zine collaborator I’ve been hinting at for months, and we just looked at each other, shook our heads and said “Holy shit.”
This year’s festival is winding down. The slideshow winner has been announced. The raffle prizes have been given away. But I still have my day to perform. So minutes from now I will descend the slow Hyatt elevator to the familiar playground of our classroom and I will talk and talk. I will listen. I will ask questions and I will answer them as well.
What comes last is sadness. I mean it. This festival is unlike anything I’ve experienced in the photography world, and there is a post-festival depression that begins the moment I walk into the furnace-like atmosphere of the valley and head for my car. I need this feeling to continue. I need to feel the burn of realizing there is so much more to do.