Creative: August Self-Publishing Project, Chapter One

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I’ve got my sights set on a new project, and for the first time in a long while I’m going to package this baby in a photography book. To be exact, an 10×8 portrait book. Softcover with Proline Uncoated paper. This post is the beginning of me telling the story of the story and me telling the story of the book. Why would I do this? Several reasons. First, August 21st will see a total solar eclipse, the path of which will pass over our family farm in Wyoming. The farm isn’t in our family anymore, but the DNA of that place, and our original ranch property, has never left my bloodstream. Wyoming is a place I think about, and dream about, on a regular basis, and have for the past twenty-five-years. (Making a book about something you love is a wonderful thing.)

The eclipse was what got this book ball rolling, but there were two other things floating around in my brain just waiting to be connected. First, I was asked where my home was and I had no response. I thought back to my childhood, then through my life. Indiana, Texas, Wyoming, Arizona, California and New Mexico. All the places I’ve called home at one time or another, but NONE of these places felt like a title I could use for my actual home. “I think I’m somewhat homeless.” But what is home? I certainly feel the best, right now, in New Mexico, especially when compared to California where I’ve lived for the last twenty years but have never felt at peace with the place, but I’ve only been in New Mexico for ten years, and part time at that. My family still resides in Texas, but I’m there maybe once a year. Is home where you receive mail? I hope not. What about where you vote, where you family is? Sure, that makes sense, but my wife and I are chameleons. We shape shift through life being what we need to be, who we need to and where we need to be. Nothing feels permanent, and we often talk about things like “Hey, let’s sell everything and get out of here.” So there’s that.

The other thing floating around in my brain is the idea that I’m searching for something but I don’t know what I’m searching for, and I’m afraid if I focus on something I’m uncertain of I’ll miss everything else along the way. Yes, this could mean I’m losing it, reaching that mid-life crisis stage or maybe just spending too much time in my head. Don’t know, but this concept is real, at least it feels that way. So with these ideas in mind I face the new Tacoma north toward the familiar ground of my childhood. I have a schedule, vague notions about what I’ll see, but so much will be what I happen to cross paths with.

Let’s talk a little about the book. As you know, I’ve got my ESSAY series, and originally thought about using this project as Issue 5, and I might twist this into an issue at some point, but I almost immediately thought photobook. It feels like a photobook project. Something I can provide to my family members, something substantial, and something that offers me a specific blend of materials. I LOVE the Proline Uncoated paper. Knew I wanted that. I think this project will have far more color, and far more digital, than anything I’ve done before, and I love how color digital looks on Proline Uncoated. Softcover also felt right. Softcover also keeps the cost down. Yes, I can go hardcover anytime I want, but I’m going in under the notion that softcover is my thing.

1. This is a book about story not a book about photography. The days of me attempting to make high quality photo-essays are over. I’m simply not that interested in the photography at this point. Also, my allotted time is one week, and great essays simply don’t happen like that unless you are talking about a specific event.

2. This will be a mixed media project. Digital, Instax, Copy. Old photographs. Old film images.

3. This will be an etherial design and subsequent book. Unlike anything I’ve done before.

4. This will be a personal book for a very specific and limited audience.

5. This book will not be for sale.

6. I’m already having fun scheming about what this will be, and have designed exactly two pages of a proposed 80-page book. These pages will change but just making the first strokes on the canvas has been enlightening.

7. I will do this book and move on. Hope to be done with final design less than a week after returning. Will hit print and MOVE ON WITH MY LIFE, taking what I’ve learned from this project and utilizing these skills in future projects.

8. There is a chance I might collaborate with someone else. Maybe. If so this will slow down the timeline dramatically, but the other person is more talented than I, so if I get the chance to work with him I will.

9. Blurb may or may not have something new on the way. This book may or may not be a nice way to test what may or may not be coming.

10. I love bookmaking. Bookmaking is the single most important aspect of my creative life going back to 1996. Cameras came and went, software, trends, styles and all the nonsense that goes along with all these things, but the book, and my images, were the TWO things that cut through it all. The jobs I had in the past, due in great part to my books, and the jobs I have today…BOTH of them, are a reality because of my books. The books were what got the conversation started. Bookmaking is proof, evidence of commitment, and books transcend the noise of online culture. Ask yourself why the greatest photographers in history regard the book as the single most important artifact of being a photographer.

I write this from a friend’s house in Santa Fe. I’m a bit nervous. There is a lot on the line and a lot unsettled and uncertain. But I must go. I’m committed. The book has begun to take shape and all I can do now is go collect.

Comments 25

  1. Good luck on your journey, both the physical one and the mental/emotional one. I enjoyed reading this post, not only as a glimpse into your process, but as an idea of what’s possible, and what exists to explore. Your blog is one of my absolute favorites, and I greatly look forward to your posts whenever one falls into my Inbox. Your blog motivates me in my own creative journey, so thank you for that. Keep on keeping on.

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      So nice of you to say. Glad you find something useful here. I’m hoping the process inspires others to go to print, which has been so important in my career.

  2. This is such a great post Daniel, and one that resonates strongly with me as I, too, am thinking about what makes home … home, and I’ve begun my own project on the subject (before you, get in the queue). Unlike you, I’ve always lived in the same town, but the town changes as the years pass. The adults I knew as I was growing up are all dead, many of my childhood haunts have been built upon: so what makes a place feel like home? Is it place or the people that make a place … home?

    I read recently that Europe now has more refugees (due to economic migration and wars in the Middle East) than at any time since the end of the Second World War. What place will feel like home to them? Will they ever feel at home again?
    As you can see, more questions than answers, and my essay will be totally different than yours and that’s how it should be. I’m currently struggling with whether my essay will be documentary or more of a ‘how it feels’ (that’s probably the best description I can give at present). I’ve not told anyone about the essay yet, so keep it to yourself!!
    I love what you write about how important the book-making is to you, and especially how your books have had such a positive effect on your life and career.
    New Tacoma? What happened to the Subaru?

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      Home is a slippery thing. And a changing thing at times. I admire people who have a strong connection to place. Friends in Boston come to mind. A few New Yorkers, although most seem to bail at some point. I think you have to feel your project out. Just start throwing things out. See what sticks. Stay tuned..this should be an interesting, but perhaps ugly book.

  3. Go go go! This project is incredibly exciting, and hits “home” (see what I did) for me as well. Not having had any sort of fixed address for almost 8 years, and not really feeling I have had a proper home since the family farm I grew up on had to be sold.

    That the eclipse passes over the Casper area is totally unreal. So is the fact I can look at that map and go “Tie Siding, been there!”

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      You are a wordsmith! And yes, I know your Tie Siding work. Only the best photographs EVER.

  4. Great post and really resonates as thinking about changing where home is – I have lived in the same city my entire life (a great city but the same city) and am feeling a strong push from inside to move to a more rural setting. Some people tell me I won’t like it, suggest I keep a place in the city in case I need to come back, etc.. How do these people know? Because they say they “know me”. I just think they think they know the “old me” and I feel I’m on the brink of a “new me” with different goals for my life. Like you, I don’t know what the journey will be, just that I must do it.

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      Interesting concept. I’m not sure how much we really know about each other. We all have to live public lives to some degree, so even when people think they know they probably don’t really. As for rural. It’s worth exploring. You don’t have to move. Just rent for a month. Go as far as you feel comfortable then work your way back. Space does strange things to us.

  5. “This book will not be for sale. ”

    Goddamn it!

    Maybe it’s just because I just got a Blurb mag which i am quite shocked by (in a good way). Maybe I’ll soon be the owner of a book I’ve wanted to look at for years. But your anticipation is palpable from all the way over here.

    I look forward to seeing / reading / hearing about this project!

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      I don’t think this book would make sense to anyone else. It’s gonna be ugly and weird. It’s about my family!

  6. Thinking outside the box only applies if there were a box there to start with… WOW!!

    This idea sounds fantastic, and what a range of emotions this has the potential to stir. I’d love to hear of any part of this someday Dan. Safe travels through this journey, my friend.

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      When we first met, on the street and at school, I was leaving every summer for Wyoming. Did you ever see the place? I can’t remember if your fam ever made the voyage. You would have loved it. The Franklins went once and I remember Kristi didn’t want to leave. And turns out…she lives on a ranch. Go figure.

  7. For the last year I’ve been having this “being somewhat homeless” thing you are talking about. I’m born and raised in Bilbao (Basque Country), where I have lived for 34 years of my life. I have been living in San Francisco for the last 6. But this last year I been having this feeling you are talking about.
    Bilbao feels good in my mind, family and friends are there, and most likely they will be there till the end of their days, that is how we do it. San Francisco it’s been a place I called home for 5 years, not anymore. Life happens and sometimes Life can make you stop loving someone, something, or someplace.
    I don’t wanna go back to what I used to call home for 30 plus years, I feel it’s easy to be complacent living there. Still sort of love San Francisco, but my wounds are still fresh.
    It’s weird feeling you don’t really belong anywhere.

    (Sorry for the psychotherapy writing up here)

    I think your project is awesome. Keep us posted. It is always very inspirational seeing what you are doing.

    Vaya con Dios!

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      This home idea has really struck a chord. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, so glad you shared this. Sometimes it’s tough to feel like you need to be somewhere else. And home should feel so encompassing it can’t be denied. I’m still searching.

  8. “It’s gonna be ugly and weird. It’s about my family!” – yep, that sounds like a pretty accurate description of family.

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  9. “I don’t think this book would make sense to anyone else. It’s gonna be ugly and weird. It’s about my family!”

    Isn’t that the point of Larry Towell’s book that you recommended to me?

    Stoked for you, your journey and the expanding horizons/possibilities it may provide you. Looking forward to catching up on your way through town.

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      Actually, the design of that book MIGHT be like what I’m laying out now. His is way better actually, but the chapters, themes might be built like that.

  10. Always happy to hear you are getting ‘out there’ with inspiration for personal work. Look forward to seeing snippets of the project. Enjoy!!

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  11. hey dan … my grandmother (the hoosier one) always told me that my HOME was the only constant in my life as, Harmony Of Mind Expressed 😉 sending u and amy endless fuzzy gorilla hugs and so much love xx monique

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      Wow, was thinking of you the other day, and my fav little man! Still in Africa? You of all people would be interesting to interview about home. When are you back? I didn’t know you were ever on this site?

  12. Daniel, this project sounds exciting and I am so curious to see the final result and hear your story about the process. The topic strikes a cord, as quite often I ask myself what is home. I was born in a small town in western Romania, grew up with my grandparents in a small village in Eastern Romania, moved back to the parents’ town for school, moved out to another town for college, moved to the capital for studies and work. Moved to and lived in France, then in Central African Republic, then in Dubai for 8 years, where I met my husband who is Danish. Then both moved to Dallas, and this for sure is not permanent. We have no idea what’s next, and that’s not necessarily bad because we both love a change, and it is not a place to call home I miss, but I feel like I’m all over the place and can’t define who I really am. I hope one day I’ll find a creative project to make sense of all this. Oh, and by the way, I watched the 1999 total eclipse from my parents town in Romania, from the rooftop of our 10 floor apartment building, just few miles away from the maximum point on the totality path. 18 years later I’m in Dallas, who would have thought? 🙂 Best regards, Claudia

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      WOW, you are a woman of the world. That is pretty incredible. This idea of home has really become an interesting focal point. Do you need a home? What does it mean? Does it change? I hope to expand on this. The eclipse is being hyped to such an extent here that it feels like the world is going to end. It’s rumored that 500,000 people will descend on Wyoming. I really, really hope this doesn’t happen. But, if it does I’ll be there. Thanks for taking the time to write. You have a great background, and you are the only Romanian via Dubai that I know.

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