Creative: “ESSAY” the New Series

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The last few years were near capacity travel wise. Lots of trips for Blurb. Both foreign and domestic. I’m taking a break of sorts, attempting to spend more time at home but also want to return to the field to create new work, new stories and new publications. The Blurb/Magcloud thing, for me, was critically important to my photography career. My photography/publishing life didn’t start with Blurb/Magcloud but was certainly impacted by these companies, and is still being impacted.

I get A LOT of questions, emails, messages about Blurb/Magcloud, all of which I answer, not only because it’s my job but also because I truly love what these tools do for anyone with a story to tell. There is no perfect publishing platform out there. Believe me, I’ve tried many of them, but I don’t care. I’m not someone who waits. I’m a rabid self-publisher who never feels fear hitting “print” on ANYTHING no matter how trivial, experimental or outside the bounds of what the industry is telling me to do. For me there is no risk, no downside, outside of a few Gilders.(I pay for all my pubs.)

So here is the plan. “ESSAY” is my new series about short photo-essays published in multiple trim sizes. A series if you will. Some of these stories will be brand spanking new while others will build on projects I began but never finished. The goal now is to utilize both the Magcloud Digest and the Blurb Magazine formats. The Digest is small, landscape format and utterly affordable. Magazine is the CLASSIC photography format for anyone with essays on the brain. The Magazine is also portrait format and provides both a larger canvas and a specific design challenge. Finally, each year I will do a “best of” book. An annual of sorts. Oh ya, these pubs will be FOR SALE. I have no monetary goal, but if I can figure out how to donate all proceeds to an interesting charity then I’ll do that. Oh, by the way, I’m going to use Adobe InDesign for the Magcloud piece of the puzzle and Blurb Bookwright for the magazine.

Let’s talk design. The idea is to create a treatment I can use for the series so I don’t need to redesign each essay, episode or issue. I just don’t have the time to redesign from scratch each time I go to print. I was going to hire a designer, but someone asked that I do it myself so that the idea of doing something like this is open to anyone, including those with puny design skills like me, so that’s what I’m planning.

Let’s talk photography. The Leica M4 has been haunting me, so this was one of the things that prompted me to start this creative ball rolling. But, I also have the Hasselblad, the Fuji x100T, my half-frame, the Canon 5DIII as well as a list of other things.

But, I’m really, really torn. I will have very limited time. In the past when I would think about doing a story I always thought in years. Now I have to think in days. Probably no more than 2-3 days at a time if I’m lucky. So, I can’t shoot like I used to. A part of me wants to get a Fuji XT-2, a 35mm and 50mm equivalent and just use that for everything. I might reduce down to Leica(film) and Fuji but I don’t know for sure yet. Using digital here isn’t about ease or laziness it’s about how digital allows me to complete the full publishing circle WHILE IN THE FIELD. It’s also about being able to print in the field. Would I love to have a digital Leica? Sure, but there is no possible way for me to spend that kind of money on a camera. I’m not sure how anyone spends that kind of money on a camera, but thankfully people do. As for the x100T. It’s great for certain things but too slow for projects, at least for me. I use it for my daily stuff, Blurb stuff, etc. and it’s great.

Here is what you should know. The photography is important, surely, but the photography is only a part of what I’m trying to communicate. This project is about ideas, formulating stories, principle photography, editing, sequencing, cover design, page design, choosing materials, publishing, marketing and selling.

Let’s talk extras. Field recordings, interviews and even low key Blurb/Magcloud meetups depending on where I am. Tangible things. Artifacts, scanned and delivered. Handmade, written, tagged and bagged. Exploration. Witnessing. Pointing the hood down a road to the unknown, letting out that clutch and giving it gas.

My goal here is to inform, inspire and share but not in a trivial and insane way via nonstop social. This is about people playing along, chiming in, sharing and learning as we go. So many of you have wicked talent and may or may not know it. All of these things, the things I’ve done for so long, are available and just waiting for any of you to light the candle. There is no better way for me to get this point across then to show you firsthand how it works. I will create the spark and you will make the fire.

ESSAY, Volume 1 will highlight the crossroads of one small section of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. This space represents the collision of the tectonic plates of culture, development, the environment and the future of the American West. I’ve made several trips here in the past but never did anything with the work. I’ll return, as soon as possible, to take a new look at this area.

I have several goals. Return to the field. Make the best work I can possibly make. Learn. Explore. Teach. I don’t know how many of you saw “Factotum” with Matt Dillon? A film about a character who is the alter ego of the writer Charles Bukowski. The main character is going from job to job either quitting or getting fired and at one point, at a pickle factory, the owner of the factory asks the Dillon character about his writing. “So, you are writing a book?” “Yes, I am.” “What’s the book about?” “It’s about everything.” “Everything?” “Yes, everything.” “Am I in it?” the owner asks. “Yep.” “How about my wife?” “Yep, she’s in there too.”

THIS is what “ESSAY” is about. It’s about you, me, us, them, there, that and this. Living, breathing, real-time, real-world decisions bound with ink, paper and maybe a little blood. See you out there.

Comments 22

  1. Dan,

    Love this initiative!

    Just a dumb gear question (of course)… Why the XT-2? As a Leica shooter and a fan of the X100T, I would think natural to gravitate towards the XPro2.
    Full disclosure, while I am still shooting with a variety of film cameras, the XPro2 had been my main digital system, with a 35 and 50mm equivalent as well, for about a year. Its an elegant and powerful tool.

    Looking forward to seeing what you come up with and hope all is well with you.

    Best, Brant

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      Whats up Brant! Either of those cameras would work. You are the second person to tell me about the XPro. I’ll probably just use what I have….

  2. Can’t believe how excited I am about this. Think school girl happy 🙂 So looking forward to seeing what you do Dan, I just know it’s going to be epic. And the XT-2 thing – thats my plan too. I already have the 50mm eqv on the X-Pro 1 but that camera, although excellent, has its limitations.

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      I’m looking forward to it as well but am tempering my expectations for the images. Not sure what I can do in such short time periods, but also looking forward to seeing what copy I can create.

  3. I’ve read this post a couple of times now and I’m really looking forward to seeing some new work and following along on the journey. The plan sounds great and I love the idea of you sticking to the Digest and Magazine formats.

    I shall look out for the next update as you progress…

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      Thanks Paul! As for the formats….stay tuned for tomorrow’s post. I told you a lot would change…and change…and change…

  4. You know I did leave a few comments here and there on your blog Daniel? I think somehow they never arrived at destination. I also emailed you some time ago, it was to let you know about you being featured as photographer of the week in the On Taking Pictures podcast. Even that communication got lost apparently. Anyway, this is to say that I hope this message doesn’t get lost, because as Mick says above, I’m also “school girl happy” excited! In fact you inspired me so much with your passion to create cheap photobooks and photographs — I just have to make sure this message arrives to the other side of the pond! Good luck and looking forward to see your books/zines available on Blurb.

    PS: can you pls tell Adobe to fix the Lightroom Book module so that we can also do tradebooks? And in the meantime tell the Bookwright pals to add the ability to specify exact dimensions of the photo/text boxes, like punching the numbers I mean instead of dragging the mouse to get the exact 10x15cm?

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      A A del Monte,
      I remember getting your messages, and emails but I’m pretty sure I responded. I respond to everyone, so if for some weird reason you don’t hear from me make sure you email! Best address is milnorpictures at gmail dot com. I love communicating with people so very sorry if we didn’t connect. Post two is coming tomorrow. A lot of changes on this project already, but still more to come. As for Adobe, I’d love to see magazine and trade but that will come, if it comes from Adobe. I think it’s totally doable. And, we get a lot of requests for it. And yes, I agree about text boxes as well. I’d love to be able to punch in specs. What I do now is just create one box the size I want, duplicate, create and save my own template. So, I only have to do it once. Thanks for taking the time to write. Email me if you get this!

  5. Good to hear you are going to start something new (again) and will definitely get hold of a copy or two. I miss those ebooks you did about five or six years ago. I think they are still on my phone actually. Print … I need to print.

    I recently sold a Leica lens to fund a Lumix LX100 as I’m starting to get a little tired of the limitations of film (I know shoot me now). The Leica and 35mm lens are still on the shelf waiting to be used but I’m loving the LX100. The best thing is that it’s a f/1.7 24mm – 75mm lens that you CAN’T remove. I purposely chose it for that reason so that I wouldn’t be able to upgrade lenses or have to sit around deciding what lens to take out with me on a particular day. It’s also perfect for cycling.

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      I totally hear ya. I love film, will continue to use film but the digital for strategy purposes is really nice. I’ve never believed anyone who said “I’m an environmentalist so I use digital.” I think those people are totally full of shit, but there is a SLIGHT element of truth. Digital is horrible for the environment, but when you consider shipping film and the energy required to process film it begins to add up. Digital is entirely wasteful too but in other ways. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do.

  6. I too am excited by your new venture. Like you, I have several unfinished projects. I know your work will inspire me to approach them with new eyes. I look forward to your posts. Best wishes.

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  7. Hi Daniel, I’m looking forward to this too and will chime in for sure. I’m pleased to hear that we will get to see the (for want of better words) the big picture; the false starts, the mistakes etc. Seeing something finished without the blood sweat and tears isn’t half as interesting or informative.

    Your subject matter is timely and one of the major issues of our time, not just in the American West but anywhere with wilderness. Some people see beauty and some see an opportunity to make a buck via concrete. Your heart is in this story.

    I’m one of the people who buy Leica digital cameras. Yes, it was me who saved the company. At the moment I have a Fuji X100T and, like many here it would seem, I’m looking at the XT2 and the 35mm and 50mm prime lenses. I’m also waiting patiently for the new Leica M. If it’s the same dimensions as the film M cameras, I’ll buy one and a 50mm lens. If it’s still bloated like the current digital M, I’ll either buy a new film M (I like new) or the Fuji XT2 or X-Pro2. How do I afford it? I’m old, plus, I don’t need a lot of gear, just good gear. In truth, almost any camera made today will get the job done, it’s just what you are comfortable using that matters.

    I’m currently trying a free trial of InDesign and so I’d like to know why you are using it for Magcloud and not for Blurb Bookwright using the Blurb plug-in?

    I’ll watch any Matt Dillon film.

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      All good things. For sure. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do. As I mentioned on the first post…many things have already changed. Including using ID and Magcloud. I’m done to just Blurb magazine, and am going to use Bookwright not ID. I want to make something that anyone can make, and want to keep the design as simply as possible. But, having said this, both the ID plugin and ID itself are fantastic.

  8. Hey Dan, best of luck, this sounds like a really cool project! So are Mag Cloud and Blurb related as companies, or are you just releasing on both? I have wanted to create a quarterly or so magazine for my family who are spread throughout the country. Just something about us and what we’re up to, lots of pictures of the kids and stuff like that. Which do you think is a better option for that? My feeling is Blurb and Bookwright, I also don’t own InDesign .

    Just my 2-cents but I LOVE my XT-1, it has revitalized my love for shooting and photography in general…of course my last camera was a Nikon D200 so it had been a while since upgrading.

    OK, well thanks and have fun with the new project!


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      Hey Jim,

      Magcloud is a sister company that is part of Blurb. They offer different products, not better or worse, just different. I love Bookwright. A great, simple software that is much easier for me to use. I am learning InDesign, and love it, but this project will be Bookwright based. I’d love to have XT2 but it probably isn’t in the cards.

  9. This may be sacrilegious, but after talking with you, I tried InDesign CS6 and I’m sure it’s powerful, but Microsoft Publisher 2010 just allowed me to design my first landscape formatted MagCloud Digest pretty easily without a huge learning curve. I’m guessing that ID would be a better tool in the long run for laying out these kinds of projects – yes? Or is it a matter of the needs of the individual? I already have Publisher so it was a no brainer to follow the directions from Magcloud but you do have to insert jpg images in order to save the Publisher project – it won’t save the native publisher file with HQ Tiff images. Now to replicate the project in InDesign CS6 and see the workflow/learning curve difference.

  10. Aside from the motivation I may receive from this post, I just want to tell you I love the photo in the body of the post. It reminds me of the very first episode of the X-Files.

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  11. Hi Daniel,
    I’m currently using Bookwright to ruthlessly edit my ‘best of’ book, but I’m gonna take a break to give iTunes some money for “Factotum.” 🙂 Always like to hear about your perspective on projects.

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