The arts centre I attend on Friday mornings started running a series of short courses on book-making. I have a lot of books. And I am trying to experiment with new ways to present images. So I signed up for the classes about folded book forms. They were run by Susan who has a truly calming presence; exactly what I needed by the end of the week.
We looked at the technical aspects of making these books – finding the direction of the grain in paper, materials that could be used, folds and terminology. Susan showed us beautiful examples of artist’s books, zines, accordion and flag books. We’ve made examples of all of them, and talked through ideas for our own work and how these folded books could be used for presentation.
For me, the various accordion books (accordion, snake and meander) have been the most useful in terms of photography, although I can see how the hot dog booklet (zine) and flag books could be used too and I will try all of these book forms to see how they work with images I have.
Although it seems almost too simple, I particularly like the plain accordion book. When I really thought through the potential it has, it surprised me that I don’t see it more often, especially in the context of children’s books.
If you wanted to you could use the format to tell two different stories in the same book, and on reflection I realise that that is a powerful device. The information across one side can be accessed sequentially or it can be seen all at once. For me, that turns that format of book into a potential display making it perfect for images. When it’s in their hands there’s no control over how your audience accesses that material, but that means that there is more potential for each individual to experience something slightly different, especially if you were to use a meander or snake which is less intuitive to handle. Text could help the user to make sense of the way you would like the material to be seen, but it doesn’t provide a certainty.
Last week I took some polaroids in the forest and I have transferred the emulsion part to watercolour paper. I’m thinking about using an accordion to present the images. I have the negative part of the polaroid images too, so I’m thinking of putting the emulsion lifts on one side of the book and the negatives on the other. Then I’d like to present statistics about deforestation on one side of the book and some kind of text, probably poetry, about forests or the fragility of the natural world at this point in time on the other.
By their very nature the emulsion lifts represent the fragility of nature and also it’s individuality as each polaroid is individual – they can’t be reproduced in their original format. Rather than folding a strip of paper to make the accordion I am thinking of sewing the pages together with very thin thread, adding to a sense of fragility and perhaps introducing a feeling of tension about breaking the book (which is inevitable) and an idea of having to treat it with care, maybe transferring some of that feeling to the subject of the book itself.
The fact that the book is made out of paper and so itself as an object and myself as it’s creator could be said to be complicit in the destruction of forests is not lost on me. Neither is the fact that polaroids are not environmentally ideal. But the expense of the polaroid format means that they’re used (certainly by me) very sparingly and so each image is more meaningful and thought out.
UPDATE 24th April 2018
The final week of this class had been cancelled due to snow, and it was ages before we could all get back together to complete the final week.
We completed the covers for the accordion books.
We learnt a turkish map fold and made a cover for it. (I made the mistake of making my initial fold across the middle of the map. I should have done it top to bottom).
We used a few tulip folds stuck together to make a book that I think would work really well for square images if you printed it double sided; you could hang it up with string.