Away Station from my project Insomnia: Hotel Noir photograpy copyright Douglas Stockdale
One of the interesting internal changes that have arisen from my recent book reviews is my complete reversal on the use of full bleed photographs being in photobooks. Up till last year, I have realized that I was a bit of a purist (also read Modernist) regarding what was the best way to display a photograph in a photobook. I really enjoyed seeing the entire photograph with the small amount of white margin around the photograph in my photobooks, similar to the experience of viewing a matted photograph on the wall. I was not a big fan of publishing a photograph where even one edge was flowing off the page, bleeding the content off into neverland, least all four edges were off the page, called the full bleed.
I understood that for a photograph to be a full bleed on a printed page, the photographer/publisher had to sacrifice some very small loss of the photograph’s image due to the process of trimming the page to achieve the full bleed. Thus, as a photographic modernist, that meant that I did not have the opportunity to see all of the photograph’s “full” potential, thus something was being held back from me. It was one thing to crop a photographic image to achieve the final composition, but it seemed another to do that same edge cropping on the photobook page. Okay, this was some of my logic. In fact, seeing a full bleed photograph in a photobook put me on edge (pardon the pun) and created a tension that I was not fully tapping in to as part of the process of understanding the resulting body of work.
It is not that printing a photograph with a full bleed is a new thing. In retrospect, I just think that I was too closed minded and did not fully understand how this could be a creative and effective design. Not exactly sure what was the Aha! that changed my mind.
Perhaps it was the process of reviewing a successive and interesting number of books with the full bleed design, and it challenged me as to what could be the other implications of this layout and try to get beyond my own admitted opinions and bias. Concurrently, I have been reading about assessing and evaluating photographs, one of which was Stephen Shore’s book about the photographic print and the implications of the photographs edge as an artificial boundary on reality. Third, trying to get out to more photographic exhibits, I have been seeing the equivalent of a full bleed photograph, which are photographs that have been face-mounted to glass or plexi and do not have a mattes or borders.
Anyhow, now I see some of the creative possibilities and implications in how I might read or use a photograph with a full bleed in a photobook. Thus, when I have decided that for my Insomnia series to utilize a full bleed image, I now understand much better the resulting cropping implications.
I am not going to find a “perfect” photobook design that will allow full bleeds for every photograph that I want to use with only a minimum of loss. Within the digital age, we can crop any photograph to the best composition independent of the resulting size. In the past wet-age, we usually found out-selves limited to the paper easel for an 8 x 10″ or 16 x 20″ photograph and did the cropping with the enlarger. So my resulting image size varies a lot and is not very consistent. Thus if I am going to use a full bleed in a photobook, the amount of cropping necessary to work with a given photobook page is also going to vary a lot. Which also means, I have to evaluate the resulting cropped image and decide if the trade-off between the cropped / full bleed photograph still retains the content that I want as opposed to showing the full image with some margins.
Now I have more options to evaluate, but I am also thinking more “outside the box”. nice.
Best regards, Doug
BTW, Away Station, above, has now been cropped for a full bleed image for my Insomniaphotobook. The uncropped version for comparison is here.