Tighter Edit

Instant Nomad #4065 copyright Douglas Stockdale

Editing a body of work and paring it down to manageable size is always daunting. I recall that while working on my book Ciociaria, I started with over 4,000 images and my initial goal was to distill that down to 100 for the final edit by the publisher. While working on this book-dummy for Instant Nomad it also seemed that it was short of a Herculean task when I was able to edit my series into a very meaningful book-dummy.

Having the initial book-dummy layout enabled me to start sending off Requests for Bids (RFQ) to a couple of printers to obtain budgetary quotes for my book. When some of the pricing came in I found myself thinking that I might need to consider a more concise book design (e.g. less pages, reduced production cost, smaller price-tag). My perspective on book design is to start by swinging for the stars in terms of design and content; a book design that really resonates with me. Perhaps what I might call my ‘dream book’ for a given project or series. The reality is that a dream book can get awfully expensive if I am not going to print a Ga-Zillion copies. And a fare amount of these just might be sitting in my studio at the end of the day unsold if I were to print even as a few as a Mega-Billion books.

So I felt the need to develop a back-up plan B, to create a book-dummy that had 16 fewer pages than my initial design. Why the number 16 you may wonder? This is because I am planning on a commercial offset lithographic printing of the book, and a litho sheet has 8 pages printer per side, printed on two side, thus a total of 16 pages per sheet. If I were thinking about a digital printing process, I might only need to worry about making a 4-page modification (one digital litho sheet can have a little as 2 pages per side, thus two side is 4 pages). The big issue for me is that deleting 16 pages is pretty disruptive to the book layout I had in place, as even deleting four page can change a narrative sequence. Which it did.

Part of my tighter editing process is to find the potential weak links; the photographs that did not full explore or support the narrative I was attempting to build. The impact of deleting pages and photographs also results in changing the relationship between the remaining images. Thus a re-ordering of the sequence was required as I removed pages and photographs. Always a balancing act in editing and this type of final tight edit is no different.

Ideally, a really tight edit might also strength the resulting visual narrative, distilling the body of work down to the really essential elements. Which is why this has been a slow process and why it is not entirely complete yet. The first phase is finally finished in that 16 pages were removed and the sequence has been modified, which actually looks pretty amazing. So far, so good. Nevertheless, I need to take a little time to think about these changes and then test each of the remaining images with my alternatives photographs. Not an easy process.

After this is completed, I will create another pdf of the revised book-dummy to share with a few friends for their assessment. Meanwhile, a little dickering with the printers on their initial quotes before we move to plan B with 16 fewer pages as well as evaluate some alternative book pricing ideas that might work with the larger and potential more expensive book; e.g. book comes with a print.

The staged photograph above, #4065, is now on the bubble for inclusion in the book; it might or might not make the final cut. While looking at this photograph again, I realized that I needed to slightly lighten the interior space a tiny bit to reveal more of the details inside the hotel room. Allowing the interior to become lighter also reveals more details in the subject and the intentional blurring is more evident, thus my subject does not appear ‘whole’ or fully intact. Something is missing or out of sorts…

My photographs are rarely this dark, so it is taking a little time for me to adjust to this darker tonality image.



Btw, if you like where this book development is heading, leave me a message about your interest in the book.

Current exhibition:

May 7th – 29th, 2021, Southeast Center for Photography (SEC4P), Greenville, South Carolina. A group photographic exhibition on the theme of Flora, juried by Wendi Schneider. Opening concurrent with Greenville’s First Friday events while there will not be a formal artists reception of this exhibition due to the pandemic.


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