I went to a lecture by a British photographer on a cold Sunday night – part of my job as a weblog columnist. I didn’t expect much but as it happened it was a real eye-opener.
The chap used to shoot record album covers and editorial pictures for British publications – I think he still does, though he’s based here in Western Australia. Great pictures, amusing situations, and just as a little trailer at the end…the secret revealed of how to win a major book prize. Major, like the Publisher’s section of the Lucie, major. Major.
His secret? Shoot a lot, shoot with anything and everything, shoot anything with colour, and shoot a subject that you know. It’s pretty close to the instructions for a door gunner on a helicopter gunship…
What I took from the lecture was a view of the process he showed – the use of paper proofs to visualise the layout – the use of good graphic designers to tie your own ideas together – the connection to a good publisher. And the hard-headed planning for just enough production at just the right time.
As far as the business of prize-winning, that is probably connected to the politics and economics of the publishing and photographic industry, but he did really produce the goods that someone else could sell.
So – what for me? What for you? What do we do with this knowledge?
I’m going to make a book. There are enough publishers of photo books in the business to cater to my modest needs. To start with, I am not going to make the same book that the British chap did – nor am I going to emulate Cartier Bresson, Schatz, or anyone else I like in the photo world. I’m not them and my subject won’t be theirs.
I have a specialist subject. I have enough equipment to render it well. I have time to work. And I do not need to sell the book I make – but if I make it well, it can join the other monographs and photo books in my library shelf, and I’ll be content. I’m very glad I went to that lecture.