Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sequencing: Spreads and Gutters

I've been thinking about the two page spread, the sort of "atom", or smallest indivisible unit of the photobook, and looking at what people have done with them.

The most obvious remark one can make is that, since the 2-page spread is (basically) what we "look at" each spread needs to function as a unit, somehow or another. You can make a (strong) analogy with composing a picture, since in a very real sense that is what you are doing in laying one of these out. The spreads, of course, have to work with one another, from one spread to the next, from the first one to the last.

The standard approach is to reduce the 2-page spread to a single picture. Usually, this is printed recto with the verso either blank, or carrying accompanying text. A title, a poem, whatever you like. Less often, we see single pictures printed across the gutter. Perhaps a full bleed spread, or something else.

If the author chooses to place more than one photo in a spread, the most common design is one photo recto, another verso, with the two pictures echoing one another in some way. Similar graphical design, similar textures, similar subjects, similar tonalities or colors. This is the easy way to make them "work together" to create a coherent spread.

Szarkowski's The Photographer's Eye is a remarkable example of this. Each spread contains, often, two or more pictures, and is its own little world. Sometimes it's a group of 5 pictures of hands. One places one of Evans's torn movie posters with ruined faces looking to the left, against Lange's Funeral Cortege which features a face in a window, again looking left. There's not a lot going on from one spread to the next, but Szarkowski manages to make each spread amazingly coherent on several levels.

I don't see any particular reason that one could not as well use contrast rather than similarity, but whatever one does, one needs to be cognizant of the rest of the book. If you make verso a high key portrait, and recto a murky architectural study, well, that says something. It's not "together" so you will need it to make sense some other way, in the context of the book.

Indeed, in all cases, one needs to keep in mind the needs of the book. Szarkowski has the luxury of making a survey, so one spread need not particularly related to the next, except in the sense of fitting the larger theme set in each chapter of his book.

It occurs to me that a real tour de force would be to create one theme on the verso pages, and a second theme on the recto pages, while simultaneously making each 2 page spread function on some fashion or another.

About the gutter.

I learned something from Sally Mann's Immediate Family about the gutter and its use. Mostly we consider the gutter a nuisance, a place where content goes to die. Print across the gutter if you must, but try to avoid having important picture elements drop into it.

Mann does something quite different. Most of the book is 2 picture spreads, one recto, one verso, with some strong relationship between the two. Now and then, we get a single photo. Often, it is printed recto with the verso blank. Then we get a handful of single pictures printed across the gutter. Mann can perfectly well just print things recto, she does this a lot, so, what the hell?

The answer is that she's embracing the gutter, which is bloody genius as far as I can tell. I swooned.

If a picture divides neatly into two, she prints it across the gutter with the gutter cutting it at the right spot. Three pictures for the price of one. In a couple of cases, she seems to be, rather, indicating an alternate crop, "take the whole thing, or if you prefer, just take the recto" which is 2 for 1, not quite the bargain, but still a nice price.

Anyways, the big lesson here is that printing across the gutter does not require that the picture be placed symmetrically. The gutter can fall wherever you like, so use it, drop that strong vertical element into the right spot.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Trend?

Perhaps a trendlet?

I've run across several bits and pieces of Modern Art, or references to Modern Art, or whatever, which take the general form of the artist refusing to admit that there's a concept behind the Art. "The meaning is fluid" or whatever seems to be the catch phrase. One collection on display right now in Vancouver is literally random detritus glued to a table, with the meaning "fluid" and "open to the viewer to interpret" or something. Which tells me "we glued a bunch of shit to a table and have no idea what it means either, fuck you, sucker."

We also see this in a fair bit of the sort of amateur-hour political art that is in vogue in some circles. "My practice deploys multiple media to interrogate the various aspects of the Corporatist Stateoid Mechansism" or whatever.

There is a certain vague sense to it. 200 years ago Art was largely about technique, artisanal skills. It was assumed, I think, that there were ideas and concepts and so on, but that was basically just assumed. Then we get photography and that leads more or less directly to conceptual art, where the work, the skill, is basically nil. The idea becomes dominant. Art is no longer about skills, it's about ideas. Naturally the next thing to do would be to jettison ideas.

The begs the question of what the hell Art's about now, and I think there's a real problem here.

Secondarily, though, we see a related problem.

We've all taken that picture of grandma, which has so much meaning to us. When we were naive and young, we probably didn't see why everyone didn't see what a powerful photo it was. Everyone else just saw a kind of blurry photo of some old lady they didn't know, after all.

In much the same way we have naive young artists taking, I don't know, a bunch of pictures of refugees. Because they are good lefties, they see a Powerful Political Statement here, and assume that everyone sees the same. It's obviously an indictment of the anti-refugee policies of The State, or of the policies that created the refugee crisis, or whatever.

The trouble is that it's not obvious at all. The Artist won't take a position, he or she insists on just documenting the thing. Positions, ideas, concepts, opinions, those are all so last century. We're in a post-conceptual world now, and Art is just printing out a bunch of appropriated pictures and letting the meaning be "fluid." Sure, your friends all get it, because they're basically little clones of you, with your same simplistic leftie politics, they'll recognize all of it and they will applaud you for your Powerful Work.

This, unfortunately, leaves things too open. Plenty of people in this world look at a bunch of refugees in a camp, or drowned on a beach, or whatever, and say "good idea! Send 'em back!" and plenty of people see the tools of The State and say "hooray, we're very powerful!" and so on.

If you don't, as an Artist, make your opinion, your concept, clear, then the critics will gabble on about "fluidity" instead of repeating the position (and then judging you based on it, to be sure, but they'll start by stating your case). If the critics don't state your case, then the only thing that has a chance of leaking into the wider culture is the raw "documentation" you have so cutely put together, and everyone who runs across it will interpret it according to their own lights.

This completely de-weaponizes Art as a tool of change.

Colberg, unfortunately, missed out on a lovely chance to get in to this. His most recent piece reviewed Generation Wealth, which seems to be one of the patented modern "just the documentation" pieces, with very little opinion stated by the author (although one cannot be sure, Colberg, infuriatingly, turns the bulk of the piece into a boring paean to his own sensitivity and forgets to tell us much of, well, anything about the bloody book). This could be usefully, I think, compared to the work of Gordon Parks (which he reviewed the week before).

I admit that Colberg might not be aware of this, it's not clear that the Parks book makes it at all clear what Parks was up to. A book of the photographs of Parks seems about as useful and sensible as a book of Shakespeare's verbs, but there you have it. I assume Colberg has done at least as much work as my trivial poking around, and is aware that Parks a) stated opinions and b) fomentend change, while modern efforts to do the equivalent to the modern oligarchy are mysteriously stalled out.

Anyways. I'm not blaming the academic artists for all the world's problems, but I do think that the ones that persist in not making their position clear aren't helping really at all. Their work is more or less by design not powerful at all. It is completely toothless.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Those Damned Iconic Pictures

I keep coming back to this. The single iconic photo, and its power. Or, really, lack thereof.

I noted in my previous remarks that, somehow, we seem to associate Single Iconic pictures with social changes that occurred before the picture was taken. This, I chalk up to memory effects, the fact that we tend to remember the last thing on a list, the more recent occurrence.

Noodling on it more I think there's also a process of rationalization. We want simple answers, pat answers. We want strong reasons.

I believe in anthropogenic climate change. Not that I want to debate it, but there it is. I suspect that the reason I believe in it is because Al Gore made this movie, which I found convincing. Why was I convinced? Not because the movie is air-tight. In fact it is precisely the sort of well-crafted self-consistent set of things that so often turn out to be bullshit. Did I check any of the scientific facts presented in the film? Nope. Are all those facts even true? Probably not.

I believed the film for essentially emotional reasons. It had the general shape of a strong argument, but more importantly it appealed to my peers, my politics, my history. In short, Gore's film is an effective piece of propaganda. Never mind whether it's true or not.

Over the years since, I have continued to rationalize my belief. The media has not had a Big Reveal that it's all bullshit, in fact the story remains more or less consistently the same. My experience teaches me that this further suggests that it's basically right, in some sense. Kennedy probably was not assassinated by the CIA, and Climate Change is probably a real thing.

True or not, the reasons for my belief are in fact muddy and emotional. All my rhetoric about science and media is merely window dressing, rationalization.

In a similar way I think we seek to rationalize and simplify reasons for changes we see in society, and sometimes those rationalizations crystalize around a picture, or a couple pictures (or a book, or a movie, etc). The US military adventure in Vietnam ended for a wild array of interlocking reasons, one large one being public outcry, a total collapse of public support. The reasons for that outcry, that collapse, are also myriad, interlocking, muddy.

But we like our history simple, so we seize on a simpler version: The US withdrew from Vietnam because of public outcry against the war which was in turn driven by Nick Ut's picture of a naked little girl on fire.

It's rationalization and simplification. The public outcry was driven by a bunch of factors, including but not limited to a steady, apparently unending, drip of media coverage of the war and its atrocities.

Worth noting: I am not the only person who thinks this. The Pentagon, manifestly, agrees. They're very carefully managing the steady drip of media coverage. We know almost nothing about the many dozens of adventures they are currently having abroad, and what little we hear is largely positive (we are heros!) or dramatic (a few of our boys and a helicopter died doing a Super Important Thing). There's nothing of the venal, stupid, dirty, bullshit that is 99.9999% of "warfighting."

A few Abu Ghraib's don't matter, it turns out, though everyone in The Media was pretty sure that one was the Napalm Girl moment that would spell the end of US involvement in Iraq. Oops. Not so much.

And all of this of course, is rationalization for my purely emotional belief that photobooks are the greatest thing ever and the fine print is a dead end. How's my propaganda campaign working for you?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Photos/Social Change/Gordon Parks

I've been doing a little light reading to fill in at least a little background on Gordon Parks. It's obvious that while his name rang no particular bells, his work has its boot prints all over me and my life. And that's not at all a bad thing.

While it is by no means clear to me that his photographic work was particularly seminal or important in the history of photography, it is crystal clear that he's socially, culturally, very important. He did a lot of work on race in America, and it is at least credible to say that he was very influential on that front. He took pictures, he wrote, he made movies. He composed music and poetry. He was, obviously, some kind of freakish polymath.

Let's start out by saying that he worked for Roy Stryker at the FSA/OWI, and then later at Standard Oil. This was a relationship that went on for 5 or 6 years. Not a long time, but enough. Stryker was a propagandist, plain and simple, and he was a good one. This does not mean that I disapprove of Stryker, particularly. When I say "propaganda" I mean it in a neutral way, you could as well say "strong story-telling" and it would mean more or less the same thing. What I mean is that Stryker was expert at -- it was literally his job for 15 years -- shaping a visual story to suit an end. There is no doubt that Parks learned from Stryker, and indeed it shows in the rest of his career.

To be quite clear, let me state it baldly: this is propaganda that the USA was in sore need of, and I am pleased as anything that Parks was able to do it.

There is this enduring idea that single iconic photos change the world. If you're me, you have some vague notions of this sort:
  • Nick Ut's picture Napalm Girl ended the Vietnam War.
  • Ansel Adams's photos of Yosemite led to the National Park System.
  • Gene Smith's picture of Tomoko halted pollution in Minamata.
None of these things is actually true. All of these pictures were taken more or less at the end of the events leading up to the result. More on that in a moment.

What actually changes this is a gradual normalization of ideas, a gradual shift in identity. While things are not perfect by any means in the world, we have shifted over the last 60-70 years. Corporations still pollute, but the general social consensus is that, when they do, they're evil, they're perverse. Racism is still pervasive, but again, the rednecks who do overtly racist things are evil weirdos. What we collectively, generally, consider "normal", has changed. Homosexuality, recently considered evil and perverse, is now rather more broadly considered normal.

Society, now as always, contains a complete spectrum of ideas. Change is not a mass exodus from one ideology to another, but is shift in where the median lies. Behaviors and ideas once considered normal, or acceptable, by most are now considered weird, wrong, by most. Correspondingly, behaviors and ideas once considered weird, wrong, and now normal and acceptable. By "most" people. Every mainstream position from 1980, 1960, or 1150, still has a group of adherents but it's probably smaller than it was in its heyday.

These changes are wrought slowly. LIFE and TIME did a lot of the spade work in their time. Some of the essays Parks did for LIFE are incredible, this is some seriously hot stuff. It's not clear it would be publishable at all today, in our twitchy press environment. It's possible that there is real motion in a retrograde direction now. We certainly see a lot of effort being expended to normalize an anti-Muslim attitude. Using, of course, exactly the same methods.

What Parks seems to have been up to is pretty straightforward, seen through the lens of Roy Stryker's approach to things. He's humanizing The American Negro from a variety of angles. Harlem Gang Leader, Black Muslims, and some ordinary families. I have not read the stories, but I am pretty sure that the narrative is one of normalizing. These are people, first and foremost, with some hopes and dreams and troubles that you, a White American, can identify with, and others that are somewhat mysterious to you.

This is basic stuff. Say some things which are true, which are identifiable, which connect with the reader. Then say some other stuff, the payload if you will. The payload might be true, it might not be. If you're Goebbels demonizing The Jew, your payload is probably some untrue stuff. If you're Gordon Parks trying to humanize The Negro, your payload is probably some true stuff. The mechanism is the same, though. How objectively "true" the payload is doesn't matter.

And then you keep it up. After a while, your readers have the idea that this is normal. They probably think they dreamed some of this stuff up themselves.

This, as far as I know, is the mechanism by which social change occurs. We'd like to think that social change can occur, that we can improve ourselves as a species, as a nation, as a company, as a bowling league, by rational discussion, through reason and common sense. I think that is false. We change collectively when someone has seized the microphone, and is delivering a carefully calibrated message. In days of yore, the microphone was frequently held by religious leaders, tribal leaders, feudal leaders. It's the media, today.

A wrapper of things we know to be true, a generous ladle of things we wish were true, all carrying a payload of things the speaker wants us to believe. A story shaped to gently shove us this way or that, a touch so light we don't really feel it.

It doesn't matter if you're trying to teach soldiers to hate the enemy, or teach white people to accept non-white people as humans, the mechanisms are the same.

Photographs play a huge role here, because they are things we know to be true, in their own peculiar way. But they do not do it through the single iconic picture. They work through the prosaic, the mundane, through repetition. Nick Ut's photo doesn't work because it's unusual, but because it's normal. Perhaps a little more shocking, but by the time Napalm Girl was published, the public had been seeing various horrors from Vietnam for 5 years or more.

I find it fascinating that we (or at least I) tend to associate a picture taken toward the end with the idea that this is the picture that did it, that effected the change. My theory is that, while it's the steady normalizing drip of pictures and words that actually do the work, the one we remember when it's all over is whichever one we saw most recently that was kind of striking. There are some documented memory biases that can have this result, the "Peak-end rule", and the "recency effect" at least.

This does leave open two questions that I think are important:

1. What, if anything, can be done about the pockets of "weirdos"? Is it just a question of keeping the pressure up, and whittling away at them?

2. What about the built-in stuff? An organization can be, for instance, sexist as anything without containing a single person who is sexist. The sexism is baked into the rules, the shared culture, the underlying ideas. Usually it's hidden under various veneers, so that the people in the organization don't even notice it.

Do the same mechanisms apply, perhaps targeted differently? How do I make a photo essay that addresses the fact "we've found that former race-car drivers make the best sales people for our product" almost entirely excludes women from the sales team? And if so, would it work? What social norm can be moved to address these things?

Do pictures work here, too?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Colberg

I'm starting to have a problem with Jörg Colberg. His latest piece, a review of Steidl's study edition of the collected work of one Gordon Parks, which you can read here, is a great example. On the one hand, there's some good thoughtful stuff in there.

Everybody can make competent pictures, assuming they spend enough time with their cameras. A competent picture shouldn’t be used as the bar for anything (unless you’re teaching Photo 101). The bar should be higher, and it should be at the height that Parks put it for himself: make pictures that matter. Make pictures that convey a deep sense of urgency, where when someone looks at them even fifty years later they’ll be moved deeply. If you got someone to think that way, now or much later, then — and only then — you’re in business. Gordon Parks can show you the way.


This is basically a little drum I've been beating on this blog for several years (without mentioning Gordon Parks) so, obviously, I approve.

But then, but then. We stumble over Colberg's goofy habit of taking a swing at anything he thinks might be an establishment figure. This time it's Walker Evans, or more specifically, the "cult" surrounding Evans.

To this date, I can’t fully wrap my head around, for example, the Walker-Evans cult (which I will admit I find a bit creepy, too). I mean, I get the man’s importance. But what I don’t get is how there are few, if any, truly critical appreciations of his achievements.


To be honest, I have no idea what he's even asking for. What on earth is a "truly critical appreciation" anyways?

When you see the pattern (Sontag sucks, Steidl sucks, Evans sucks, Frank sucks...) it begins to feel like a litany of "oh, ok, everything that used to be good is shit" which, well, OK then. But you've jolly well got some work to do if you want to make that thesis stick, Jörg, and so far I ain't seeing it.

Then he sticks in his politics (of which we see a lot more on twitter, to our chagrin), which are the same sort of dime-store unconsidered self-contradictory stuff his undergrads no doubt espouse.

For the record, I'm on his side. I'm all for it. Throw the oligarchs out. Eliminate the military, and the corresponding industrial complex. Basic minimum income for all. Hell yeah, and viva la revolución. My family gives a good deal of money to local charities, and I quit my extremely good paying tech-sector job for a complicated mass of reasons, among them I can't stand the Silicon Valley habit of making tons of money selling bullshit, and figuring out the moral issues later, or maybe never.

Here Colberg's discount bin politics manifest in hand-wringing about why Parks isn't in the history books, with an implied "well, it's just racism, obviously" when there is surely the chance that it might be more nuanced than that. Colberg certainly doesn't know. For all I know Beaumont Newhall simply couldn't abide non-whites, but for all Colberg and I know, Parks simply wasn't influential enough. Being good doesn't make you important historically.

Colberg rather makes a point of not knowing (or at least not mentioning?) anything about Parks's actual historical role, so it's not clear to me how he can justify complaining about Parks's absence from the history books.

When you put together the "establishment figures are stupid" with "my politics are left wing and simplistic" you, at least if you are me, begin to recognize a very young person. These are precisely the positions one expects from a 19 year old who just joined the Campus Socialists Club. They are not, unfortunately, what one expects to see muddying the waters in someone's magazine-styled blog of criticism. Hence, my growing unease.

And yes, I am well aware of my role as a Pot here. Hush now.

For the record, the name Gordon Parks meant nothing to me when I saw it on Colberg's blog. It's possible that 20 years ago I was a total fanboy, or actively despised the man, but at present I remember exactly nothing. I take it as given that he was good, and a quick poke around certainly suggests that he was.

But good isn't enough. Being good isn't even relevant.

All that said, Colberg does make some legitimately good general points about what photography is for, what one might aim to do, and how one might distinguish between merely good pictures and important bodies of work. I'd like to see him write a lot more about that.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Sequencing III

I am working on a book about Bellingham's Summer, which is a somewhat abrupt and slightly mad time of year. The days are very long, and often very bright. We're sleeping poorly, and furiously trying to get all the Summer in that we can in the few short weeks we have.

Here I experiment with musical themes.

Theme One: the fecund growth of plant life, which we introduce with these pages of morning glories.






The theme of growth and multiplication should be clear, surely? I had thought to have one more page, a 3x4 or a 4x4 grid, that fills the page even more fully than the 3x3, but goodness it's a lot of work to mock these things up.

Once the theme is set, we can reference it by inserting the opening picture of a single tendril.

We can repeat this theme with variations, these two pictures could be substituted in for the first and last pictures, without loss, I think:




Obviously we could mix up the pictures in the collages, or replace individual photos. We could play around with sizes when we recapitulate this theme (or any theme).

Theme Two: photos drawn from the local Farm Market, which is really a sort of weekly fair. A few people making balloon animals, or doing face-painting for kids. Some buskers. A bunch of people selling produce, a bunch more selling made food, and yet another bunch selling candles, art, crystals, and so on. And masses of humans.

These pictures are all the same size, a sort of bass line. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM, of people.






Again, you can obviously swap in any similar pictures without losing the sense of the theme.

Theme Three: The lawnmower. This thing is rotting on the lawn about three houses down from me. I intend to use it in the latter half of the book, representing as it does a cutting down, a decay, an ending. We start with a mild picture of a wheel, with a strong botanical component to echo Theme One, and end on a rather more dissonant shot of the blades.

In this way I visually prepare for the dissonance, the unpleasant departure from what we've seen up to now. These photos are treated differently, and in the final product I expect each theme to have its own toning and contrast profile, to further clarify the point.





In the final book, this theme will probably be introduced in a spread-out fashion, spacing the pictures out by a couple of pages. I might end the book with a recapitulation of the theme, the same three pictures stacked onto a single page, recto, and then turn the page for a final photo of rain/cloud/storm, the gloom of fall closing in.

In closing, an idea for harmony. Here is a variation of theme one, starting partway through a variation on theme two. Imagine this as three pages in a row.



Why would I do this? For fun, of course! And as a way to pack content into pages, and to be, perhaps, appealing and interesting. To express what it is about the Summer in Bellingham? Or if it doesn't do that, well, at least to be absurdly precious.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Two Books on Photobooks

I recently reviewed, in some sense, Colberg's recent book Understanding Photobooks, and shortly thereafter I had commended to me the book by Swanson and Himes, Publish Your Photography Book. I have now read the second one thanks to the generosity of one of my regular readers (thank you, J!). The copy I have is a first edition, not the newer second edition, so bear that in mind.

While I was expecting these two books to cover roughly the same ground, it is immediately obvious to even the inattentive that the titles do not suggest any such thing. And, indeed, they are quite different books. One might say that they do cover roughly the same ground, but the areas of intense focus are almost completely separate.

Colberg's book is aimed at the Serious Artist who wants a design-forward book, essentially an Artist's Book, but printed on an offset press in an edition of several hundred to a few thousand. His book will be most useful to you if this describes you, but it will remain useful to you unless you are very far indeed from that model.

He covers, briefly, the process by which titles are acquired by publishers, but spends the bulk of the book talking about artist-focused issues. Sequencing and editing, the role of design, the characteristics of various bindings, the kinds of issues that arise relevant to the artist in printing, and so on. He talks about marketing, a little bit, but perhaps a little more about markets.

On the other hands, Swanson and Himes are more broadly focused. Their target readers are anyone who wants to publish a book of photgraphs, from the Colberg set to the people who want to make a giant beautiful coffee table book to the entomologist who wants to publish his exhaustive library of focus-stacked bee photographs for his colleagues. Their book is roughly equally useful to all within that spectrum. While the list of topics covered is roughly the same as Colberg's list (with the exception of sequencing and editing -- S&H offer almost nothing on this topic) S&H is much more focused on How To Get Published.

They provide a breakdown of the various roles within a publishing house, they give you worksheets and timelines. They offer detailed suggestions on how to contact a publisher, how to find the right publishers. They give a list of publishers' web sites. They break down, in rather more detail than does Colberg, the nuts and bolts of acquisition, development, manufacture, and sales of photobooks. They also have a somewhat more open view, possibly because they're reporting on a somewhat earlier time, but also surely because they're talking about a broader range of publishers. Where Colberg cautions against one thing (using PoD books for dummies, say), S&H might treat that as a perfectly reasonable choice to approach many publishers with. Both might well be perfectly true within their relevant domains.

Both books emphasize some of the same things. Both are adamant that concept is vital, it is the starting point. Both emphasize the utility of working with physical prints, and physical dummies.

Both are wonderfully vague about how much you, the neophyte artist, can be expected to cough up in up front costs.

As a separate remark, the actual design and construction of the books differs greatly. Normally I don't care about this, but these are after all books about books, so it is perhaps fair to make this comparison. Colberg's book, as noted, feels cheap, and has at least on substantial design flub (white text on a light grey background). Swanson and Himes book, on the other hand, is beautiful, feels luxurious and expensive, and is much better designed. You could argue that they got carried away with white space, I guess, but that adds to the feeling of luxury. The page counts are similar, but the S&H book is twice as thick with only 10% more pages.

S&H uses a fairly heavy page stock, while Colberg's book uses a light, almost magazine weight, stock. Which is, honestly, kind of yuck.

I think Colberg has more words in his book, although the sizes are similar, but S&H give you a much broader range of extended quotations and discussions from a wider variety of industry players. While Colberg gives us a collection of breakdowns of book designs as inserted sections, S&H give us a inserted sections from industry players -- publishers, authors, designers, and so on.

S&H does, after a fashion, echo Colberg's book analyses with a separate chapter of case studies, but their cases are clearly more mainstream books than the ones Colberg highlights.

The S&H book is clearly a useful resource if your mission is to get published. Colberg's book is clearly inferior as a resource if that's what you're looking for. If you want to know how to make a book Colberg has a great deal more information, and might have enough to get you started on the job of actually getting published.

From the books I have read, the perfect combination is surely Keith A. Smith's Structure of the Visual Book together with Swanson and Himes Publish your Photography Book. I would swap in Colberg's Understanding Photbooks in place of Smith's book if you're not much interested in expanding your mind on sequencing and what might be a book. If you have a pretty clear idea of what you want to accomplish, and you're happy to simply depend on a good designer, and you're not looking to make a full-on Artist's Book style of object, Colberg will probably suit you fine. Smith can be slightly heavy going at times.

This, though, is the conundrum. The artists that Colberg wants to talk to most are precisely the ones that probably ought to read Smith instead.

All three books are about the same price, I think. Something like $US30 plus or minus a bit.