Thursday, June 15, 2017

Why Sequence II: Examples

I'm going to try to think through a couple of examples. Not of "how" but of "what" -- specifically, how do I want my readers leafing through my book. What order do I want them looking at the physical pages in.

First, I am going to channel QT Luong, who recently put out a book of photographs from every single one of the US National Parks. QT reads has been known to stop by, so, "hi!" and this is just an example. His book and his concept may be completely different. However, it would be reasonable, I think, to approach a project of this sort thus:

1. I want readers to go through the whole thing in order, first.
2. I want readers to be able to find favorite photos easily.

The first suggests that the sequencing should have a firm forward drive. Readers should feel a desire to turn the page, contemplate, and then turn the page again. And so on. The second suggests some sort of useful organizing scheme, likely by location. Perhaps the book should proceed East to West or something, so when you want that one amazeballs picture from Zion, you know it's not at the front, and not at the end but about.. here.

Next, let's imagine we're making a visual telling of the story of Jesse James. Obviously a forward narrative drive makes sense, again. We might want to introduce a flashback, and we might even hope that the reader would literally flip backwards in the book to review those pictures. We might want to foreshadow, and hope to drive the reader to flip back to that foreshadowing picture or sequence when, later in the book, the relevant events begin to unfold.

The trip through this vaguely literary narrative, thus, would explicitly include backtracking in addition to the forward drive.

More generally, we might introduce pictures or sequences that make little sense, or make different sense, until something later is seen. Again, we'd like to see some backtracking (perhaps literal, perhaps just in-memory).

In the ultimate backtracking, we might want to finish the book in a way that demands the reader go back to the start. In the same way the movie "Memento" concludes in a way that makes us re-examine the entire film, our book might try to create a literal loop, requiring two consecutive readings to fully grasp. Two books, as it were, for the price of one.

Yet another coffee table book that is less completist that QT's might not even demand a front-to-back reading at all, it might need no forward drive at all. It might be purely a reference, intended to be dipped in to at random. You could even imagine a random-access with backward flow, with the big important pictures preceded, perhaps, by details and text that readers might or might not want to consult.

You could almost map this out, with a little box representing each two-page spread, and little arrows leading here and there. It's kind of how I visualize it. Arrows might represent remembering, physical page-flipping, or something in between, something else. No plan of this sort of likely to literally work in all details, but one can hope for a general thrust in the general direction. Some readers might do this bit, others another bit.

As with other aspects of Art and Photography, I believe firmly that if you put a lot in while simultaneously leaving space for the viewer or reader to find their own way, they will in turn get a lot out even if it's not exactly what you put in.

These are all different experiences of the book. Much of the lifting is done by the pictures, of course. Some of it is done by details of design. Some, however, is done by the sequencing. All, I suppose, should be working together to try to produce the right sort of effect.

I have a few other things to write about, but I will return to this and try to mention some actual ideas for generating these effects that I have observed here and there.

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