GOTO AKI has published many of his works based on the theme of ‘landscape’. In this article, he shares his thoughts on how to compile your own photography book, which is the culmination of a photographer’s work. The two photography books he has published so far are being sold under his own independent label. In the following, we get to know how particular he is about his work, by handling the creation, publishing and distribution by himself. (Text: GOTO AKI)
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 236mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8.0, 1/200 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 400/ WB: Daylight
Location: Hiraodai, Fukuoka prefecture, Japan
The karst plateau in Hiraodai, Fukuoka prefecture. 300 million years ago, a plate that was near the equator moved, forming what is now a part of Western Japan.
I shot this picture handheld before sunrise, when the colour temperature was high and the entire place was bathed in blue light.
Photography books: Where photographic works can be appreciated any time
Having my works published in a photography magazine, and organizing my own exhibition at a gallery, has given me the chance for my works to be seen by both fans of photography and people in the industry. This has provided the benefit of being recognized by my style of work and name. However, the novelty of releasing works was limited to publishing them monthly in a magazine, or in the case of my exhibition, once every few weeks, which also only lasted for that duration.
After my exhibition ended in 2010, when the excitement due to that particular source had cooled down, I began to have a gradual, growing desire to create a photography book, so that people could look at my works whenever they wanted, without having to be restricted by a certain period of time, such as in an exhibition or a magazine.
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x / FL: 303mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8.0, 1/320 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 400/ WB: Daylight
Location: Kirishima mountain range, Kagoshima prefecture, Japan
Here, I have captured the rippling texture that appeared for a second, created by the wind blowing at Lake Onamiike, which was created from volcanic activity 40,000 years ago. The cause of existence for this tiny detail, is due to the Earth rotating on its own axis, the sun, the moon and movements of planets.
Creating a photography book under an independent label
The time when I started to gather working ideas for compiling my photography book, I recalled the activities of my former teacher, the late Kiyoshi Suzuki (who was mentioned in Part 1 of the series). When asked of the reason for winning the Domon Ken award, one of Japan’s major photography awards, he said it was because he continued to publish all of his works independently.
Back then, I had a negative image of self-publishing, which I thought was carried out only by hobby photographers for their own personal use. So in 1998, on the plane to New York together, I asked him, “Why do you continue to publish your works independently?”
He replied matter-of-factly, “It is the type of publishing that has the least amount of restrictions and allows you freedom. When you publish from a large publishing house, there are times where you cannot choose the format, paper and so on, and you are unable make it the way you want. More than anyone else, we ourselves know our own work the best, therefore, I want to have the responsibility of overseeing it to the end.”
The words of my teacher had eliminated all negative assumptions I had about self-publishing. Ever since then, I decided that if I compiled my own photography book, I would have it published under my own independent label.
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 200mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/11, 1/1250 sec, EV-1)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto
In reality, the setting for colour temperature has been lowered (a stronger amber tone)
Location: Onna-son, Okinawa prefecture, Japan
This picture captures the sunlight behind the storm shining in through from the west, in a light race with the veil of sunlight, the horizon and the spotlights, in an attempt to display their different forms.
Create a photography book that withstands time and gives a satisfaction of ownership
Time passes and it is now the digital age.
You may ask, what is the point in creating your own photography book, when we are in an age where we can see photos around the world as much as we want, via social media and on the web? I spent days thinking about how it was not good enough to simply have good photos, and about how a photography book also has to reflect the photographer’s viewpoint and be able to provide a sense of ownership, otherwise there would not be any point in creating a photography book.
On my bookshelf, there are old art books that date from the 1960s to the 1980s, and their pages have yellowed throughout the years, giving them an antique feel. When having to consider what you would do about the possibility of your book sitting on someone’s bookshelf for 20, 30 years, I realised that it is important to pay attention to the smallest details, so that the book will not only be able to withstand the test of time, but also become a treasured possession. With this in mind, I began working on creating my own photography book.
In an exhibition, there is lots of space but at the same time, your eyes are filled with numerous works of art. A photography book, on the other hand, enables you to appreciate just one or two photos at a time, every time you turn a page. By using various sets of photos taken in different places and at different times of the day, and arranging them according to common traits, such as ‘light/ texture/ shape’ and so on, I reconstructed a narrative that does not merely explain about its location. As my works drew attention to the physical forms of the Earth, such as the surface of rocks and the top layer of the ocean, I selected the paper for my photography book by how the texture felt in my hand, rather than on how glossy it was.
When creating a photography book, the more particular you decide to be, the more time you will spend on it. Carefully considering the photos, paper, design, printing quality and distribution channel, after a year and a half of preparation, I finally set up my own independent label, traviaggio publishing*, in 2012.
*traviaggio is a name I coined from words which meant travel, combining the English word ‘travel’, and the Italian word ‘viaggio’.
‘LAND ESCAPES’, the first book I published at the end of 2012, was based on the theme of ‘Journey’. For it, I created a binding that resembled the opening of a suitcase. For the paper, instead of going for glossy or matte, I used Vent Nouveau, a paper type which had a rough quality to it. In addition, I designed a difference in thickness between the cover and the photo pages, so that it would create a visual effect of a mat frame.
My first photography book, ‘LAND ESCAPES’ (2012). Based on the suitcase I was using, I bound it using a long-edge landscape binding.
I put this together keeping in mind how the texture of the paper would feel, and wanted the reader to experience anticipation as they turned the pages. I paid attention not only to the photos themselves, but also the texture of the book as a whole.
Colour checking on a coloured proof that came back from the printing company, and the completed photography book (left). As the size of the cover and the photo pages were different, it created a visual effect of a mat frame when opened (right).
For the photography book ‘LAND ESCAPES - FACE - ’ published in 2015, I used art card for the cover page. This is a type of paper that has a long-standing history of use, and maintains a beautiful quality even after it turns yellow with time. For the photo pages, I used a type of satin paper that had a dewy texture, which would help to enhance the colours of the picture. I also paid attention to how smooth it felt to the touch.
The cover of my sophomore photography book released in 2015, ‘LAND ESCAPES - FACE - ’.
These are pictures of the prototype book I made for my photography book, and during the process of arranging the order of pages. I made several variations of the cover page to choose from, but instead of deciding on the spot, I gave it a few days before I went back to it again to make a decision.
Preparing to have the book delivered to bookstores and to Amazon. Sticking the labels with the ISBN code onto the books, I shipped them off with the sincere hope that someone nice would purchase them.
When creating your photo book under an independent label, there are times in the process of making where you will wonder if you are making the right decisions (for the photo selection, paper type, design, and so on). When that happened for me, I gave it some time before going back to check it again, which meant it took a longer time to complete.
The importance of using words to convey your viewpoint in the work
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 160mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/5.6, 1/320 sec, EV-0.3)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto
Location: Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan
A sinkhole at Akiyoshidai. This limestone was said to be part of the seabed 3 hundred million years ago, near to where Singapore and Indonesia are presently located.
I sold the finished photography book in places such as the site of my exhibition. Apart from that, I personally brought my photography book to photography art galleries and shops that carried art books, and negotiated with them to display the book for retail.
Taking on the role of a seller and liaising with shop staff made me realize the importance of not only the photos in the book, but also of the words used to describe it. To sell the book, the shop has to explain what a photography book is to customers who may not know anything about it. Therefore, it is important that photographers are also able to relay their point of view through words. Thus, the importance of words was one of the things I learnt through sales.
We are in a generation where we can look at photos easily on social media. Although I understand the feeling of satisfaction when you receive likes online, I feel that there is a tendency to get sucked into the massive sea of information. If any of you possess a genuine desire to become a professional photographer or artist, how about creating your own prints or photography book?
The fact that I have put my work into a form of a photography book, is something that I want to continue to be proud of as a photographer.
The ‘LAND ESCAPES - FACE- ’ photography book displayed in the bookstore. I selected bookshops that specialised in art books and liaised with them directly.
Read more SNAPSHOT articles from GOTO AKI here:
5 Reasons Why the EOS 5D Mark IV is Ideal for Landscape Photography
4 Keys to Shooting Pre-dawn Landscapes
EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM: Breath-taking Landscape Photography Even With Handheld Shooting
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