“It is like a finger pointing to the moon. Concentrate on the finger and you will miss all that heavenly glory.”
My phone rang and on the other end was a long-time friend and fellow photographer, who, for lack of a better description, was “focusing on the finger.” In his particular case the “finger” was color management. I explained that getting good color was important—and relatively easy—and encouraged him to spend more time making great photographs as well as studying design, typography, and illustrated books in general. But my friend shrugged off this advice and continued to ask detailed questions about only one thing: Color management.
I hung up the phone and said to my wife, “He doesn’t get it.” It was clear that urging my friend to study the things I knew were critical to book success wasn’t working. I realized I had to be an example. I realized I had to MAKE things that broke the creative ice and presented our dynamic range of tools in a more fluid and active way. I then made a fateful decision. “Any idea of I have, regardless of how crazy or silly it seems, will end up in book form.” I made a pledge to stop what I was doing and sit in front of the computer until my fleeting idea was solidified in print form. After all, this was precisely what Blurb was created for. Freedom. Complete and total freedom.
From this simple decision emerged the “Because I Can” series of books. Why am I making these books? Because I can. Each book in this series will be printed exactly ONE time. They will survive was an “Edition of One.” That’s it. That’s all I need.
As you know by now, these books were born from frustration, but something strange and magical has happened. These books have cracked open the learned behavior of a traditional photography education and subsequent two decades of working as a full-time photographer, and have allowed me to see the light at the end of the publishing tunnel. Not all of these books are good, important, or consumable by a mass audience, but they have taught me a tremendous amount about creativity and the power of one.
Over the past year, these “Because I Can” books have been viewed by audiences across the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe. Without fail, these books invoke a reaction from those who view them.
A curator from a California-based museum accused me of being a “conceptual artist” instead of a bookmaker. It’s something I’m still coming to grips with, but I’m warming to the title. Making these books has been the single most important thing I’ve done with Blurb, and this is coming from someone who has made 170 unique titles with the platform. Yes, I’ve got a book fetish.
These books have proven to me there is life “beyond the monograph.”
A closer look at three ideas that became “Because I Can” books
The Puzzle Book
From 2006 to 2010, I created 120 different books, which I then sold to photography clients. Many of these books were comprised of children’s portraiture. Consequently, after creating then delivering the books to the families, many of these books were handled and viewed by kids. Kids don’t look at books the way adults do, and based on this reality, the “Puzzle Book” was created. The book itself was an existing “outtake” book I had sitting on my shelf, a 12 x 12, Imagewrap book filled with imagery from Peru, made during my annual workshop in this Latin American gem of a country.