Some people may call the desire to collect things a kind of sickness (those people often being the spouses of the collectors). But for those of us with the desire, collecting is perfectly natural. We know we need that record, that book, that button, that antique drill. Or, in my case, that 1965 Avant passport camera, a six-pound beast with a fixed focal length, shutter speeds that max out at 1/50s—a camera whose sole purpose was to shoot four identical photos onto Polaroid pack film. A camera I’ve decided to call “Bertha.”
So, no, it’s not a sickness. Still, if you find yourself needing to justify your collection to the world (beyond the usual defense of, “But really, I use all of them”), there’s really no better way to do so than by documenting said collection in a printed book. It’s a good way to take stock of what you’ve accumulated, to share your passion and knowledge about your favorite subject, and to show off a little. Those are some of the reasons why I created a collectors guide of my very own. The process went a bit like this:
Since my collection is all about cameras, I decided to start by photographing them. I won’t go into this here in detail, though, because we recently conducted an interview with the immensely talented Robert Hill that conveys this valuable information. I wanted a simple set-up, something that would give a consistent look to a collection ranging from a tiny Pentax Auto 110 to the aforementioned beast named Bertha. And despite the fact that my collection is all analog cameras, I decided to shoot digital to save time.
Next, I visualized a layout that would suit my collection in spirit and form. I decided each camera should get two pages. One side would have the camera. The other side should have the camera’s name, date of production, a bit of history, a sample photo from the camera, and a quick explanation of what I love about it.
After editing my photos in Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom®, I created the book with Blurb’s book-making plug-in for Adobe InDesign®. Lightroom’s Book module is up to the task of making a collectors guide⎯as is our own Blurb BookSmart—but I love InDesign’s creative control.
After editing my photos in Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom®, I created the book with Blurb’s book-making plug-in for Adobe InDesign®
I arranged the photos of my collection in order of when I acquired each camera, because I like to see how my interests have evolved. But a more traditional chronology could have worked just as well.
I decided to make two versions of the book, a deluxe edition (that I would give to my dad and order for myself), and a more budget-friendly version that other camera enthusiasts might be inclined to pick up.
For the deluxe version, I chose the Large Landscape format because I wanted each camera to appear as close-as-possible to actual size. And Bertha needs her space. I chose ProLine Pearl paper because I love how photos, particularly Polaroids, look with that pearlescent shine. It also makes the various steel accents and the glass on the cameras really pop. This version came in at around $85—which is totally worth it, and cheaper than the last camera I bought.
For the enthusiast version, I chose the Standard Landscape format, in Softcover, with Premium Lustre paper. I’ll always choose nicer paper over fancier cover options if I’m working in a budget. This version came in at $24, which is just right for a book like this.
I saved the writing for last, because for me it’s the easiest task. But it won’t be for everyone.
And that’s it, a nice photo book of my collection. What will yours be like? Well, every collection is different, of course, and everyone has different strengths. The key is to keep your unique collection in mind and to let the characteristics of what you collect inform your choices. Because as all collectors know, the details are what really matter.