My book, Babel, is based on the diversity of the people in London and aims to highlight just how many different kinds of people adore the City as much as I do. I am always amazed that no matter when I go to London it is full of people and I often look at people on the tube and think ‘I wonder why you are in London?’. I love walking around the city and hearing all the different languages and accents and I wanted to look deeper into this and see if I could finally answer my question and find out why some of these people come to London.
I didn’t want to fall into reproducing a project that mimicked the work I did for my Street Photography module so I though that portraits would be much more specific. I tried both non direct portraits and direct portraits as a test and decided that the direct portraits worked much better and would look better overall in my book. This was a real challenge to me even to get the handful I did as a test because its something I have never done before and has always been very daunting to me. I managed to come away from my shoots with over 70 photos overall so I am really happy with myself and feel that I have overcome one of my fears while doing this project.
I had a list of places I wanted to go and sat in the area for a while scoping out the people who didn’t seem to be in any rush, who seemed friends and looked like they might help me. Once I had done this I tried to get polar opposites, if I took an photo of a young girl, I would then try and ask a older male and so on. I think this helped me get a ride range of people and personalities. I also asked for them to write something down for me, something about what they like about London or why they are in London. Most people wrote about the latter because it was quicker and less thought went in to it. Some people said no as I had already taken up some of their time taking photos which is understandable. I have learnt that the key to these kinds of projects is not to get put off by people saying no. Take it in your stride and think thats just another person you have to ask to replace them.
I used the writing alongside the images to inject some personality into my book. I really like the scrap book aesthetic in photography books, I think that the personal touch makes a book stand out from the rest and makes you view it differently, more fondly, because someone has gone through the trouble of hand making something for you to enjoy. I ripped the quotes out of my notebook and scanned them into the computer to place them next to the photos. This works quite well in making the people more relatable. I wanted them to appear ripped around the edges so that this scrap book theme was more evident but the scanner never showed these in print.
I used InDesign to produce my book. I have had a little experience with this software already and thought that it was quite easy to do. I really enjoyed playing around with different layout ideas and blogging my progress, I didn’t realise just how much thought goes into every little detail when producing a book. I originally had my book as an A4 publication but I later felt that I didn’t want my book to be this big. While it was pain to resize all my images, I think that A5 works much better. It is much more fashionable as a publication, small enough to pick up and put on your book shelf. Also, the Issu website would not let me upload any A4 layouts because the files were too big so I would have had to resize the publication anyway.
I paired my images based on colours, tones and orientation. Taking tips from successful photographers such as Martin Parr, I tried to place images that carried the same colours together. I also arrange my photos by composition and characteristics, for example some of my images contain the subjects body slightly facing away from the camera. I have tried to place these with their backs to the edge of the pages so that the photos flow better together. I also linked photo through things like hats and headdress.
I was very keen to use symmetry throughout my my book. There are many studies that show the more symmetrical a persons features are, the more desirable they are to the people, this is particularly important when finding a mate. My theory was that this could be transferred to compositions and layouts took. The more symmetrical my layout was, the more aesthetically pleasing and desirable it would be to the people who read it.
White space was important to me when I was creating my book. I was very aware that having white space is a very fashionable thing in photography books and I wanted to keep mine as relevant as possible. As well being a style choice, white space is also key to ensuring that a book is easy to read. I didn’t want my book to be too over whelming like some that I have looked at before. I wanted it to be neatly spaced so there there was room for the readers to breath and take in what they have seen. While editing I could see that big chunks paper full of portraits was just not effective.
Another thing that is featured in many other photography books is varied layouts. Most photography books don’t have the same layout over and over again from start to finish. They interject their layout with slightly different styles which keeps the book interesting and makes it more enjoyable to read. I wanted to do this also so I included full page spreads and some single page spreads in order to enhance this. Its important that viewers want to flick through the rest of my book and don’t lose interest, without this my book would not be successful as a publication at all.
The title of my book links directly to the introductory text that I have included within the publication. I think that this brings the book together and makes the project look professional and clean cut. The word itself is linked to the confusing sound of many people talking at the same time using different languages and to a city in Shinar where the building of a tower is held in Genesis to have been halted by the confusion of tongues. This sums up what I am trying to suggest with my book directly, it links back to my original thought of so many people in one place at one time and trying to figure out why they are there.
Overall I am happy with my finished book and think that I have produced it to the best of my ability. I would have like to have included more quote throughout the book, I think that they make the book a lot more personal and add more personality to the publication. One of the scanned in quotes is very blurry which is not idea, I need to make sure that I am scanning them in right as this is something I struggled with at first.
If I were to do this project again I would like to take more time with the people that I photograph. I needed to spend a bit more time checking the quality of my shots before letting the subject walk away from me. Another way to tackle this would have been to pre-set the camera, however as I was constantly moving through the city through different lights, I was forever changing my settings, something that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I had preset the camera. I didn’t want to take up any more of the peoples time because I had already pulled them away from their day. I think that there is a balance between too much and just enough time, a balance that both photographer and subject are happy with, it will just take some experimenting and practising to find this.