I feel really lucky to have Photographic Center Northwest as a local learning resource. Thanks to the classed I’ve taken there I’m a more thoughtful and creative photographer. For the Winter 2023 term I’m taking a class taught by Eirik Johnson and Rachel Demy, two very accomplished Seattle photographers, on the history, design, sequencing, and production of photobooks. We’re only two classes into the course but I’m already inspired to think about photobooks as an art form of their own instead of just as a “photographic delivery vehicle.”

As I wrote previously, my class goal is to draft a book of my Camino de Santiago photos. Our first assignment was to write a rough photobook proposal, along with sharing some sample images, so here’s what I submitted.

In the spring of 2019 I found myself in an unwelcome position. The company I’d just spent three years building had been merged with a competitor. Now I was out of a job. No company needs two CEOs. My battery had run so low that a typical vacation wasn’t going to help. My partner was very clear: “Go somewhere for yourself and by yourself.” I needed to find something in myself beyond tech, gadgets, org charts, and software. So I went for a walk. A very long walk.

That April I left Seattle and flew to France. For the next six weeks I walked across Spain from the Pyrennes to the Atlantic Ocean, with just what was in my backpack including a old camera and a lot of film. Along the way I discovered not just new cultures and places but I reconnected with the idea that the world is as big as the sky above you and as small as what you carry with you. I photographed moments, giving myself just a frame or two of the limited film I carried before it was time to pick up the walking sticks and continue westward. I saw mountains and slept in monasteries, walked through vast farmland and into ancient churches. I was often wet, tired, and cold. I was alone for hours on end. It almost broke me. It was beautiful.

My book will be made up of photos from that trip but not organized as a guidebook. My goal is through the photos and the format to remind the reader how big, and small, the world can be, how leaving everything you’re used to behind is often the only way to move forward. The photos are a mix of landscapes, architecture, and even some street photography. It will include notes and stories from the journal I wrote in every morning before starting off on that day’s journey, yet will not follow a geographical or chronological order. I was inspired by the first class discussion about the variety and scale of photobooks. I’ve aspired to create some book of the photos from this trip for over 3 years, but the vision of the big, broad coffee table book of grand Adams-esque landscapes just felt off, somehow. The book I’ll create for this class will be smaller, designed almost like the paper journal I carried with me. At those dimensions my goal is to let the object, made small enough to be your companion on an 800 km walk, show the scale of a journey far beyond the book’s physical size. 

As the class progresses, I’ll post updates and maybe some photos of both the content and the rough mockup of my photo book.

Published by Steve Banfield

Kentucky born, Seattle based. Entrepreneur. Team Builder. Photographer.

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1 Comment

  1. These are very good ideas – reminding the reader how big and small the world can be, the necessity to go forward, the lack of chronological order, and the size & format. Your opening paragraph is really good, too. “So I went for a walk. A very long walk.” Terrific! It sounds like a good class.

    Liked by 1 person

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