Today, the test proofs of the Laos mini-book returned from the printer. I’m really pleased with how well they turned out. They look fantastic, and the hardcover version is an especially nice object to hold in the hands. The front cover is bright red with black titles, and the back cover features a collage of the online comments left by Emphas.is project backers, along with other clippings from the project.
To arrived at this stage, I brought in my project backers to engage in the editorial process at various steps along the way. First, I sent them a Photoshelter lightbox with a large selection of 100 images from Laos.
Over the following days people rated the photos from 1 to 5 stars and added questions and comments to the individual images.
Taking into account this feedback and the average ratings of the photos, I then put together a tight edit of 24 photos. Then I started trying out various page layouts for the mini-book.
Next, I put up a slideshow of the page layouts in the Emphas.is ‘Making of Zone’ and asked for more feedback. The response was very helpful. Overall, people liked the rhythm and message of the book, but two particular pages brought up a debate. For those two pages I made some alternative layouts and put them up for a vote by the backers.
While people had the chance to take part in the edit, I started writing the essay that would go in the book. I spent a few days in isolation and wrote a six-page essay about conditions on the ground in Laos, trying to answer the question of how Communism had managed to adapt and survive in the country.
The resulting mini-book is a lot more condensed and personalized than you would find in an average large print-run photo book, yet much longer and more in-depth than the average magazine feature. More importantly, I feel I have managed to maintain a more pure level of authorship than most magazines generally allow to photojournalists. At the same time, I got crucial feedback from backers which helped to refine, polish and validate the final product. There was never a risk that my photos would be used out of context or as simple illustrations as can unfortunately happen in the press. I was able to express my vision and rely on the tight group of engaged backers to toss out any editorial errors. Harnessing the Emphas.is platform has also allowed me to gather significant resources for a subject that is generally overlooked and forgotten by the media. So far, this way of operating has required more work on my part than usual, but it has also been much more rewarding.
For people interested in getting involved in this project during this last stage, it is still possible to order a softcover mini-book for $75 or buy access to the ‘Making of Zone’ on Emphas.is for $10 (if you want to look over the behind the scenes process in detail).
The hardcover mini-books are limited to 100 signed and numbered copies, so please contact me directly to request one. The initial price is $125 per copy, but it increases as we get closer to the series limit.
It is also possible to order bulk copies of the book to distribute for advocacy purposes. The International Rescue Committee has already stepped up and ordered 30 copies to distribute to policy makers. If you need bulk copies, contact me directly and I will calculate the bulk discount.