About two years ago I was preparing for another meeting with “Clasa de Fotografie” in the old Allkimik attic. I went to get a coffee from Alex at the bar and I saw a weird looking fellow, about 2 meters high with a huge metal camera in his hand. Nothing strange so far except the guy was very young. Usually you don’t expect someone young to shoot film on such old cameras. So I asked if he actually shoots with that camera and what was his age. We started talking. He asked about the meeting we were having and I invited him to sit with us while we talked about diagonals, colors and photogenic subjects.
During the meetings with “Clasa de Fotografie” we talked a lot in our small group about things like composition, rules, do’s and dont’s in photography, trends but most of all about classic photos and our own photos. Not exactly your usual photography workshop content but nobody is perfect, right? During this time I asked for feedback on the things presented there as I strongly believe one must attend to the interest of the “class” while maintaining the structure in place. Feedback was received, assimilated, integrated. From everyone else but Paul.
When I asked him about the content of the meetings I was not expecting a good feedback or any kind of feedback. What I got in return was one of the most sincere and positive feedback in a long time. It felt good that someone was discovering photography.
Later on, after some arguments, unfriending and friending and other social network drama we’ve met at Oitzarisme 2015 exhibition and started talking about projects. He told me he wanted to publish a photobook. I laughed.
I already knew he had in mind to make a handmade photobook with analog printed photos, in a very limited edition. That idea was very expensive. Another alternative could have been Blurb – good quality but not suitable for more than 5 copies due to price and printing variations.
The initial PDF dummy photobook done by Paul was… not good. But the story was intriguing and the pictures were impressive. He asked for my opinion and later on, my assistance, to tell his story. So we embarked on this weird journey in telling a story of a sixteen year old boy with a film camera.
The motivation behind the need to publish a photobook was a simple and strong one. He wanted to tell his story.
“The photobook “s1xte6n ” represents the photographic journey imagined by Paul Musescu throughout his 16 years of existence. The experiences are essentialized then captured in black and white images full of emotions and subtle symbols revealing themselves to the viewer at every step into this journey. Beyond the narrative line the 32 photos in the book create a story about inadequacy and revolt, about the struggle to preserve one’s individuality, about the difficulties and joy of teenage life and about a dark future yet with much hope and beauty.”
And he asked for my help to make it happen – from a curatorial and project management point of view. For me it was my first official involvement in the photobook area so I wanted this to be as good as possible. There is a huge difference between a project published in electronic form and a project you can touch, hold, smell. Form makes all the difference, amplifies the emotion, makes a statement, empowers the message.
And right before starting it all I read an article by Darren Soh on Invisible Photographer Asia called “The real costs of making a Photo Book“. Although a very helpful and useful article it totally discouraged me and put more pressure on the project.
“Because the fact is that it is going to take alot of cash, blood, sweat and tears in order to put that vision of yours into print, and you really do want the print version to be representative of the version in your head don’t you?”
I will not bother you with details – otherwise my “The Photo Project Workshop” (details TBD) would remain out of topics to discuss. I can say the process was alarmingly hard and time-consuming. Good thing there were some amazing friends around with some valid critical arguments for printing (Andrea Dapueto), wording and english (Claudia Asanachescu) and concept (Cristina Irian). And good thing the people from Grafiprint (printing house) were professional, calm and they delivered such good results in terms of quality and price.
The feedback Paul got on the photobook was great and we were glad people appreciated the photos and supported a 16 years old kid at a difficult stage in his life, when he was close to dropping high school.
The photobook got some amazing reviews and features from Christer Erk, Josef Chaldek, Mondorama, SUB25 and more. The cherry on the top, with the help of Claude Lemaire from L’Ascenseur Vegetal: the photobok was showcased at The Rencontres d’Arles, one of the biggest photography festival, founded in 1970, gathering an amazing array of photographers and projects each year.
Who knows what Paul’s next project will be… or if I would be involved in it. But a condition of my participation is that he takes his high school exams and does not flunk classes. Paul’s next project will probably be about the hard-knock life of teenage photographers forced into child-labour (homework and grammar) by ruthless corporate curators.
Photobook details: Limited second edition, signed, square format
hardcover imagewrap matte 21*21cm,
aprox. 80 Pages
black and white
digital print on matte paper 170g.
Photography and text: Paul Musescu
Editor: Cristian Bassa
(post initially published on criticalmess.ro)