The night before we left for our recent trip to New Hampshire and Maine, we soft-launched the eBook version of Photography by the Letter. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the term “soft-launch,” it basically means we made the book available for purchase on https://photographybytheletter.com, but didn’t really promote it in order to make sure everything was working correctly (payment processing, correct download links, etc.). In this case, the only mention was a quick post on the On Taking Pictures G+ group letting the listeners who have been part of the two-plus-year journey of writing the book know that it was finally available. In those moments before flipping the switch on the site to go live, I found myself hesitating, still thinking about the book and wondering if I’d done all I could to get it right — as if more than two years of writing, re-writing, drawing, making photographs, and working and reworking the design and layout hadn’t provided me enough time to think about every pixel of this project. I must have written this book three times, but now it had to be done — or at least as done as it’s going to get for now.
The next morning, we were on our way to the airport when we made our first sale. I just sat there staring at the notification. It was still dark outside and the glow of the iPhone filled the car with light. “What is it?” Adrianne asked. My eyes began to well up a little. “We sold a book,” I replied. “Really?” she exclaimed, “Already? To who?” she asked. “I have no idea,” I said. Turns out, it was to someone in the Netherlands. I don’t know whether this person is a listener who saw the G+ post or happened to see the promo on my own site. It really didn’t matter either way. In that moment, someone who I don’t know, saw something that I made and thought “I think I’d like to buy that.” What I do know is that first purchase made all of the weeks, months, and years of working on this project worth it. The first one of anything seems like the hardest — it’s the one that’s going against momentum. An object at rest tends to stay that way, but an object in motion…that’s something else entirely. With that first sale, the ball was rolling and over the course of the week the sales continued to come in and I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate each and every one of them.
Ironically, it was a few specific experiences on our mini-vacation that may have set the stage for my next project(s) — or at least moved it up the ladder a few rungs. As proud as I am of Photography by the Letter, it was a very difficult book to write. I enjoyed the photography and the drawings very much, but the writing itself was very much out of my wheelhouse and a struggle every step of the way, which I think is exactly why I needed to do it. As for what comes next — once we get the print version of PbtL out the door — I want to get back to having conversations and sharing stories, not only in talking to creatives for Process Driven but also as a type of continuation of the work Studs Terkel did to create his landmark book Working. I’m not sure what the format will be, but I’ve already started making notes and planning some tests to see what fits. Based on this experience, I think there will be a print component in one form or another, but how it all fits together is still in flux. I do know that working through the development of PbtL has taught me some invaluable lessons on how I do and don’t want to work moving forward. I can’t wait to see what comes next and I hope you’ll stay a while and share the experience with me.
Are you close to finishing a big project? Do you have a new project that you have yet to start?
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Blade Runner is my favorite science fiction film of all time. Some of you might prefer 2001or Alien or even Star Wars (which was the first movie I ever saw by myself), but no other sci-fi film has made quite the impression on me as Blade Runner. In November, Blade Runner 2049 hits theaters and while I’ve been cautiously optimistic, the more I see, the more I think it’s going to be a worthy successor to the 1982 Ridley Scott masterpiece. As part of the lead up to the film, director Denis Villeneuve commissioned a series of short films to help fill in the 30 year gap between installments. The first one, called Nexus Dawn, is pretty fantastic. Watch it on YouTube.
My friend Jon Wilkening gave me this terrific little book called The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero. It’s been sitting on my shelf and I finally got around to reading it and I am so glad I did. If you make things, and find yourself getting stuck between the thinking and the actual doing, get yourself a copy of this book. You don’t even have to buy it — you can read the whole thing online.
According to estimates, as much as 11 trillion gallons of water have fallen in the Houston area as a result of hurricane Harvey. This is going to be the most costly natural disaster in history. As blunt as it sounds, the people of Houston don’t need your thoughts and prayers, they need supplies. Take a look at this Rolling Stone article to see how you can help.