Philosophy & Reflections

Six by Four – my experience of creating a Photo Book – By Frank Lehnen

May 18, 2016

I just did something I intended to do for some time now…. I made a Photo Book, or rather a Photo Booklet.Β I’d like to submit it to your critical eyes, but also share my thoughts on the experience.

I have hesitated a long time before launching myself into this adventure, and I took a lot of time selecting the photographs.

What I wanted to do specifically was to recreate the look and feel of the small photo prints of my youth, which were six by four inches (or thereabout) and which were handed around at family gatherings. Which found their final resting place in shoeboxes or photo albums, they are real!

What happens with all those photos humanity snaps nowadays? Nothing! Nothing happens to them apart from being viewed on the phone they were shot with or at most on a computer screen if it’s a decent camera. They are being sent throughout the world, but only as bits and bytes. There is nothing tangible, not even a negative you can hold. But I’m not only talking about film photography. Digital photographs too deserve better than disappearing in the next harddisk crash.

The physical print as a medium is unfortunately disappearing and I want to do something (small, agreed) about that. Why not print out your photographs? Not all, but only the best or those you like the best. They are your pictures! Show them the respect they deserve by printing them or, as I tried, by making a book.

Rediscover the joy of handling those shiny squares of paper, of showing them around, of sending them to people. You don’t have to print ALL your photographs. Print only those that are special to you or yours. Limit yourself! That’s why a roll of film holds 36 frames and why film is expensive.

That’s also why the book contains 36 photographs…. a roll of film. The holy number of photographs!

IMG_0049

It’s small, 7 by 7 inches, just big enough to show off the photos in this perfect format. It’s quite slim, but I hope the contents will make up for the small volume. Anyways, I put all my best efforts in it.

My subject is everyday life in Luxembourg. Not the high life of big finance and business my country is normally and falsely associated with, but the street life of the ordinary folk, simple people living their lives as best they can. No cityscapes in this volume, no spectacular buildings (this will perhaps be in an upcoming volume), but just humans as the title says. JustΒ Humans in Luxembourg City. Just street photography to the best of my ability…

The medium: Black and White film (and files…) of course, my favorite for the moment.

IMG_0050

The tools I used? I would be happy to say I used only film and 35mm Compact Cameras, but I have to confess that some of the pictures were taken with my iPhone too, and one with a Fuji X30…. sorry. Apart from these, my cameras of choice were taken to test, the Olympus XA2 and Lomo LC-A+, mostly with Ilford HP5+ film.

But this is not about the gear. Anything capable of creating a photograph, even a simple beer can with a pinhole is a camera, a light tight box with a lens or smallish hole and some means to control the light flooding it (might be your finger for a pinhole camera).

This is about the fact that I want to incite people to rediscover the printed image. A thing of beauty that you will take out and admire and show around. I don’t want everyone to become a master printer. That’s too hard a task. It was very difficult in the Darkroom Days and it is not easier if you print on an inkjet machine. But today most photo printers can give you decent quality out of the box and regardless of the medium they were shot with, the end result is a printed image, and that in itself feels positive.

With a bit of luck, this will be the first in a little series of books in this format. The subject might change, there might even be a book with color shots, but the format will be the same: Six by Four.IMG_0048

The finished product is available to buy on blurb here, I’d love to sell a couple, but actually, just the process of creating this has been really satisfying and something I would recommend to anyone!

If you click through to blurb, you can see more pages in a preview of the book – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading and please, print your photographs or make books and share them!

You can also pay me a visit on www.whyfilmcameras.com

 

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    jim
    May 18, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing. Did you see any difference between film and digital on the printed page? I made a small test book a few years ago using Blurb and, I think, Mixbook. I selected film B&W, film C-41 and E6 and digital files from my 2003 Kodak digital p/s camera and my Canon 5D. I could not tell which image came from film or digital.

    As an aside, the social media icons on the left of the page I find annoying and intrusive to the reading experience.

    • Reply
      Frank Lehnen
      May 18, 2016 at 5:46 pm

      Thank you, Jim.

      I made the book with Lightroom and uploaded it to blurb. It’s a built-in function of Lightroom. It’s really difficult to tell which is which, film or digital. Some of my digital files were also treated to a pinch of artificial film grain, so It’ll be a challenge to tell them apart, at least in a small printed format. Anyways, the iPhone and Fuji X30 small sensor files are not that clean (and I don’t like them clean, that’s why I left the digital world).

      As for the social media icons… well it’s a sign of the times.

  • Reply
    Charles Higham
    May 18, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    Great stuff Frank. I produced a small blurb book a couple of years ago just for personal pleasure. I found that I’d wished I produced it in a bigger size to maximise the impact of the photos. but of course it costs more. I’ll probably do another one sometime in the future. Have you checked out the blurb magazine option? Bigger and cheaper to buy, although I haven’t seen one in the flesh to check out the image quality. You can choose a premium quality version that might be really good.

    • Reply
      Frank Lehnen
      May 18, 2016 at 7:12 pm

      Thank you Charles.

      I looked at the magazine option, but as I really wanted to put the emphasis on small prints I decided for the smallest format available, approaching six by four inches in all dimensions.

      But the magazine is definitely cheaper, yes, just that it didn’t fit the ‘concept’.

  • Reply
    jan stomberg
    May 23, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Once I realsied that my hundreds/thousands/gigasomething or other amount of pictures gathered digital dust on my hard-drive + I could lose them in an instant if the harddrive died/was broken/stolen/burnt, I began assembling photobooks, also using Blurb as I found their software – particularly since integrated in lightroom – the easiest to use with the best simple layouts. I started with the largest size filling full pages but found that the larger the print gets, the less I pay proper attention to it, so I reverted to the style used by pretty much all professional photobooks – one picture a page, lots of white around. I’ve since made about 20, for personal use only, usually of my holidays but also a yearly one as my daughter grows up. Or recently of my dog who passed away after accompanying us for 13 years – shifting through 13 years of film + digital archives was a journey itself (thankfully I had used tags for my pictures for years). I find the cost negligeable when put into perspective – I used to spend so much more on film and its development…. and what’s the point of 0 marginal cost (digital) if you never see them? and reviewing on screen is just not the same. There’s usually a few months delay and the process of choosing, adjusting, layouting is a pleasure in and of itself that I wouldn’t want to miss. I’ve restarted film recently and will no doubt do the same there, scanned into Lightroom of course.

    • Reply
      Frank Lehnen
      May 23, 2016 at 9:58 am

      Great Jan, that’s the problem with those digital photographs, if the disk dies there’s probabla years of memories lost…. but you DO make backups, do you?

      And there’s nothing like holding a book or even a nicely done print.

      And keep up with film? Negatives don’t crash… πŸ˜‰

  • Reply
    Paul James
    May 23, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Thanks for posting this Frank – I was pretty inspired reading it so I sat down and made a ‘Vol. 1’ of my photography over the past year (my first year shooting with purpose) and I’m pretty excited to get the results.

    It’s a great way of holding your photos beyond getting each printed individually.

    • Reply
      Frank Lehnen
      May 23, 2016 at 10:04 am

      Thanks a lot Paul,

      Yes, it’s exciting to get ‘your book’ in the mail and to leaf through it the first time. Forces you to make tough choices too and keep only… well, keepers! And no pictures lost in attics in some boxes… Makes for great gifts also.

      And I like the whole process, as Jan said, with the integration of Blurb in Lightroom. Just a lot of fun and the bonus of having your own book in your library.

  • Reply
    Flavio Colker
    November 24, 2018 at 3:14 am

    Good Stuff! Loved the concept.

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