Revisiting Glimpses and Opening a Door – By John Pemberton

Several months ago, one of my first posts on this site was titled “Glimpses at the Conservatory.”  It documented the development and near completion of a photography project I had been working on for several years.  I ended the piece with some thoughts on final opportunities to add images to the collection gallery and then how to wrap the project up and what to do with it.

As suggested in the article, additional trips were made to a mix of conservatories, some old some new.  These trips resulted in a handful of images that were added to the collection gallery.  Thanks to the encouragement from commenters on this site, I drew a sense of accomplishment for the effort and a sense for placement relative to work by previous photographers.  While I was aware of Edward Weston’s work with vegetables, I found a deeper connection to Brett Weston’s Hawaii work and how it related to mine.

I printed the collection gallery as a set of 5” by 7’’ prints, numbered them on the back and set about to curate and sequence them into a set of about 30 that would make for a generous zine.  There were several iterations of this.  My first pass came on a short camping trip my dog Millie and I made to Maumee Bay state park in Ohio.  In the moments I was not shooting contributions for a cultural and environmental street project in East Toledo, Millie and I perused the images and thought about them quite a bit.

Difficult cuts were coming

When I got back home, I took them to work and used the conference room across from my office at the university to do formal curation and sequencing.  It seems I might have worried my department chair that I was leaving for a different career with greener pastures.  It may well be that the two marginal talents I possess in life include getting innocent and unwitting 19 year olds excited about statistics and the other being the ability to discern an interesting image from the surrounding noise of life.  I assured her that one paid better than the other, had a benefits package and involved far less “at risk” compensation.  I recorded my sequencing for the images created in the conference room that day.

What to do with the final project – A prickly subject

A vital step in the process was to take my complete reshuffled stack of images to a meeting with my local camera club where the evenings festivities included a discussion centered around curating and sequencing photography projects.  “Glimpses” would be the case study.  One of our club members, Alexander Toms, is a photography and book arts major at the other major university in town.  I left the room then he and the rest of the club members took over.  An hour later after babies were sacrificed, unsung gems discovered and a tapestry woven.  I stopped pestering the receptionist at the front desk of the arts center and went back upstairs to see where the journey had led.

It’s reassuring to see that many of the connections and parings I had made were also found by others.  Content swaps were made, new pairings and sequences identified.  I recorded the order and took the stack of proofs home.  Finally, using the spread sheet where I had recorded the multiple sequencing efforts as reference points, I began a final sequencing, mixing combinations and transitions from both visions into one that feels the most complete to me.


Now what.

Following my meandering curiosity, as I began to think of a how best to get this work out there, several months ago I discovered the Zine culture of British photography.  In the states, the making of hardcover photobooks is often an affair with lots of overhead expenses.  Money is spent and books are made either retrospectively for photographers who have already attained notoriety or are self-funded by those wanting it.  The low overhead of the Zine culture I observed in Britain allows enthusiasts to break through the financial hurdles of hard cover book publishing and create a more tangible bit of legacy than images on a cell phone app.

I began to think about shopping “Glimpses” to some of the Zines I had found.  As I thought about how each candidate zine was organized and themed, if felt like “Glimpses” was a duck out of place relative to the other titles within most published zine lines.  I submitted it once and it felt like I was hoping the Chinese place might serve pizza.

In academia, there is a term “Vanity Publishing” which basically implies that if you self-publish a work, no matter its ultimate relevance, you receive no credit for it in your accreditation status.  With that stigma in the back of my mind, I initially resisted the idea of self-publishing.  Then one day I realized that I was probably not the only “me” out there.  Read through this site and other on-line venues where people share work in a thoughtful way and you begin to realize there is a lot of great work produced by enthusiasts that never sees the light of day in a tangible physical format.

You need a Really Big Table…

From this realization the idea of F2.8 Press ( born.  It would produce the kind of zine that existed in England but located in America.  Adapting its mission a bit, it would turn the table on the editorial process.  Instead of organizing the zine content based on the subject matter of the images, It would focus on WHO created the images.  Finding outstanding work by Enthusiasts, Students and Weekenders would be the goal.  It (I) would (self) publish and market my “Glimpses” project as a way to raise capital in order to find, compensate and print the work of someone else and in turn take the margin from that work and repeat the process again.  Over time, with enough zines published, enough capital accumulated, it will be time to begin to think about Hardcover book projects.  This is not the first time this model has been tried, but the focus on who and what is getting published is a little different.

Agony is trying to decide what went on the left side of the table and what went on the right…

F2.8 is comprised of the previously mentioned Alexander Toms and myself.  Glimpses is ready to print and distribute in October and we are looking for new photographers to discover, new work to admire.  We need to do a call for submissions.  The response to our ambition may be greater than our bandwidth.  So instead of putting out a general call for submissions, we decided that through targeted audiences like the 35mmc community, we would create a list of people interested in responding to such a call.

If you consider yourself an Enthusiast, Student or Weekend photographer and have been working on a project you would like to share, peruse the site.  If you like what you see, fill out the submissions contact form, indicating genres you are working in.  Calls for submissions (via e-mail with submission instructions) will begin in the next month or so based on genre.  Each quarter we will choose a genre, select a project from submissions and publish a zine featuring a project created by an enthusiast photographer.

Even if sharing your work does not sound like something you are comfortable with now, don’t forget about f2.8.  A purchase supports the work of others.  Supporting the work of others keeps a door open for the day when you are ready to share your own creation.

You can find me, my personal work on my Site, Twitter and 500px

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4 thoughts on “Revisiting Glimpses and Opening a Door – By John Pemberton”

  1. John, I remember your previous post. You have beautiful work and this zine idea is quite interesting. I went to the site and read the info there. I’m probably like many others in that the process seems a little intimidating. Curating and sequencing ones personal work is extremely difficult. Reading articles like yours inspires me at first but quickly I realize the task ahead. I’m actually meeting with a small town historical museum director this Saturday to show her a small collection of my work documenting a fall festival in that town. I consider this a first step. I almost shut down when I think about trying to create a cohesive series. I wish you all the best in your endeavor and I have bookmarked the f28 site. Maybe at some point I will find the courage to pursue the process.

    1. Bill,

      First, thank you for the kind words – this is what gives someone who is daunted by a task the confidence to complete it!

      I expected the scale of this to be a little intimidating to readers. Hopefully with time it doesn’t stop anyone. It was a one year process from when I decided I wanted to do something with a pile of images until I had a finished project. We are coming up on winter which is an ideal time to be thinking about these things as the weather outside is not as amenable to capturing images.

      I sort of view making a single photograph as taking a hike. Completing a project is like going on a sequential hike such as the The Appalachian Trail, Camino de Santiago or Shikoku Henro. It’s a daunting prospect, but it’s a great feeling to have completed the project.

      Congratulations on your work with the Museum Director! I think you will find that the process of working with them valuable and what you two come up with VERY rewarding.

      For others reading the article and also feeling a little overwhelmed, you do not have to be ready, filling out the form simply means we will let you know when calls go out. You may respond with an entry when you feel ready.

  2. This is an interesting and inspiring article. I do wonder about the paper and print quality of zines. Indifferent printing on newsprint is hardly how we would like to see and present our images.

    1. That the zine format derives its nomenclature from magazine is probably a bit unfortunate. Perhaps Booklet might be a better description.

      Our zines are printed on 100 lb, matte paper and covers featuring 110lb paper with lamination. I did make the decision to use a staple binding as opposed to stitching or a PUR binding. That addition can add as much as 20% to the printing cost. We are balancing the goal of compensating a photographer while presenting a budget friendly product to the consumer. The print quality from modern equipment can often be better than commercial printing of 30 years ago. I can isolate more image detail in copies of a modern zine than I can in classic books found in my photobook library.

      I can’t speak for every zine ever published, but I have been impressed by the quality found from other publishers such as Another Place, EyeShot, ADM and Workhorse Collective. I could imagine that someone producing a zine for the first time and not having done research on paper weights or publishing components might assemble something they are not pleased with. In Keeping production runs small (often under 100) and quality affordably high, I view zines as an entry level format into collectible art, not a disposable periodical.

      Hope that helps!

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