By Ruth Skinner
The five photographers of Queen of Tsawwassen share far more in common than locale. Ali Bosworth, Seth Fluker, Jennilee Marigomen, Dan Siney, and Chris Taylor speak a common language of intimacy. They express an attuned awareness of light and colour, and an effortless sense for composition. Above all, they instinctively know how to tease out the achingly poetic nature of the everyday.
The photographers approached Inventory with the idea to make a book together. What resulted was Inventory’s first venture into book-making, a beautiful cloth-bound collection of 78 images that are carefully laid-out and expertly printed. Inventory’s designer and art director, Anthony Hooper, answered some questions about the process of making Queen of Tsawwassen over email.What is your role in Inventory, and your history with the company? I began working with Inventory on Issue 05 of the magazine. At that time I was working at a small design studio and produced the magazine from there. After the project had wrapped up, the guys at Inventory asked me to join them full time as their art and design director. I left the studio a month or so later and have been at Inventory ever since.
Essentially my job includes anything that needs to get designed – from the magazine to the website, shop packaging and company collateral – at some point it all lands on my desk. It’s quite a broad job description, I know, but we’re a small company and the work we do is very inclusive.
Can you speak a little bit about Inventory’s publication, Edits, and its relationship both with photographers and the photo publications it carries? Inventory works closely with many very talented photographers. Often when we’re laying out stories for the magazine, we want to see every image get used in the layout, but that’s just not realistic. As a result, we’re left with a surplus of beautiful images that would otherwise never be seen by the public. This is why we created Edits: to present imagery that didn’t make it into the magazine, but is nonetheless worthy of being seen in print.
Photography books have always been something that we have had an interest in. James Pearson Howes’s British Folk and Peter Sutherland’s Home and Away were two of the early titles that the shop carried, followed by a number of books by Nicholas Gottlund, Chris Taylor’s The Life and Times of William Callahan and more recently, publications from Mack books. Queen of Tsawwassen is new territory for us as it’s the first title we’ve designed, produced and distributed in-house.What was your particular role throughout the development of the publication? As a result of being a relatively small company, my role on a project like this can be quite broad. After receiving the brief, the earliest task was to collect all of the imagery from the five photographers and make an initial edit of images. Jennilee, Seth, Chris, Dan and Ali are all talented artists and possess the ability to take an amazing photo; it was a challenge making the image selects.
Next was the publication’s design. First we established the book’s technical specifications: finished size, page margins, page count. Then we looked at the elements of style: the typography, colour palette, and finishing methods. Only then did we begin to design the book: the cover design, page layouts, image order and crediting.
Finally, when all of the pages were designed and the book specs clearly defined, we approached printers and began to source production.How did you come to narrow in on these five particular photographers? Correct me if I’m wrong, but they all seem to have had previous connections with Inventory. You’re part right. Chris and Jennilee have had stories featured in Inventory, but it was our first time working with Dan, Seth and Ali. It was actually the photographers who had come up with the idea for the book, they were looking for a publisher and we were looking to make a book.
Can you speak a little bit about each of the artists and their work? What did they each bring to the book individually? How did their images interact together? For me, this is the aspect of the book that makes it work so well. Each of the photographers have their own unique styles, yet they share a commonality of interests and photographic sensibilities. For instance, Ali likes to shoot with expired film, which gives his images a subdued tone and colour. Jennilee has a brilliant eye for seeing beauty; she can take a photo of an otherwise ordinary subject and make it look remarkable. Seth’s images are among some of my favourites in the book, there’s an almost abstract, painterly quality to many of them. Dan has an incredible eye for composition, as does Chris. I think there’s a lot to be said about each of the artists and their abilities.
Did you encounter any surprises or challenges throughout the process? Sure, there’s always bumps in the road. Initially the publication was printed in Singapore, but we weren’t happy with the quality of the finished product. As a result, we had to source an new printer, which meant that we had to delay the book’s release. Ultimately it was the right decision. We owed it to the photographers and to ourselves to make sure that the finished product was something we could all be proud of.
How involved were the artists in the design and printing process? Where did the bulk of the work occur? We tried to involve the artists in the process as much as possible. Their input was invaluable in a project such as this and we wanted the artists to feel like they were a part of the creative process. Having said that, there’s also a need to keep a professional distance between the artists and the book’s overall design. I know how difficult it can be to look at one’s own work with a critical eye and try to remain objective. I think everyone benefitted from a certain degree of separation, it allowed us to make decisions based on what was best for the book. And it created a fresh perspective for the photographers and their work.Returning to the decisions that led you to arrive at the book’s final design, when did you know it was done? As is the case with the magazine, a lot of decisions are influenced by universal design principles such as colour, subject matter, contrast, rhythm, scale, etc. However, one should not understate the importance of intuition, which was especially important with Queen of Tsawwassen. We knew the book was finished when it felt right.
Does Inventory plan to continue in this vein of book publishing in the future? Can you envision a day where many hardcover Inventory art books line your shelves? I think so. With any new project there’s a learning curve that is both intrinsic and unique. Last year we designed and produced a book for an Italian company, WP Lavori in Corso, which was published and distributed by Rizzoli International; this year we released Queen of Tsawwassen; next year we hope to be working on a new project, but we haven’t made any concrete decisions just yet.