PF4: Light in the Shadows of T’ien Shan (Assignment 4.2)

Light in the Shadows:
Book Concept

“Baizakh Village in Naryn Province, Kyrgyzstan is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. These photographs were taken taken over 6 days in May 2016 in spare moments at dawn, midday and evening time when I was not working. They are very much an outsider view of things I noticed and chose to record – only a snapshot of life at particular times of day and one of the kindest times of year.”

My concept for this book was to start with monochrome abstraction. Partly because I was really struck by the light and shadows in what I saw – the light had a particular clarity from the altitude in the sunlight. That is somewhat lost in colour. Partly because I know that monochrome styles are popular in Kyrgyzstan and ex-Soviet countries, and that many of the images are well-suited to this style. Partly because processing the images in different monochrome styles can improve my understanding of the images for clearer colour composition and processing.

Light in the Shadows of T’ien Shan focuses on issues in designing a monochrome photobook based on the photography series from Baizakh village. Combining and juxtaposing images of natural and human landscapes it aims to inform and pose questions about the beauty and also difficulties of  life in Baizakh. 

The project experiments with:

  •  different monochrome styles and their associations – including delicate tonal tinting. 
  • photographic abstraction, including the interactions between the image, the page frame and the two-page spread.
  • photobook design and layout, comparing how these might differ between monochrome and colour.

I consider how different styles of monochrome photography, different ways of framing and juxtaposition can create different narratives with and for potentially different audiences.  

Influence Lithuanian photography, Atget/Brassai Paris and ‘Light Spells’ by Kathryn Faulkner and Graham Murrell.

I am interested in experimenting and getting feedback from different audiences on different moods and treatment possibilities:

  • Dramatic abstract light/shadow contrast.
  • Soft misty mystery
  • Grungy textures.
  • Fragility of thin delicate lines
  • Nostalgia.

As well as giving a feel for life in Baizakh.

I still need to decide whether to add text, where and how – based on audience input and relationship to the final more documentary colour book version. Possibly this might draw on Japanese/Chinese styles.

Baizakh Black and White:
original Blurb 2017

The Original Blurb book for Landscape Photography done in Lightroom Book module. !! need to do annotations. This was printed as a hardcover landscape format photobook on Prolene Pearl paper. Text was limited to the inside flap of the back cover. 25x20cm 42 pages costing currently around £35 without discount or postage – probably around £20. Print quality was generally good, but the photos lacked depth or texture and were sometimes too dark, and the layout was not very inspired.

Light in the Shadows of T’ien Shan 1:
Landscape format Black and White

Revised landscape version with re ordering of photos, processing in Silver FX to give more targeted detail and contrast. 25x20cm 42 pages costing currently around £35 without discount or postage – probably around £20. I left out the photos of people. But needs more consistency and better juxtaposition.

!! slideshow needs to be annotated. These look much darker at smaller size.

Light in the Shadows of T’ien Shan 2:
Square format black and white

This version is inspired by the Kettles Yard book with much more subtle light and shade and more abstraction. The abstraction is enhanced by using square images in square format with large white margin, and careful juxtaposition of images. Focus is on landscape and textures.

18 cm square, 62 pages with hard cover and image wrap on premium lustre paper is £30 without discount or postage. So £20 with Blurb discount offer and small profit margin.

Light in the Shadows
of T’ien Shan 3:
Square format sepia

Inspired by Lithuania book. But I could make these images more contrasty and textured as sepia images. With slight duo-toning. Contrasting warm and cool. 18 cm square 66 pages £30 around £20 with Blurb discount offer and small profit margin.

Feedback so far

There seems generally to be a preference for the sepia images.

I now plan to do a detailed analysis in a logbook of the images and book layouts in sources I have looked at:

Lithuanian photography

  • Atget/Brassai Paris
  • ‘Light Spells’ photobook from Kettles Yard, Cambridge.
  • Japanese and Chinese photobooks.

I am particularly interested in:

  • how far they follow one particular style/mood and whether and how they vary the mood between pages and spreads
  • use of whitespace around and between images, including use of blank pages
  • whether, how and where they use captions
  • how and where they give other information sbout the publication – what is explicit and what is implicit and left to the viewer
  • which approaches I find most effective in communicating mood, beauty and particularly provoking questions about what I am looking at.

Feedback was unfortunately interrupted by a further COVID-19 outbreak sweeping across Kyrgyzstan. Feedback so far is given below.

I lightened the final images because people in Kyrgyzstan found them too dark and depressing – although people in UK liked the darker grungier style – something to explore further. Also check this was not a monitor hardware issue viewing images on line.

Scrollable pdf of audience feedback