As a University of Missouri masters candidate for the School of Journalism, I must complete a project or a thesis in order to earn my degree. For my bachelor's degree at Mizzou I studied journalism with an emphasis in photojournalism, for my master's degree I am studying journalism with and emphasis in visual editing.
The project I have chosen to work on is the Missouri Photo Workshop 68th edition book, which ties in skills I have learned during my five years of study. There are two parts to this project; the book and the professional analysis, which I have laid out in my project proposal. This entails photo editing, layout, design, interviews, research, and an analysis of the finished project with a reflection into my experience. All of which will be laid out into separate blog posts as each phase is completed.
This will be accomplished through close work with my professors including Jim Curley, adjunct faculty and co-director of MPW; David Rees, faculty chair and co-director of MPW; Jackie Bell, associate professor; and Brian Kratzer, director of photography for the Columbia Missourian.
Reaching almost seven decades, Missouri Photo Workshop has been renowned for bringing together photographers from around the world to work with a select staff of professional photojournalists who are devoted to the education of our field's future. MPW was started in 1949 by Clifton and Vi Edom, to whom some attribute the birth of photojournalism. This past year's workshop comprised 46 photographers from 15 different states and 10 foreign countries, all wanting to learn about the art of storytelling through photographs.
MPW 68 was stationed in a small, rural, Midwest town of about 3,300 residents called Cuba, Missouri. Photographers participating in the workshop were limited to the town and its surrounding farmland. Each photographer was assigned two faculty members, professional photojournalists tasked with helping formulate an edit. While each photographer is only given 400 frames during the weeklong workshop, their final edits are usually around 12 photographs with the aid of professional faculty members.
Although photo editing is a very important component when designing a book, layout is just as crucial to my project and its success rate.
Layout and design will be considered two different entities in these blog postings. The term layout will be defined as how the content is organized and arranged on a page-to-page basis. Meaning that I will analyze different pages and how I chose to put them on the page the way I did. Design, on the other hand, will be used to represent the overall book. This means how I chose to put the stories in the order I did and why, font choices, and the introduction section details.
For my layouts it wasn't too difficult to come up with a basic system. Luckily MPW 68 wasn't the first MPW, so I had many books to use as an example when creating my pages. I also talked with a previous MPW book designer, Greg Kendall-Ball, who sent me the indesign spread for one of his book drafts. This helped me to get an idea of what I was working on and what was expected of me.
The trickiest part of this component for me was finding a way to make the pages look diverse while still maintaining continuity. I didn't want to repeat the same layout over and over again. This was a difficult trap to avoid because the pages are not very large and when you are working with photos that are relatively the same size there are only so many different combinations of layout you can choose from.
This story was originally going to be three spreads but after looking at the content, I decided to bring it down to two. Not because the photographs weren't strong, but because of the nature of the work the subject is doing. Knowing that this book will be available to all types of people, it was best not to push something so unsettling.
I tried a few different versions of this layout using the same photographs. At first, The large photograph of the butcher was on the left hand side, and the last page was flipped with the third page. This was because I felt it would be weird to end the story the way it does, jumping back to the beginning of the story.
I quickly moved the butcher to the right hand side because of its composition in correlation to the seam of the book. I did not want the subject to be weirdly cut up and warped when you opened to the page, this decision made the story and overall book more cohesive.
After looking at it and receiving feedback from my committee, I decided it had a larger impact to end on a page that had a full-bleed photo, meaning that ti reached all edges of the paper. I no longer cared that it became circuitous because that was the nature of the story. Telling how one butcher and his wife make a living from animal to dinner and the never ending cycle of it. It then seemed fitting to end where I did, showing that the process is a never ending loop.
This story may have been my favorite one to layout out of the whole book. Each photo was unique while still maintaining the style of the photographer who shot it. At first I was worried that this would be a challenge to layout and print because of how dark many of the photos were. But as I changed them into black and white my fears were subsided because they seemed to keep their clarity and contrast.
I was also nervous about creating this layout at first because I knew that there were so many good photos that it would be impossible to choose. However, as I began to layout it out the photos seemed to find their place on the page quite easily. Where most spreads had two to three versions, I only made one of this story and received no critiques or suggested changes.
My favorite part about this story is the second spread. Because of the number of photographers accepted into MPW 68 and the amount of pages I was given to create the book, everything was tighter than it normally would be. Where some stories in the past may have received four spreads, my max was three and it was very rare. I didn't get the chance to have as much fun with images bleeding off the page or spreading onto the next page.
But in this story's second spread I am able to do just that. Not only does it look natural, but it was the perfect space and content to do it with. And the photo I paired on that page works as a follow up because of the consistency of the barrels and the wide shot (large) and the tight shot (small).
This story was great and I was very happy that I was able to make this one a three spread story as well. One regret I have is the fact that this story must remain in black and white. The colors in each photograph were unique and it was another story where you could clearly see the style that the photographer had.
Each photograph gives you a sense of family without being over bearing or too cheesy. It tells a story of their commitment to each other and the bond they all share.This was another story where I was able to get creative with the spreads. Each spread is different than any other page in the book and I am very happy that I had the freedom to lay it out in this way.
I wish there had been some tighter shots for me to choose from to break up the medium and wide frames a bit more, but I still think that the story has a flow to it that works with complimentary opening and closing photographs.
I included this story as an example for layout because of my excitement in the photo placement on each page. The first photograph is a shot that includes almost the whole family and immediately states what the story is about. The second photo I am in love with because of the lighting and leading lines of the shadows. It is the perfect second photograph for the second page because of its content and the directions the lines lead, sending you to the third page.
The third page has two photographs that are in juxtaposition of each other. While the son is bent over his rifle in the shed, the daughter is kneeling in the kitchen helping her mother with the dishes. These two photographs placed next to each other in this way is a perfect representation of what this family is about and the nature of this story.
Which brings me to the last photograph on the fourth page, a book end shot of the family walking together in a field. I say "book end" as a way of referring to how the photograph perfectly wraps up the story like the final chapter of a book. It encompasses the whole story while leaving no room for doubt.
This project has been challenging yet exciting. Photo editing has always been something I've been relatively confident in due to my education and experience. However, layout is something that I predicted I would struggle with. I love layout and design, it is something that I enjoyed doing the first time I was ever given the opportunity to experience it, in my Visual Editing class during my Junior year.
Ever since then I have liked design but never had a chance or reason to work on it. This book has taught me things about layout that I didn't even know I needed to know. Although it was one of the harder parts, I found myself wanting to go back and create different versions of layouts instead of doing work I may have been assigned for other classes.