Finishing

I enjoy finishing things, which perhaps makes me better suited to art practice than many (leaving aside questions of talent, skill or ideas). But it never ceases to amaze me just how long finishing takes, or how boring it is. I’m driven by the desire to just get rid of the bloody thing, and it’s only much later when I look back that I might think, oh actually, I quite like that work.

This post is part of a series covering the production of a photozine. Other posts in the series:

You can buy a copy of the zine here.

I know from experience that finishing stretches off into the horizon, eventually becoming not finishing. So I was struck by this passage by Richard Misrach on finishing his projects, in the book ‘On Landscape and Meaning‘:

I knew the project was coming to an end when I started to see similar kinds of scenes, but it took about four years to get to that point. When I finish a project, I’m done. I read something by John Cage where he recommended that you bring an idea to closure and then “drop it like a pair of dirty socks.” I tend to carry out a series until I’m saturated by it and then I’Il move on.

Richard Misrach

I’d say I entered the finishing stage of this project in August 2022, and it’s now October, so this must be a very persistent pair of dirty socks. In the interests of dropping them as quickly as possible, I won’t dawdle on this final post, I just want to briefly cover some of the ways I’ve been finishing over these past few months.

Finishing the image selection and sequencing

I went through many book dummies, physical and digital, but the actual selection and sequence changed right up to the end. It was only when I was folding and binding my final prototypes that I decided on the sequence of images that would work in a physical zine.

Finishing the paper selection

I tried many different paper stocks, both to see how they would work with the images, and also how they would behave when engraved with the laser. I settled on the scarlet because of the red hue that comes through in many images from the red soil of these hills.

I wanted to use a more interesting stock for the limited run first 5 copies, and settled on a more intense, darker brown from Gmund’s Bier range. It has flecks of spent brewers yeast that are reminiscent of the silt in the stream that catches the light as it’s stirred up.

Finishing the cover

It took many attempts to tune the laser settings for the cover engraving. I had to make a jig to hold down the paper, and navigate Trotec’s arcane and poorly documented software. And of course, I played with far too many layouts and typeface combinations. This was one area where I just had to draw the line and stop playing.

The laser job itself takes about 12 minutes, so once I’ve setup the job done setup and fiddled around, I can do about 4 covers in an hour (I’m still doing them!)

Finishing the product photography

Once I had bound the first few copies, I was able to photograph them so I could post images on this website, and build a simple ecommerce site to sell them. Of course if you’re selling a photographic product, you want to make sure that the photos of the product are also good – otherwise people might be a bit wary. But you can’t spend forever on this, so after a few different lighting and product setups, I just banged out the shots I needed, and tried not to be too much of a perfectionist.

My simple studio setup. Out of shot on each side, a daylight bulb in a softbox.

Finishing the bookbinding

I made a few copies to check the workflow, and get photographs for the website, but once I’d done all this, I had to go back and bind the rest. I’m still doing it. I reckon it takes me about 15 minutes to do one copy, assuming I’m free from distractions. This is labour-intensive, for sure, but it is also rather a nice process; all hand-work, no computers!

About 3 hours work…

Finishing the website

I used Square’s online platform to set up a website to sell the zine. They provide a good ecommerce-focused CMS that allows most of the options you need, without so much freedom that you never stop fiddling. Again, I just tried to do it as simply as possible.

You can see it here: https://andrewsleighphotography.square.site


In the spirit of finishing, I’m going to stop writing about this project right now. If you found this series helpful, and you’d like to support my work, I’d love it if you bought something from my shop – it’s not financially rewarding, but it does give me a warm fuzzy feeling.

This post is part of a series covering the production of a photozine. Other posts in the series:

You can buy a copy of the zine here.

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