Brian Harris’s book ‘…and then the Prime Minister hit me…’

Blog Number 4

Brian Harris book editing with Professor Phil Cleaver of et-al D

Editing Brian Harris’s book ‘…and then the Prime Minister hit me…’ with Professor Phil Cleaver of et-al Design on left and Picture Editor Glynn Griffiths with his pooch Scout.

Now I’m are on the back straight, I can see the final curve and the winning post but I still have a few dozen hurdles to jump before I can say the book is ready to be published.

In my earlier conversations and meetings with Professor Phil Cleaver of et-al design consultants based in Oxford and fellow designer Jennifer Penny and I decided that we were going to produce a book to read…not just to look at. This meant the size of the book when opened had to be manageable. Quite often books of photographs become unwieldy when designed in a horizontal format, the spine can break and the pages get creased when fighting with a book that can be nearly a metre across when fully opened. Our book, my book, was going to be ‘contained’ within a manageable format but still large enough to show off my images to the best advantage. Prof. Phil, a highly regarded  expert in typography and book design and I checked out similar products on the market and we both came to the conclusion that the books that we both felt happiest with were upright in format and just a little larger than A4 in size allowing you to sit in a chair and ‘read’ the book rather have to lay it on a table and ‘look’ at it. The number of pages would be determined by cost but had to be in multiples of 16 as that is the way books are printed using the litho process.

We decided that the front of the book would be text, anecdotal essays about my work over the past 46 years with some dropped in personal photographs that I refer to as my ‘happy snaps’. My word count was just under 70,000 which would fit into about 105 pages leaving a bit of extra space for my ‘happy snaps’to bring the final text section to exactly 112 pages which divides by 16 perfectly. Jenny did a rough layout of my edited selection of images for that ‘art’ section and we quickly realised that we would need two books if iI wanted to show everything off !

Through the spring, summer and autumn of 2015 Professor Phil, my friend and picture editor Glynn Griffiths and I had three mammoth 16 hour long editing days at Phil’s studio. We  edited and edited and looked for visual juxtapositions that worked, being totally ruthless in our choices of those pictures that were going to be our ‘keepers’.

And then we edited again…and again. After the first two 16 hour day and  night sessions I felt that we had achieved something of which I was proud. The ‘art’ section was going to be 208 pages giving a final page count of 320. Quite a hefty tome when printed on high quality paper !

This is when the practicalities of publishing become apparent…such as  ‘How much will this cost to post ?’ and where do you store the entire print run after publication while waiting to sell them…and most importantly what do you charge per copy based on the unit cost. All questions to mull over and give me quite a few sleepless nights.

Our third 16 hour editing session involving Phil, Glynn and myself was probably the toughest. We had to start locking things down. Phil and his team had already spent more time on my book than was budgeted for, for which I will be eternally grateful ….every time I came up with a ‘good idea’ and tried it on the page I would find that the page ‘knock on’ would put the rest of the book out of kilter. Changes, if they had to be made, had to be done sympathetically. Phil had established a grid format for the book so that the book flowed visually. Sometimes we had to ‘break’ the grid and this would normally take a hour of argument…Phil was normally right. Glynn tweaked the cropping, if needed, of my images and I stood back and threw in little visual and verbal hand grenades, little suggestions that would take us back to the beginning. Quite often I would remember an image but couldn’t find it…I was sure it was in this folder, or that folder…of course the files always showed up in the end and sometimes I had my way…it is my book after all.

Brian Harris book editing with Professor Phil Cleaver of et-al D

Editing Brian Harris’s book ‘…and then the Prime Minister hit me…’ with Professor Phil Cleaver of et-al Design on left and and Photographer Brian Harris

Every photograph had to be captioned. The caption had to be journalistically informative,who,where,what,why and when but also had to establish context and quite often a personal recollection which brings the story, the picture alive…this was a long winded exercise on my part that took a several months to complete…thank you Google and all my note books that I had kept over the years…..never throw anything away…ever !

I feel I’m now coming off the bend and entering the home straight now…maybe a couple more hurdles to jump after I’ve seen some wet proofs…but I can honestly say that I’m pleased and chuffed at what we have achieved…and i hope you will be as well.

About brianharrisphotographer

I have been an editorial photographer since 1969. After working for various 'Fleet Street' press agencies and local papers in the east end of London I joined The Times of London where I worked around the world until 1985. I joined The Independent Newspaper in London in 1986 and stayed with them until 1999. I'm still working as a photographer, generating my own story ideas which I sell to the international magazine market. I also contribute generic stock images to various photo libraries. I live near Cambridge in eastern England.
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