Black & White on Both Sides is a photography book by Scott Alan that caught my attention because of it’s black and white nature. I’m doing a big black and white push in 2018 (as many of you already know) so I wanted to take the time to look into other photographers black and white art books. I’m going to keep the author’s body of work out of this and focus on just this piece. Is that fair and how art is generally consumed? NOPE. That’s what I’m going to focus on anyway because an individual looking into the context of another individual is a huge journey.
I took photos with my phone to both help protect the IP of the content, and to also demonstrate I have the book in person. All photography looks much better in the book than they do in the photos in this blog.
The Publisher & Publishing
Black & White on Both Sides is published using Blurb. I like blurb more than most the vanity print presses (or print as you order presses) since they have really good binding quality. The strong binding quality, however, makes it harder to open the book widely with out damaging the book, making photos that take up two pages hard to view and anything that happens in between the two pages impossible to see. This generally isn’t too big a deal since generally people only try to have images that take up two pages in a book once and you bite the bullet, but in this it happens six times. This isn’t a comment on the photography as much as it’s an interesting lesson on publishing and proofs. It also has three pages that are blank- they are used for dramatic effect and emphasizing the image on the opposite page which I feel works really well with art on the wall but leaves the book feeling a bit empty. It feels like someone much like myself who has a lot of experience making prints that look very nice on a wall, but not much experience with printing books.
The photography can be broken down into two styles- high contrast silhouettes and low edit / low contrast close ups.
Photographers can take the time to appreciate how he manages silhouettes to capture the white backdrops and the black backdrops largely in camera by point the lights at the subject or at the backdrop. You often see these effects done by pressing ctrl+i in photoshop. This is a small thing but its really a “photography for photographers” approach to a finished project. There are two images which are the same side profile using these different silhouette approaches side by side and it really makes me think the entire book given the name could have just been this style to help show on an inspirational level the differences between the lighting effects. There two images side by side are probably the strongest pieces in the book when placed side to side, and you could really see that the styling could have made it’s own book if done in repetition.
In this style he also catches splashing water in the background- which again I think is a “photography for photographer” approach as it’s something that isn’t recognized as being difficult in this format unless you are a photographer.
The low contrast close up images do a good job showing texture, which give the images a physical feel to them. They feel wet when the model is wet and gritty when the model is in a gritty locations. I enjoy this style less than the silhouettes but that’s more my personal tastes.
Both styles have little tweaks I might want to make before releasing the images, but that isn’t generally regarded as a very fair thing to really talk about. Some of the silhouettes however have lighting spots in the middle of them- in the digital version they look alluring, in my print version I had worried it was a finger print grease damaging the page.
Reviewing an item makes you look at things and consider things you generally don’t think about. I feel like this feels like probably exactly what it is- a good print and web quality photographer putting out his first book, but not yet used to the presentation and struggles that occur with putting out a book. It’s a different struggle with different considerations. I can’t say I wouldn’t make the same mistakes when putting out an art book as I’m also inexperienced, and the framing of these items in a book making program wouldn’t of really highlighted the problems. So it’s one of those weird scenarios where viewing the images online will give you a better viewing experience.