Thursday, November 12, 2015

picture catahoula

I HAD NO IDEA how it would end when it began. All I knew is that I’d discovered a trove of great material, and that I wanted to create a book befitting that material, as elegant and as surprising as the photographs I’d unearthed. When I began, I was just groping in the dark. But if I shuffled the images around enough, I suspected, grouping and regrouping them, eventually a story might come into view.
     It was a lot like a game I used to play as a young boy — and as a not-so-young boy, I’m not ashamed to admit — dumping my big box of crayons on the floor and rearranging them, mixing moods and telling stories until the crayons somehow made sense. You can play the same game with photographs, I realized as an adult.
     I worked and reworked what started out as a scattered miscellany, distilling the thousands of photographs into a sequence of four hundred pictures. What story would be told? What would the book look like? The pictures told me what they needed, and the book slowly took shape.
     It needed to be a long sideways kind of book, the pictures told me. It needed to be 516 pages. It needed to look like a nineteenth-century bible, like something out of The Red Badge of Courage. It needed to have digital muscadine photographs added into the mix. And the story needed to echo the cycle of the seasons.
     Now that the end is near, and the pictures have been carefully arranged, and the endpapers are being printed, and the fabrics have been chosen, and the foil stamp has been transmitted to the person who will create the die, and the dashes have been lengthened, and the gold ribbon has been selected, like a bookmark in an old bible, it all seems so clear — this is how it was supposed to end.