Tag Archives: Public Libraries

WORKING ON THE BOOK

WORKING ON THE BOOK – 9/18/13

It has been a long time since I posted a blog on my Public Library project. I wanted to bring you up to date on this amazing journey and let you know about upcoming events. My last post came shortly after my 2012 summer Library Road Trip with Walker. Later, after looking at my work from the whole project I realized that I had photographed a lot of libraries in poor communities but few in wealthy ones. Some of the wealthiest communities in the nation are right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Walker and I photographed several libraries in Silicon Valley and Marin County. It helped to balance out the project.

I soon became caught up in my normal, crazy academic schedule teaching five classes at two universities. I also came down with what turned out to be a long-term staph infection in my sinuses. I am finally over most of it. In the Fall, 2012 and Spring, 2013 I began working closely with Princeton Architectural Press producing the book. Late in the Fall we spent the Thanksgiving holiday in New York and later in New England with Walker, Ellen, her brother John Manchester and his wife Kate. We were in New York City two weeks after Hurricane Sandy had devastated the area. Our friend Stanley Greenberg took us out to the Rockaways along the Brooklyn shoreline. The branch library there had just been emptied of its water-soaked books. Parked in front was a Queens Library bookmobile. It was one of the few places around where people could recharge their cell phones, get on the internet of just get warm. I took the last photographs for the project of that sheltering mobile library.

The Spring of 2013 was probably the busiest and most stressful time of my life. In addition to my academic responsibilities and being sick I was working full-time on the book. I also applied for and received a Graham Foundation grant to work on the Public Library project. I also applied and am currently a finalist for a Creative Work Fund grant to document the library and literacy campaigns in the distressed city of Stockton, CA. If I receive the grant it could provide a new direction for my project beyond the publication of the book. Added to all this I produced a 30 year retrospective exhibition of my work for a show at the Thomas Welton Stanford Gallery at Stanford University. Whew! No wonder I felt exhausted all Spring.

Putting together all the parts of this very complex book took up all of my free time. Throughout the Spring I was literally working seven days a week. Working with my two editors at Princeton was a delight. Sara Bader and Sara Stemen are real professionals and have been very patient with all my distractions. It is nice to work with people that know the English language so much better than I do and, at the same time, penetrate the complexity of legal contracts with writers and publishers. And they did this with humor and wisdom! I know that I have been lucky working with the two Saras. Equally important was the help and encouragement from my wife Ellen and our son Walker. I literally could not have done this project without them. The production of the book involved selecting and sequencing the images; finalizing the text, labels and extended captions; getting permissions from the writers, their agents or publishers and countless little details that needed attention.

The big day arrived in mid-April when Ellen and I finished everything, put all the book parts in a box and sent it off to Princeton. Afterwards, we even had time for dinner and a much-appreciated glass of wine. Later in the Spring we received the first two edits of the book by email. We met with Princeton in New York in mid-July when they had literally just printed out the first hard copy of the book mock-up. We took it with us to our little cabin in the woods in Vermont and sent it back a few weeks later. In early September I sent back the second version of the mock-up to Princeton. After approving the cover design I have been working with Princeton’s publicity person to develop a plan to publicize the book. I have also been working on lots of little details since then.

A website and traveling exhibition are part of our future tasks. I will keep you informed as we get closer to our publication date of April, 2014. Until then, please stay tuned and stay in touch.

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Redwoods, Mill Valley library, Mill Valley, CA

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Bookmobile, Rockaways, NY

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Print selection, San Francisco, CA

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Assistant print selector, San Francisco, CA

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Laying out the book, San Francisco, CA

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Final design and layout, San Francisco, CA

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Initial mock-up, San Francisco, CA

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Last details, April, 2013, San Francisco, CA

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Last proof read, April, 2013, San Francisco, CA

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Ellen packing it up!, April, 2013, San Francisco, CA

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Editing first print out, Vermont

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Swatting flies and editing book, Vermont

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So Many Libraries, So Little Time

Armijo branch, El Paso, TX

Armijo branch, El Paso, TX

Coal sign in library, Williamson, WV

Coal sign in library, Williamson, WV

Cowboy hat in reading room, Main Library, Cleveland, OH

Cowboy hat in reading room, Main Library, Cleveland, OH

ImageDarkened interior, no AC, record heat, Tchula, MS

Darkened interior, no AC, record heat, Tchula, MS

Fannie Lou Hamer Library, Jackson, MS

Fannie Lou Hamer Library, Jackson, MS

Flags and Carnegie Library, Las Vegas, NM

Flags and Carnegie Library, Las Vegas, NM

Guitar and library, Muskogee, OK

Guitar and library, Muskogee, OK

Navajo Library, Window Rock, AZ

Navajo Library, Window Rock, AZ

New and old libraries in Cherokee Capitol, Tahlequah, OK (diptych)

New and old libraries in Cherokee Capitol, Tahlequah, OK (diptych)

Main Library, Newark, NJ

Main Library, Newark, NJ

Stairway in Main Library, Midland, TX

Stairway in Main Library, Midland, TX

Three murals and ceiling, Main Library, Detroit, MI

Three murals and ceiling, Main Library, Detroit, MI

West branch Carnegie Library, Louisville, KY

West branch Carnegie Library, Louisville, KY

Main Library, Winchester, VA

Main Library, Winchester, VA

 

3/26/12 – I had threatened to do this for a while. I am now posting a small selection of images from last summer’s Library Road Trip. The previous images on this blog were all quick recording shots taken with my little Canon G-10 at the same time as I was shooting my larger film cameras. The final shots were all on film and I have never posted these before. I am doing it now because I finally finished developing and spotting the 300+ images that have been edited from the trip. Finally, these pictures can begin to see the light of day. I selected these fifteen images to be somewhat representative of the diversity of libraries we encountered last summer.

Things are progressing with the book project. We are actively looking for writers to be included in the book and I will let you know how it goes. Any suggestions of writers that you think would be appropriate would be greatly appreciated. I just received a wonderful hand-written letter from Wendell Berry. It was a rejection but I am going to frame it anyway.

This summer will be the last of the Library Road Trip field work. Walker and I will do our last tour through the upper Mid-West including Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado.  This is the last region in the country that I have not yet photographed for this project. We will do it more or less in this order and plan on spending four weeks on the road starting around June 12th. If you have any contacts or suggestions of libraries to photograph or places to stay it would also be much appreciated.

After I get back from the trip in mid-July I will spend the rest of the summer developing and editing the film, working on the book and getting ready for a big exhibit of this work at Stanford University’s Art Gallery.  That exhibit is scheduled for the winter of 2013 and will include work from the 2011 and 2012 summer Library Road Trips and my recent short trip to southern Nevada and Utah. It will be a good way for me to focus this new work. In conjunction with the earlier exhibit produced for the San Francisco Public Library during the spring of 2011, I hope to produce the core of a traveling exhibit that can tour around the country for several years. That traveling exhibit, in combination with the large-scale book will be the final expression of this massive project. But I have miles to go before I get there. So many libraries, so little time. Stay tuned.

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Filed under American Life, Greatest Hits, Libraries, Photography, Public Libraries, Road trip, Robert Dawson Library