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Thursday, 9 October 2014

"It took almost 1 day to make 2 books maximum by hand."

I posted yesterday about Kazuma Obara's excellent Silent Histories. It's a beautiful multi-layered book about the indiscriminate bombing of Japan during the Second World War, and the suffering of the civilians who lost their families, homes and limbs; suffering that dragged out into the post-war until the present day.

The screengrabs above aren't from the book but from Grave of the Fireflies, the tragic film that I think of an anime companion to the book. It's not, but I like to think it is.

The book includes pictures stuck into photo-corners, propaganda magazine facsimiles and a hand drawn and written narrative of events as told by one of his interviews.

Silent Histories was made in an edition of 45 (because that's when the war ended). It's a miserly figure, especially when the war ended in 1945. Why not make 1,945 copies?

That was asked and that was answered by Kazuma Obara on Twitter; "It took almost 1day to make 2 books maximum by my hand."

So the 45 books took up 22 days of his life. Mind-numbing and possibly quite frustrating days. I wrote a feature for the BJP on Photobooks a few years back and remember interviewing him about his publishing house, LBM, and how they made Conductors of the Moving World, a fundraiser for the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

For the Conductors of the Moving World Book we taped the pictures in ourselves. Each book had 17 pictures taken from a selection of 90. The edit  was supposed to be random but it’s difficult to be random so we had a system for putting pictures in. We started and after 20 minutes I had dinked 3 pictures, bent the pages and hadn’t even finished one book. We had 500 books to do and I was going into meltdown. 

So it was all going to shit. But then their intern, Johnny Longfingers stepped into the room. He didn't dink pictures or smudge the glue or spread dirt on the pages. He did 5/10/100 books in an hour and before you know it they were flying off around the world.

But not everybody is Johnny Longfingers. So it doesn't always work that way. And unless you are really good with your hands and your cutting and pasting, it doesn't end up being that quick. That's why people pay printers huge sums to do it for them.

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