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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Publishing Anxiety Dreams, Sweatography and Special Editions

In the press release for All Quiet on the Home Front I write about a dream I had when Isabel was a child. It goes like this:

When Isabel was a baby I had a dream. In the dream it was Christmas. We lived above a pub in a single room crammed with old pub furniture. In one corner was a Christmas tree. It had real candles, all of which were balanced precariously on the tree’s branches. It also had electric lights which were plugged into the socket using bare, sparking wires. And instead of sitting in a bowl of water, it sat in a bowl of acid.
That sense of claustrophobia, morbidity, and anxiety is apparent in All Quiet on the Home Front. It is a reflection of the fears that sat deep within me all when I became a parent; the fear of my daughter’s death, my own death, and my built in obsolescence and redundancy as a parent. To escape this claustrophobia, the banging off the walls and the endless ‘playing’, I took Isabel outside into the landscapes around our home in Bath. The woods of Brown’s Folly, growing out of the contours of an old stone mine, the scrappy bmx track built on the banks of the River Avon, and the Celtic hilltop of Solsbury Hill became our playground. These are the landscapes where both Isabel and I found ourselves and this book tells that story.
It’s the story of becoming a child and becoming a father. It’s a self-portrait.

The dream is a typical parent's anxiety dream, a baby anxiety dream. Wait till they're a bit older and they're getting lost in shops and disappearing in Mexico and getting left behind on trains. I think I know a few people all those things really happened to. That's the thing about anxiety dreams, they're a tad too real.

I've written before on this blog about teacher's anxiety dreams. High school teachers started on these a few weeks ago, college lecturers will be starting now. You know the kind of thing - oh no, I'm not wearing any trousers - oh no, there's no room booked - oh no, I absolutely haven't got a clue what I'm doing. Again, a tad too real

I'm guessing students have them too. They turn up at college and dream - oh no, how much am I paying for this - oh no, this is supposed to be a commercial course and nobody knows how to use a camera - oh no, they told me this would be a hands on course but I didn't realise I'd only have one lecture a week!

Then there are photographers' anxiety dreams (read some good ones here) and bookmaking anxiety dreams. Again, the basics are very close to reality - having to pulp the entire print run, getting the colours wrong, getting the images wrong, having a typo in the title, using the cheapest possible printing and paper and not getting away with it, not selling a single copy even to your mum, unintentionally making a book that doesn't open. It's stuff which happens.

I had a book anxiety dream last week. It wasn't very real though. I was unpacking a box of books that had arrived fresh from the printers, getting them ready to be sent to the subscribers. I didn't notice the small baby in a box that was on the floor next to the book crate. He was a nice baby wearing a blue cardigan and white shorts.

And then I dropped a pile of books onto the baby. So I had a dead baby on my hands, only a very small one, about two inches long, but a dead baby all the same.

I was wondering what to do with the baby when I noticed that the baby had disappeared. Instead it's image was now nestling in the back pages of my freshly printed book. All Quiet on the Home Front.

I picked up another copy and looked in that. There was the dead baby again, all squashed and dead, imprinted on the back pages of All Quiet on the Home Front. Every single copy of the book now had an extra image - the one of the dead baby - imprinted as if by magic. 'Mmm, I thought. What if I make this the subscriber's edition? Pay £100 and you get a copy of the book Plus a mysteriously imprinted image of a dead baby in the book. It's amazing value when you think about it.

And then I thought with horror, oh my god no, what am I thinking. What will people think of me if I give them a book with a picture of a dead baby inside. They'll think I'm exploiting a dead baby.

And that's where the dream ended. I woke up in a mild sweat.

You'll be glad to know there are no dead babies in the subscriber's edition of All Quiet on the Home Front. Instead it comes with a print of Isabel that is absolutely beautiful. The colours pop out of the paper and it really is stunning.

(Keep on reading for the incredible Sweatographic images of Reiner Riedler)

Buy the Subscriber's Edition of All Quiet on the Home Front Here.

Buy the Regular Edition of All Quiet on the Home Front Here.

Mmm, I'm not sure that a dream about dead babies and mysterious imprinting is really going to work too well in terms of selling, but so it goes. There is however a bit of a history to mysterious imprintings of images.

Many of them are to do with Jesus, the original iconic image (google Mandylion for this). We all know the Turin Shroud but what about Saint Veronica (Vera Icon=True Icon) who wiped the face of Jesus with his veil as he walked up the Via Dolorosa on his way to Calvary and Crucifixion. And what appeared on the veil? The face of Jesus (enlarged though).

All of this, I discovered yesterday thanks to Reiner Riedler, links directly to contemporary imaging technology. Riedler is working on photographic processes that record images made from sweat (sweatography?). Amazing, but a quick comparison with Saint Veronica's image shows that contemporary sweatography hasn't quite caught up with that from 2,000 years ago.

This is where Riedler's images come from. And they are amazing and completely linked to the whole mystical tradition of image making.

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Modular Solid State Technologies EMFT in Munich are conducting research on perspiration. For this photographic work, they produced a special sensor colorant, which is able to make sweat permanently visible.

all images by Reiner Riedler

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