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Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Chris Coekin's The Altogether

It was good to see Chris Coekin's The Altogether in the BJP's Top 10 Photobooks of 2011 - it comes with gatefold pages and has a continuous text running through it on the outer gatefold. The special edition also comes with a vinyl record. The book is inspired by union banners (which aren't in the book) and is something of a commentary on the closing of Britain.  This is what Chris says about the book. The book is £20 and is available from mail@walkoutbooks.com or from the purveyors of evil here.

Well, I really enjoy the photo book and think that it's a great way to disseminate work and unlike exhibitions there is a longevity and you can reach a wider and more diverse audience. For me though, the book has to feel that it's more than just a vehicle to illustrate the images, actually much like an exhibition I suppose in that a book needs curating too. I want the concept of the work to manifest itself within the design and tactility of the book.

The Altogether is inspired by manufacturing and the manual workers who make and produce, craftsman who are skilled and work with their hands. I wanted to try and engage the reader somehow with the book much more than just looking at the images. The gatefolds make the reader work, in that you have to physically discover the image, you have to work at it. The continuous gatefolds within the book is actually a complicated binding process. The only way to achieve this while keeping it hard back and stitched is to physically hand-fold the gatefolds and trim them by hand. This, although logistically difficult to get right  (months of negotiating with the printers about what was achievable and not...and basically me wanting something that they thought couldn't be done) fits in with the context of the project. I like the idea that the books have been through this manual process of production, much like the hands on production that the factory workers do.

 I also wanted a tactility to the book, the cover is foil blocked and embossed so when you run your fingers over it you can feel the design. The text is a verse that I have written, I like to use text within my books, you may recall that it was a feature of my last book The Hitcher in which I included text from my subjects and also a short story that I had written. The book is also designed so that you can read the text from left to right without opening the gatefolds, like a normal book. 
The text is featured on the vinyl record, it is recited by the workers in the factory, and it appears as spoken word over the music that I produced from the factory floor. I chose vinyl because it is essentially a manufacturing process that hasn't changed since the invention of vinyl records, they are made in factories. 

It took me a long time to source the typeface, I wanted something that felt a little raw, well used and man made. Again this fits in with the context of the tools that I photographed for the book. 

Some of the portraits are directly based upon Trade union banners and posters and some are inspired by them. The banner painters are anonymous artisans and unfortunately their paintings were never recognised by the art establishment. Much like most working class people I was introduced to these paintings long before accessing traditional paintings exhibited in most municipal museums and galleries.

Presently I'm now concentrating on getting it out there, it's really difficult doing it alone. It has been well received so far and I have a couple of reviews coming up. It's difficult getting the books out there, the photo book world is very small actually.

I started Walkout Books with The Hitcher which was in association with The Photographers' Gallery. I learnt a lot with this book and indeed with Knock Three Times published by Dewi Lewis. I have to say though that I have been fortunate in that I have been able to attract external funding and grants so that I can publish the books, otherwise it's far too expensive.

The Hitcher has done really well though and essentially apart from what's out there now there is no more to distribute, I have a personal small stock left that's it. So this gave me the confidence to continue with Walkout and publish The Altogether and I'm looking forward to where it takes me in the future.

My books are also high quality offset printing. This is important to me that they are professionally produced and have that quality, I want them to stand up against the bigger publishers. I suppose it's also important for me that they differentiate themselves from print on demand such as Blurb for example. I'm not sure how I feel about these types of books, there are so many and I have many students who produce books via them. 

The Alogether is available at  WALKOUT/BOOKS .

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