Editors: Nina & Terri Jean

Ever since I returned to writing for myself a couple of years ago, I knew that I would want to compile and print my journaling in a hard copy format so that I could read my words in the same way that I would read an actual book. Creating these journals was truly a labour of love in the most beautiful way, and every time I hold these books in my hand and read my own heartfelt words, I am reminded of the need to keep writing to my dying day...

When I saw this blog post by my friend Liz from Paislee Press, I completely re-imagined this project and I decided to create Moleskine books through MILK Books.

The first step was to decide on a book format. This was a simple decision, as I didn't want the books to be too big and I ideally wanted them to be vertical in orientation. Plus, my intention from the very beginning was to print books without images, as I wanted these to feel more like (written) memoirs rather than photo books. With all this in mind, I quickly settled on the Classic Photo Notebook, which was the same format that Liz used for her photo book.

 I knew from the outset that I would be creating my own layouts in Adobe InDesign, so the second step was to set up a template using the software. To do this, I needed to know what size to make the pages. After playing with the web editor for a while, I realised that all full-page images are inserted into the book with a certain amount of bleed. (This is not the case with all photo book printing vendors so it is definitely worth clarifying printing specifications like this when you use a new printing company for the first time.) So even though the final size of the notebook is 5.12" x 8.15" (ie. 130mm x 207mm), I worked out that I actually needed to set up my pages in InDesign to be 140mm x 220mm, if I wanted my text to print at the 'right' size. (If I didn't do this, my words would be 'blown up' slightly due to the bleed requirement and the text would also appear closer to the edge of the page. More about this below.)

Once I set up the page size correctly at 140mm x 220mm, I created the following internal margins: 5mm for left/right, and 6.5mm for top/bottom. These internal margins acted as a important visual guide for me; whatever appeared inside these margins was what would appear on the printed page, and the area lying on the outside was essentially the bleed.

My biggest design tip when it comes to formatting text is to always create sufficient space between the text and the edge of the page. If there is not enough space, your page will inevitably look cramped and clumsy. This is why finding out about the bleed requirement as discussed above, and re-adjusting my page template accordingly, was such a crucial step. Taking into account the page size, I decided on 17mm as my page margin.

From there, I needed to typeset some sample text and that would essentially become my design template for the books. For each page, I worked out that I wanted to have a title for the journaling, the journaling itself (ie. the body copy), and the journaling date at the bottom of the page in place of page numbers.

I already had a template from a story book that I created over two years ago to document my pregnancy with Edward. That story book was a similar size to the Moleskine Classic Photo Notebook so I retrieved the file, copied over all my typesetting, and used that as a basis for the new template. I kept the typeface and font size for the body copy as Century Schoolbook and 8pt respectively. For the page title, I kept the typeface as Times Italic, but I reduced the font size from 14pt to 12pt so that the title wouldn't look disproportionately big in relation to the Moleskine page size (the other story book was wider). Plus, as much as possible, I didn't want my page titles to have to go over two lines. For the date at the bottom of the page, I decided to go with a contrasting typeface to make it clear that it was separate to the body copy; I chose a Light version of Helvetica Neue, which is my favourite sans serif typeface. I settled on 7pt as the font size so that the date wouldn't visually intrude on the page, and I also increased the kerning dramatically so that the date would stretch further across the page. In this way, the date almost doubled as a graphic element that marked the end of each page.

Once I was happy with the page template, I set about gathering all my personal writing from the previous years and working out how to split it over a few volumes. Unlike other story books that I've made in the past, the Moleskine Classic Photo Notebook has a set number of pages: 96. This made the process just a little trickier, but nothing that couldn't be worked around. First, I downloaded all my personal posts from 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 from both my old Pink Ronnie blog and The Shoemaker's Daughter blog using a software called MarsEdit. Then, I retrieved any additional personal journaling that I'd done via Simplenote (you can read more about that in this blog post). As I looked at all the words that I had from a 'big picture' perspective, I basically culled a series of posts that I didn't feel were personal enough or that warranted a separate story book of its own. This was perhaps the most lengthy and consuming part of the entire process, as it involved reading through a few year's worth of personal writing. By the end of it, I had words to fill a combined 2011/2012 volume, a 2013 volume, and a 2014 volume. Having a few blank pages at the end of each volume didn't worry me.

From there, the rest of the process was quite straightforward. I created a separate InDesign file for each volume and pasted in the page template that I'd created. I then duplicated the page template within each of the files until I had the requisite 96 number of pages. It then became a simple matter of copying and pasting in the text for each of the three volumes. I did this chronologically so that older journal entires appeared at the beginning of each volume, and the newer ones appeared towards the end.

Once all my pages for the three books were completed in InDesign, I exported the pages as JPEG images and then uploaded these to the online MILK Book Editor. I particularly liked the Quick Create function, which allows you to quickly and easily populate each of the 96 pages with full-page images. (I will try to add a tutorial for this to our Videos page at some point.)

For the cover images, I decided to stick with photos that I'd taken of my feet to represent the personal journey that I've been on. More importantly, I knew that I would be making more of these books down the track, and it would be easy to replicate the same type of image to create a consistent look and feel across the different volumes. All I had to do was upload the relevant cover image to the online editor when prompted and then crop/reposition it so that my feet were centred in the space. Similarly, for the book titles, I simply used the online editor to typeset the year(s) in capital letters, ie. TWENTY FOURTEEN for 2014, TWENTY THIRTEEN for 2013, etc.

Less than two weeks later, my books arrived in the mail, and I couldn't have been more pleased and happy with how they turned out. They were exactly as I imagined them to be, and the use of genuine Moleskine materials is simply unbeatable. Just holding these books in my hand is incentive enough to keep writing my heart out so that I can make more of them!

You can read more from Ronnie, purchase her templates, and learn about her online classes on her website Life Captured Inc. 
You can connect with her on:
Instagram @lifecapturedinc
Facebook www.facebook.com/lifecapturedinc
Twitter @lifecapturedinc https://twitter.com/lifecapturedinc

On the first anniversary of her death, today, we are celebrating American photojournalist Mary Ellen Mark. Mary Ellen Mark was an American photojournalist whose compelling empathetic images, mostly in black and white, documented the lives of marginalised people in the US and other countries.

I’ve done photography my whole working life. It is what I do. I used to like it a lot but it has changed a lot.

Margaret Joyce’s First Communion, Travellers’ Encampment, Finglas, Ireland, 1991.
I like the idea of being able to capture a moment in time, but all that has changed now with people being able to Photoshop images so much. You don’t know what is real any more and what isn’t. But I am an analog photographer and it is about capturing the moment of reality. It hasn’t changed for me: I shoot film and I will continue to shoot film. I think it is more beautiful. It is the reason I became a photographer. I am not an illustrator; a lot of the digital, Photoshopped photography is what I would call illustration, not photography. With that kind of work the post-production guy is probably the most important guy in the process.

My big thing was to use magazine assignments almost as grants. But it is harder now to make things happen as they are so interested in celebrity, not documentary work. The climate has changed for doing serious stories. The control advertising has on the magazine medium is more, and editorial no longer want to give the assignments they used to. Now photography is very seldom used to record truth in the magazines, it is used more as decoration. The future of documentary photography is not in a healthy state.

I see better in black and white. Perhaps I’m even a bit color-blind. It’s also the subject matter that I pick that I think works better in black and white.

I just finished doing this project on the Prom, using the 20x24 camera. Having done a book on twins with this camera, I then wanted to find another project where I could really use it right. I love that camera. Unfortunately they stopped making the black- and-white film. I love the ways the prints look—they are beautiful objects, incredible tonality and detail.

Christopher with His Kitten, Sandgap, Kentucky, 1990.
You have to really finalize your decisions when using it. Not only do you have a limited amount of time to work with people, but the film is incredibly expensive. You don’t have the chance to do it this way and that way. I try to shoot four frames, have a series and something you can exhibit. You have to really be in control of your lighting—you are making and taking a picture at the same time. People are amazed by the camera. It is the opposite of digital photography. You are making the decisions all upfront and you can’t just go for it in post-production.

My main influences come from photography and film. I have done a lot of work on film sets. Fellini I adore; if I was going to say just one name as an influence or inspiration, it would probably be him. He presented an amazing world and an amazing imagination, but all based in neorealism. He’s a realist.
I choose things because they have a chance of being visual. The choice is not based on words; it is based on the visual. Sometimes I have worked with writers, and it can be very helpful. But for me a picture has to stand on its own. If it needs text it is not truly visual. For me it is all about the single image.

With celebrity images they often work just because it is a famous face, and it is nothing more. I want to do more. The thing with making a celebrity image is to get beyond the celebrity.
I was lucky with the picture I took of Fellini from behind. I followed him around that day on the set. He has a bullhorn and seems to be almost dancing, like a character in one of his films.
Irony is in my work. You are conscious of what you are looking at and why, it’s in your way of looking. Then you learn how to express it as you become an experienced photographer.

There’s an evolution over the years. There are certain things you are interested in, certain themes, and they manifest themselves in your projects. Things carry through. I would love to do more work on the circus, maybe in Russia or China. And I have always wanted to photograph the gypsy camps in Ireland.
Federico Fellini on the Set of Satyricon, Rome, Italy, 1969.

Photography has a lesser role today, less opportunity to make a difference, and there is less investment in making the real human-interest stories. Magazines like Life and Look, they are not there. I am lucky, I think, that I got to do some of the work the way I did. Lucky I just did the Prom project before the slowdown. Let’s hope somehow good comes out of that.

If you do great pictures it is fine art, no matter what. The galleries manipulate things, the market. If you deliberately set out to be an artist, that is the wrong way to think as a photographer. The work should be great, and that is all that is important. If people want it, and want it to put on their walls, that’s great too.

Download PhotowisdomDownload your own copy of Lewis Blackwell's "Photowisdom: Master Photographers on their Art"


Ever found yourself in front of an iconic monument or building, like the Eiffel tower, Taj Mahal, Sydney Opera house, and taken a great photo only to realise you’ve seen this exact image a thousand times before? Chances are, the tourist standing a metre away from you took an identical photo as well. So how do you get something different? How do you capture an image you’re proud of, an image that’s memorable, and an image that shows a unique point of view?

When I’m encountering something that’s been shot frequently and I need to be different or engaging, I use one of the following methods:

1) Shoot wider or tighter
People are so familiar with popular monuments that they could recognize it by seeing just a small part of it. Most people who haven’t been to Paris, still know what the Eiffel Tower looks like; what they may not have seen, though, is the detail of the monument or what surrounds it. Use that to your advantage. Capture the intricate details that people often don’t get to see. Zoom in on the material used, showing just a hint of what the building is.

Alternatively, give the monument some scale by shooting wide and incorporating the surrounding environment. Even if the surrounds aren’t as attractive as the monument itself, it still adds attention to the image and gives those unfamiliar with the city, a better idea of where exactly the monument is situated.



2) Walk away from the monument 
You read it right; walk away! I always try to walk at least 500m – 1km away from the monument. I can guarantee you at some point along that walk, you’ll come across a totally different angle taken from a different environment, and still capture the monument in the shot. You may see a glimpse of the monument through a small gap. You may even get a clean, unhindered view, free from tourists. Regardless, it will be different and you may even enjoy the experience a little more.

3) Allow the monument to be the backdrop to everyday life 
This is a common method used by documentary photographers. It’s certainly a key element in my own style of travel photography and my method of choice when it comes to creating unique shots of iconic buildings or monuments. Quite often tourists, touts or the general public will get in the way of your photos, so why not make a conscious effort to incorporate them in it? Don’t watch the monument, be in its presence but keep your focus on its visitors. It will require you to people watch and be a fly on the wall but if you’re patient enough, someone will do something eye-catching in front of the monument and at that moment you’ll have the shot.

4) Shoot at the golden hour 
An hour before sunset or soon after sunrise is what photographers refer to as ‘The golden hour’. If I had a choice, I would always shoot an iconic building at sunrise. The quality of light during the golden hour is typically warmer and softer than midday. It can also provide great, long shadows that add another strong visual component to a photo.  You may even capture some interesting images of the locals and their interactions with the monument when you shoot outside of peak hours.

Asanka Brendon Ratnayake is a travel photographer, represented by Lonely Planet / Getty Images. He works on assignment for editorial, NGOs, and commercial clients, with his work used in publications such as TIME, National Geographic, Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera, Condé Nast and Der Spiegel. Asanka’s style is recognisable, with an eye for shooting in natural light and an interest in candid, daily life imagery.

Follow Asanka:

This week we look at Pieter Hugo, a South African photographer who primarily works in portraiture and whose work engages with both documentary and art traditions with a focus on African communities.

Escort Kama, Enugu, Nigeria, 2008.
You have said that you distrust the portrait since is doesn’t convey the truth. What, then, is it supposed to convey?
Sometimes I look at my work and how people read it, and it has no relationship to what I might have experienced in taking the picture or what I might get from it. There’s no absolute truth in what a portrait can convey. I think the way I view photography is closer to poetry than to documentary. This makes me think of filmmaker Werner Herzog, who says he is not interested in relaying an accountant’s truth in his documentaries. It’s one thing to portray something and to give an inventory of facts, and another to use those facts to your own ends, to achieve something that Herzog defines as an ecstatic truth, an experiential truth. I think this is something that can be related to portraits. Mostly, I am not particularly interested in conveying the actual truth about a person – and I would be extremely distrustful if that was someone’s intention. But a portrait can definitely convey some kind of emotive experience, or ecstatic experience, and some level of identification and catharsis that one experiences in relation to the portrait.

Do you think you also benefit emotionally from the portrait practice?
Richard Avedon, in his preface to In the American West, said, “Sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me. My concern is ... the human predicament; only what I consider the human predicament may simply be my own.” Taking portraits implies a dynamic, but at the end of the day it is the photographer who has complete control. You choose the edit, the setting, the angle; and one shouldn’t lose sight of this. You have certain preoccupations that you follow through, and you do your investigations and spend time on certain matters; and at some stage your pictorial characters, whether they’re portraits, landscapes, still lifes or constructed realities, start taking on a life of their own, and you have to acknowledge this. It’s the same with a novel. A good novelist knows when his characters are three-dimensional and he can’t dictate what their lives are any more; they start living their own lives. You set certain things in motion with your project, but your subjects become something completely different eventually. They are independent entities.

Dayaba Usman with the Monkey, Clear, Nigeria, 2005. 
How much are you influenced by writers?
I collect photography books, I like looking at photography books, but I definitely have a deeper, almost more spiritual response to literature than to looking at other people’s work. Ideas to me come from literature; refinement comes from looking at other people’s work. I realize how far I can take it, how well it can be done, by looking at other photographers. But I rarely get inspiration from looking at other artists – in a way it would feel like copying them. Literature for intellectual ideas and the fine arts, not only photography but painting and artistic visual references, are the water that makes the seed germinate. And engagement with a gallery, for a show or project, is the catalyst of the creative process. These things are useful – I need a framework to set things in motion.

You have said that landscapes are other characters in the story, and the on your recent trip to Umtata you felt more at ease with landscape that with people. Do you see this as a shift in your approach?
I find the process of making portraits much more immediately intense, while landscapes can leave more room for questioning and contemplation. It is about looking at something that is interesting to you, and then asking yourself why it is interesting, and deciding when you make the photograph: “What do I include and what do I exclude?” I guess it depends on the preoccupations that you have while shooting.

And what are your preoccupations? What is behind the whim that initially sets the process in motion?
I think I generally have a compulsion to do something and afterward I deconstruct why I did it and what attracted me to it. With time you notice that certain threads keep repeating themselves: frailty, vanitas. I noticed I kept getting drawn to these things without necessarily having the intellectual capacity to understand them; I only understood them later on. As a kid, I listened to gothic music, I used to dress in black, but at the same time I was a surfer. Maybe this is why I ended up being a photographer – a weird combination of morbid fascination and outdoorsiness! I also have political preoccupations – I walk into an abandoned and desecrated hospital in Umtata and I feel angry about it. I suddenly feel like an activist, not an artist. I have definitely seen photographic works that have changed my life; maybe not changed how I feel about a specific topic, but it is hard to generalize. I think of David Goldblatt’s landscapes, In the Time of AIDS – they made me aware of the fact that a landscape is not fixed but actually changes, and this profoundly influenced the way I look at the world around me. This comforts me and disturbs me at the same time, since it made me realize that you have to take a position, take responsibility.

In Nollywood, you seem to be exploring more in depth the fictional aspect of your work, your relation to literature and writing. Your relationship with your subjects touches another realm, since they are actively reproducing something that is in your mind, and giving a new shape and new perspective to your ideas.
Mallam Mantari Lamal with Mainasara, Nigeria, 2005.
I have been taking pictures like the Nollywood series since I was a teenager. The first picture I took was very similar to the Nollywood spirit: I used to go out with friends on an impulse to create something, in a very spontaneous way. It was probably naive, but for this reason there was a strong energy in the results. Obviously as I got older things became more complex. I don’t see it as a new thing; on the contrary, it’s me returning to something that used to interest me in the past. It is interesting to be able to switch between different media: as a writer can write a novel or literary criticism or an article for a newspaper supplement. Understanding the nature of language is the real empowerment, and then you explore. If I look back at my teenage pictures, they are much more similar to the Nollywood images than what I shot in between.

So with new means and different level of craftsmanship and mastery of the medium, you produce something that is still close to your first vision and relationship with photography.
A friend once pointed out to me: if you want to know what to do with your life, or you’re confused, think of what made you happy when you were a teenager and you will probably be quite close emotionally to an honest answer.

Download PhotowisdomDownload your own copy of Lewis Blackwell's "Photowisdom: Master Photographers on their Art"