Recently, we found ourselves asking,“what is it about books?”. 

Why do we spend money on, build libraries from, and cherish our books so deeply? 

It seems that against all odds, amidst the daily flood of technology, the beauty and the power of the book endures. It's when we consider this that we realise, there's more to a book than just paper — they are worth far more than the sum of their parts. 

These are truly sacred objects with a timeless symbolic power that, when built properly, can last longer than a lifetime. 

For this reason, we've decided to create MILK Daily, our daily blog, to celebrate the beauty of books, photographs, and the memories that they hold. 

Each week, we’ll bring you articles to inspire your next project, explore what makes a truly great book, share our own learnings as publishers and show you some of our favorites. 

We hope that you will join us, or better yet, subscribe to our blog newsletter to receive inspiration in your inbox on the last Thursday of every month.

Go ahead, find a cozy corner, a cup of tea and crack the cover, we've got a wonderful story to tell...

Our ongoing Photowisdom Series brings you the story behind the art of the world's most highly regarded photographers. This week, Victor Shrager, a photographer whose work, much like Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can, elevates the shapes and textures of his subject into art.  Shrager highlights the intricate details of his subjects through to lense of his wooden Deardoff bellowed view-camera (the kind where you put a dark cloth over the back of the camera to see better to compose).

Untitled #49 from Composition as Explanation, 2004.

I have been seduced by photography since I made my first prints in sixth grade. I printed negatives my father sent me from his travels around the world—the South American jungle, the Kremlin, Africa. My experience being director of Light Gallery in New York from 1975–78, working intimately with many of the most significant photographers—from Paul Strand, Kertész, Callahan, Siskind, Sommer, to Friedlander, Winogrand, Emmet Gowin, to Jan Groover, Stephen Shore, Robert Heinecken and Nick Nixon—certainly established a sense of the inexhaustible possibilities of the medium.

My recent work is concerned with the essence of visual things, rather than the complexity of cultural and historical references. I am still committed to the view-camera and its plastic intimacy with the subjects in front of it. The transition from large-format film to large-file digital has not changed this.

Almost everything I do stems from the idea of still life. The gestalt of walking around hoping to bump into interesting subjects has never held much fascination for me. In essence, I feel that my practice is similar to entering an empty room with a musical instrument in it. If things work out, something special can happen. There can also be nothing. It is important for me to be in the same space with what I am photographing. The notion of correction is very central to how I work: making a picture, responding or not, correcting; trying to stop at the right point.

My past several bodies of work (Composition as Explanation, The White Room, Life Against Death) have had color—where it comes from and how it is represented—as one of their subjects. In earlier work (Bird Hand Book, Botany), monochrome prints kept my intentions about naming, variation, and nature versus culture more apparent and avoided the misreading of “nature photography.” Color seems to make a lattice of connectedness around the image; black and white is more about a compression and equalizing.

I generally enjoy commercial commissions. It is nice having subjects placed in front of me that I would not normally come up with myself. There is always visual investigation going on—I am often incubating more personal ideas for work, and field-testing them without anybody knowing. Mastering the requirements of technique on commercial projects has made me very efficient as an artist.
Influences—I tend to be intrigued by individual images from all kinds of sources, high and low, rather than whole bodies of work by individuals. Among those who have been important for me are: Frederick Sommer, Josef Sudek, Piet Zwart, Jan Tschichold, Irving Penn, Charles Jones, James Nasmyth, Jaromír Funke. Also Philip Guston, Giorgio Morandi, Stuart Davis, Gertrude Stein.

Some pictures are more seductive, more easily responded to than others. But the difficult, primitive, often unsuccessful, pictures have a special value as well.

Apropos of the Composition as Explanation photographs, the books are as necessary and irrelevant as Morandi’s pitchers, Stieglitz’s clouds, Cézanne’s fruit, Weston’s peppers, or Penn’s frozen food. The real purpose in making these pictures is addressing the box of space that sits in front of me, and seeing if it is once again possible to pull a compelling picture out of it; again and again, until the activity transcends the environment in which it takes place. Everything is surrendered to the visual. Elements are placed where they are most urgently needed. There is a horizon. There is gravity. Shadows are tangible. There is no one else in the room.

#63 from Composition as Explanation, 2003.

#56 from Composition as Explanation, 2002.

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


The M.I.L.K. Project began as a major global search to develop a collection of extraordinary and diverse images portraying humanity's "Moments of Intimacy, Laughter and Kinship" (M.I.L.K.).

The idea came to MILK CEO Geoff Blackwell when he stumbled upon a copy of the 'Family of Man', a book created by the American photographer Edward Steichen from his landmark 1955 exhibition of the same name.

“There was a shot of this older couple sitting in a movie theatre, and this old man is just looking at his wife, who is laughing like mad, and he’s just loving looking at her. And it was just a moment where nothing else in the world mattered.”

This candid photograph moved Geoff deeply and inspired him to begin a 'global search' to develop a collection of images portraying of the fundamental human capacity and need for love. This search took the form of a global photographic competition in 1999.
Announcements were sent to every one of the world’s 192 countries inviting photographers to enter; their challenge was to capture spontaneous human moments of intimacy, laughter and friendship. Ultimately, the competition received 40,000 images, from 17,000 professional and amateur photographers in 164 countries.

The judging process took months and, with the help of legendary Magnum Photographer Elliot Erwitt, the 300 winning images were chosen and became the basis for a published collection.

The collection of winning images was exhibited in New York on 11 July 2001, in the breath-taking surrounds of Grand Central Station.

“We felt that Grand Central Station, one of the busiest places, in one of the busiest cities — that it would be a wonderful place to kick it off.”

And so on that day in 2001, in the middle of Grand Central Station, the inspiration for MILK Books was born. From here, the MILK photographic series took the world by storm, resulting in 4 exhibitions and 8 published photo books that have been translated into more than 12 languages with rights sold in over 13 countries.

The scale of this “photographic event” was enormous, but the concept was simple: to capture and celebrate the essence of humanity. It is this mission that remains at the core of MILK Books today. We believe that these spontaneous images of different people, places, and times, continue to tell a common story and it’s a story that we are passionate about telling.

Our ongoing Photowisdom Series brings you the story behind the art of the world's most highly regarded photographers. This week Steve Bloom, best-known for his wildlife and conservation photography. Steve's work has been awarded The Power of Photography Award, The Golden Eye of Russia, and Lucie Awards as well as been published in Life, Time, Terre Sauvage, National Geographic, Geo, Airone, and Geographic.

Indian Elephant Swimming Underwater, Seen from Below, India.

I’ve been passionate about photography for most of my life, although I originally trained as a printer. I responded to and thought about photography from the age of eight, when I first picked up a Box Brownie.

As a child, I spent many hours looking at pictures in publications such as Life magazine. Legends like Eugene Smith were my heroes. So when Life published my own pictures many years later, it was like a dream come true.

In the 1970s, I produced documentary photographs in South Africa, which led to me leaving that country and having them published and exhibited. For many years after that I did not work as a photographer, and ran a photo lab and special-effects studio in London which serviced photographers and ad agencies. I did not return to South Africa until apartheid was abolished.

In 1993, I went on a safari holiday in South Africa and, on a whim, took a number of photographs of wildlife. I realized then that there is a lot to be learned from the natural world. We become immersed in our city lives, and the wildlife photography was a way of appreciating the diversity of life, encouraging me to adopt a less insular approach to my own personal world. It also opened my eyes to environmental issues. I hope that the pictures engender a similar effect in viewers.

My animal work started in the heyday of stock photography, before the Internet transformed the industry. The images were marketed to selected buyers at a time when demand exceeded supply, so they were very lucrative. This gave me the confidence to move into speculative photography full time, after which I started writing and photographing my own books.

Irving Penn took exquisite photographs of cigarette ends and Edward Weston photographed peppers with passion, proving that in the right hands almost any type of subject can be photographed excellently. With my own work the content changes continually. My first book was about apes. My second, Untamed, was about wildlife on all the world’s continents. For a while I became passionate about elephants, and produced two books about them. I wanted to photograph elephants in every way I could, including underwater, and so understand them in as much depth as possible. More recently, my book Living Africa was about the common thread of life permeating through all those inhabitants living in Africa, and included gold miners, remote tribes, and wildlife. It was a turning point for me, enabling me to photograph people with confidence once again. Trading Places, a more recent book, is an in-depth study of subsistence shopkeepers, people living in the slums of Nairobi. In this book, I have experimented with multiple viewpoints in a couple of images, enabling the viewer to move through time and space as the eye scans the picture.

Numerous photographers have had an accumulated influence, including Richard Avedon, Ansel Adams, Irving Penn, Diane Arbus, Don McCullin, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. I am as fascinated by the psychological makeup that drove their image-making as I am by their printmaking techniques.
When people look at pictures, they may sometimes know little about the circumstances that led to the creation of the pictures. The most challenging pictures for me are the ones that require much planning and effort, such as the elephant underwater. I travelled to India three times for those images, and worked at it relentlessly. I was working on the final images for my book Elephant! and was determined to get a unique view of an elephant swimming over me. There were many logistical problems, but I was satisfied with the results in the end. When I photographed a shark breaching the waves in its hunt for seals, I had to go out in a small boat for sixteen days, scanning the ocean. When the shark finally leapt into the air, the entire sequence lasted less than a second.

For Living Africa, I took portraits of migrant gold miners working three kilometers underground in dark, cramped tunnels in South Africa. The heat and humidity were so unbearable that the lens dripped with condensation. On another occasion, I spent two days photographing fishermen casting their nets from their boats in Mali before getting a picture I was satisfied with.

These are the types of challenges which are most rewarding. There have also been times when a great deal of effort has gone into taking photographs and the results have been failures. The combination of hard work and pleasing images brings the most creative rewards.

Sometimes there are lucky moments that are handed to me as a gift. For the viewer, such images may be equally strong, but for me they are lesser images. This could be why photographers are not always the best editors, because they see their own work differently. They are too close to their own images, and know too much.

In getting my pictures, human beings have been more difficult to deal with than the wildlife. Negotiating my way out of sticky situations is always stressful. I was charged by a rhinoceros in India. It swerved, missing me by inches. On another occasion I was in a small boat in Kenya’s Lake Turkana, which is renowned for its large crocodiles. The boat took on too much water in the wind and choppy waves, miles from the shore. We only just managed to avoid sinking after throwing containers filled with fuel and other heavy items overboard. I clung onto a month’s worth of exposed images and my camera.

Generally, I try to take as many precautions as possible. The element of risk may be calculated, but it is always there. In wild places it is essential to respect the animals’ habitat, and be mindful of the fact that the photographer is an intruder. Prior research into the animals’ behavior will help photographers to know how to behave and so minimize risk. Physical discomfort is often present.
I can’t get used to temperatures as cold as fifty below, or the fact that hungry biting insects always gravitate towards me. But then the pictures outlast any discomfort, so it is always worth the effort.
My work is environmental in its goals. My large outdoor Spirit of the Wild exhibitions have been seen by millions of people in several city centers, and I feel deeply privileged to have had the opportunity to show my work to so many. The Copenhagen exhibition alone had an official visitor count of 1.4 million. The public responded well to the exhibition which raised awareness of environmental issues such as habitat encroachment, global warming, and the endangered status of many animals.

The process of photographing is partly instinctive, subconsciously driven. I have photographed gold miners toiling in harsh conditions, remote African tribes clinging onto their cultural identities, and people trying to survive in city slums. I am deeply concerned by what I see and hope that shows in the pictures. I also deliberately go for eye contact and anthropomorphism when photographing animals, because when we see ourselves in others, we are less likely to abuse them.
Karo Tribesmen Dancing, Wearing White Chalk Body Paint, Omo Delta, Ethiopia.

Charging Indian Rhino, Kaziranga, Assam, India.

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


We love print, no surprises there. As publishers, we’d take the real thing over the “digital version” any day. Yes, technology is brilliant; it has allowed us to connect across oceans, given us the freedom to work from wherever we want and it has even breathed new life into our publishing house. But at the end of the day, for us there is nothing like sitting down with a good book; a real-life, hold in your hands, smells like book, book.

There are obvious differences between your physical custom photo book and the digital version, the weight of it, the feeling of turning the pages, but also, the way your photos look will change once they’re in printed in a photo book. Regardless of how great your computer monitor is, your printed photos will always look different to how they will appear on screen.

The difference between your images on screen and in print
As every photographer knows, lighting is everything. The main difference between “on screen” and “in print” images is exactly that: the lighting. Every digital monitor contains a light which shines through pixels. This backlight helps your image to appear brighter and more detailed; once you take those images off your device, you also lose the artificial back-light and with that, the shadows in your photos appear darker and your subtle details less visible.

My photo in the MILK Editor Tool

Above you can see that I’ve uploaded photos into our editor tool, creating a book. The images appear fully backlit; the shadows, while dark, are still moderate in tone. When printing your photo book, you need to be aware that while a shadow appears moderate on screen, it will appear darker once printed.

My photos printed in a MILK Medium Landscape Photo Book 

As you can see, the printed result in a MILK Photo Book takes on a slightly different color tone because of the lack of artificial backlight; the shadows are darker and the details are more subtle.

The Difference in Print between formats
Not only is there a difference between on screen images and image in a printed photo book, there are also variables between papers. Depending on which paper or format you choose, your images can appear warmer or cooler, textured or smooth. Below I’ve included a Print Results Checksheet to help you choose a paper and format that will result in the best photo book for your printing images.

Print Results Checksheet

MILK Photo Books and Albums 

On screen                                                                                                            MILK 157gsm satin paper
Printed on 157gsm satin paper.
Shadows appear darker.
Details are subtle.
Works best with higher resolution, lighter photos.

All Moleskine Photos Books and Albums except the Moleskine Leather Album 

On screen                                                                                                            Moleskine 135gsm ivory paper
Printed on 135 gsm ivory-colored matt Moleskine paper.
Image appears softer.
Highlight appears warmer.
Textured print appearance.
Works best for vintage photos, Instagram effects and illustration/sketches/artwork.

CREAM and Moleskine Leather Album Tintoretto Paper
 On screen                                                                                                            Fedrigoni Tintoretto paper
Printed on Italian Fedrigoni Art Tintoretto paper.
Soft felt marked texture and chalk-white shade.
Images appear softer and warmer.
Paper is uncoated and therefore more coarse than our other papers.
Art paper appears similar to watercolor paper.

CREAM and Moleskine Leather Album Mohawk proPhoto Paper
On screen                                                                                                            Mohawk pro-Photo lustre
Printed on 190 gsm Mohawk proPhoto lustre paper.
Semi gloss lustre finish that does have a slightly glossy finish.
Images print crisp and sharp.
Excellent colour saturation which makes images appear dark and rich.

Photo Credit: Geoff Duncan. Website:

Our ongoing Photowisdom Series brings you the story behind the art of the world's most highly regarded photographers. This week Loretta Lux, painter turned photographer, who is best-known for her surreal portraits of children. But her photographs are not intended as portraits, she explains, and instead as an artistic metaphor for innocence and paradise lost. In recognition of her work, Lux has received the Infinity Award for Art from the International Center of Photography.

The Drummer, 2004. Ilfochrome print. 

Why do you prefer photography as your medium?
I trained as a painter and love paintings, but I found that the physical aspect of the medium did not suit me. I did not like the messiness of handling pigments, oil and turpentine. I still think like a painter, especially in the way I structure my images. The camera is simply a tool I use, but the process is psychological and much more like painting than photography.

What draws you to the portrait form?
I am interested in people, but my pictures are not portraits in the traditional meaning of the word. I call them “imaginary portraits”, because they are not really about the person photographed. They are not portraits of the actual model; I make the person my own. A portrait allows the artist, as well as the viewer, the chance to mirror themselves in the other and to reflect on their own existence.

Do you see your work in a photographic or a broader fine art tradition? 
I continue to be influenced by the history of painting, and especially by the work of Bronzino, Velázquez, Goya and Runge. My work process is much closer to painting than it is to photography in that it takes time. I only make three to five pictures per year. I think like a painter when I structure my compositions, organizing forms and colours when I stage the photograph and when I work on the computer screen. The process is quite similar to what a painter does on a canvas. The problems are fundamentally the same; it is all about pictorial organization.

There is a distinct colour space within your images. What is guiding that?
Colours are extremely important to me. I love colours. Colours can be used to evoke feelings or convey certain states of mind. However, recently I have started to explore black and white photography. I am interested in the mental process which translates black and white into colour.

There is an ambiguity between the recorded and the constructed in your work: things are depicted, but we may doubt any obvious "documentary" connection. Can you comment on this?
For me, a work of art should transcend the subject. Even if we recognize a certain subject, the picture will act as a metaphor and tell us something more. My portraits do not represent the actual model’s psychology or personality, but rather a constructed one. You can clearly recognize the model, but at the same time the portrait is detached from the real person.

You have moved away from the conventional photographic space determined by the standard lens and single image, in so doing inventing your own visible space. Are you concerned to hold on to a sense of the shared photographic illusion, the perspectives that viewers know well, or do you see your work existing outside of that?
I find it important to be aware of perspectives and other visual conventions, and I only violate them in very controlled ways. I like a fine tension between the real and the image.

What is the significance of landscape in your work?
As in literature, landscape in images can be used to represent mental states. I use landscapes and empty rooms to represent alienation. I believe man is alienated from the natural world. Industrialization and destruction of the natural environment have made it impossible for man to feel at home in the world.

How was the prevalence of digital photo capture and digital manipulation tools affected the environment for creating photographic-related art?
Coming from the perspective of a painter, conventional photography was not for me. I like to have more control over the image than having to depend only on what is in front of the camera. Digital technology suits me in order to get the results that I want.

Isabel 1, 2009. Fujiflex print.

The Rose Garden, 2001. Ilfochrome print.

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