In The Picture: Book Designers on, and in, their books.
A blog post by ABDA member Mark Campbell
It’s common knowledge that designers are not usually drawn to the limelight; the lens of a camera, the sound of voices amplified or even the very sight of a lecturn produces pools of sweat in parts of our bodies we didn’t even know we could sweat.
As Book Designers, we’re even worse. We’re out of our comfort zone and away from the many things that bring us comfort in our day-to-day work; the whir of the computer fan, the click of the keyboard keys and the satisfaction that only a perfectly packaged print file can bring.
The brave souls below have delved into their deepest, darkest archives (see above shot of my crotch avec tacos!) to share with you their brilliant, sentimental, hilarious, reflective and honest accounts of life in front of the camera as ‘models’. Be nice.
My first effort was Authors Take Sides for MUP. Today you will find multiple $10 stock photos of a hand holding a flower, back in the early 2000s you paid a lot more. Or did it yourself.
For What was it all for? by Don Aitkin for Allen & Unwin, I involved my wife and two kids. My son was upset that his legs ended up on the girls’ body.
This shot was part of week-long shoot at Maggie’s home in SA. Simon Griffiths was the photographer with Julie Gibbs helping art direct. She has a fabulous eye and aesthetic and loved being involved in the shoots, not to mention her wonderful friendship with Maggie. This was just a filler shot. I kept it small because I’m so freckly and certainly wasn’t likely to get a gig as a hand model! On these shoots there was always an organic flow, shooting things quite spontaneously. Simon and Julie loved fossicking for props from the many antique shops in the area. Old hand mixers, crockery. I think I used to pinch myself that this was my job…hanging out with such fab people for days on end.
These are covers I’ve been on but not designed myself. One was a YA series by Michael Adams (which was designed by Mel Fedderson) and the second is a commercial fiction series about a raunchy polo player. Both published by Allen & Unwin.
I generally work in pyjamas and footy socks so it made sense to commission my own body for this. Cropped out the rippling thighs because I didn’t want to sexualise the cover too much…
Managed to get my head and torso (largely out of focus, thankfully) in a couple of shots along with roping many fellow Lantern staff members (including Charlotte Bachali, pictured page 12) in to the pages of the book.
When it came to the offer of a free lunch at Kitchen by Mike, there was no shortage of volunteers from the Lantern team. Designers, Editors, Editorial Assistants and Art Directors all bravely gave up their time to find themselves in a few ‘shared table’ shots in Mike’s book. I was kindly loaned a shirt for one shot by our lovely stylist – always a clear hint that perhaps you didn’t put *quite* enough effort into your outfit that day.
I am no stranger to the idea of ‘use what you’ve got’ as a designer and art director. I’ve used family for illustration reference, grabbed objects and fabric from my collections for backgrounds and even had one of my dogs photographed for a feature box mascot in an educational textbook about marketing (it’s a long story).
So after I returned to work as a freelancer after having my kid 4 years ago I received a brief that would allow me to juggle my two responsibilities and get the perfect image to answer the brief for an early childhood learning textbook.
Careful framing ensured my kiddo’s identity remained private but I will always know who’s pudgy little hand it is gripping that paint brush.
I’ve used my sister, my mums knitwear and my wife several times on covers. I’ve used myself (hands and socks) for illustrations inside books I’ve illustrated but never on the cover (I think). Oh no, I just remember I have…! It was a stinker too! I think I cast myself as a commander on a space shuttle, of all things.
I am on the cover of Pip Lincolne’s Craft for the Soul in which I styled but did not design!! Pip’s book is interesting because if I was designing it I would never have put myself on the cover! I am also in some of her other books (my hands or feet) and of course in my own books, Snail Mail and Care Packages (not my face, just body parts). I’m also in Kyoto Pocket Precincts hiding behind a book in a mushroom forest library and in another shot and a little pic in Tokyo Precincts …
How we shot Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner — friends sent enquiries, ‘Is that you on the cover?’
To circumvent the usual author hero pic for this book of non-fiction I placed Helen Garner in the context of her subject matter: encounters with people. The cover mock-up detailed numbers, age, gender, type, bicycle, author’s dog. Best laid plans, mice and men…
We would shoot in situ because you can never quite fake veracity. Twice postponed, there was a last date before year end, the logistics were immutable.
That morning on the verge of December dawned grey. With an hour to go it was pelting. Minutes later … hail. I waited in a car drummed by ice chips. No need to worry that two models — a friend and his daughter — had pulled out.
Then, magic: as the group rolled up the rain departed. As photographer Darren James and assistant prepped, a breeze dried the kerb. As seven of a planned nine people took their positions the clouds thinned. I stepped into the gap, far left.
The sky still looked extremely chancy. Cajoling us through fine adjustments Darren made unhurried images. Just a single frame caught a brilliant wash of sunlight that came and went in a breath — the cover shot! We were there twenty, twenty-five minutes. As we scattered, thunder broke and the rain crashed down.