Some of the most interesting books come about when creative people join forces and make something amazing together. But collaboration goes into overdrive with As We See It 2010, a fabulously diverse collection of images by 74 (count ’em, 74!) photographers from 20 countries all working together as “The Global Camel Committee.” The book was created using Blurb’s PDF to Book workflow.
We caught up with project organizer John Leech to find out how this ambitious book came together and what the group learned from the experience.
What was the genesis of this book? How did your group come together?
Our Nikon DSLR Forum on Flickr is a very mixed group of photographers. The core got to know each other on the DPReview Nikon forums. We migrated to Flickr for freedom of speech and the ability to post images and comment on each others’ work — and have slowly expanded to include photographers using all manner of cameras. It’s one of the rare Flickr groups where the forum is the main element, rather than just a dumping ground for images.
One day one of our members, Matt Peterson, started a post:
Admins, Mods, Everyone…I have an idea!
Let’s make a book!
This was met with a lot of enthusiasm, which continued throughout the whole project and continues now, with most people posting proud photos of themselves holding the book!
How about that name?
One member pointed out that a camel is a horse designed by committee — so the publishing wing of our group is now referred to as The Global Camel Committee.
How did you organize a project with so many different people involved?
Projects like this need deadlines, and need fast action while everyone is pumped up and full of ideas.
There were lots of decisions to make. The first part was easy, asking for volunteers to sub-manage different aspects and ask what skills they brought to the table. We soon established four designers/typesetters to coordinate production, an editorial team to proofread and write some intro words, and a logistics/general dogsbody squad to keep things moving. We also organized some very useful on-line surveys in order for the group to have their say on important issues regarding general appearance, book title, cover layout, etc.
What were the first decisions you made as a group?
Some of the key decisions were to have design templates to choose from, a choice of black or white background, one spread for each photographer, a limit of 160 pages so that we could have upgraded paper, and to do a landscape standard size book.
We ended up with 74 photographers from 20 countries — the book was designed in four different countries!
What process did you use to select the photos and lay out the book?
We gave each photographer 13 basic layout choices available in black and/or white. The spreads were available as mix and match, with the facility for the designers to develop custom solutions as necessary. We divided the book into four sections with everyone being allocated their own designer. Final artwork was produced in Adobe® InDesign®.
What about the cover?
The final cover was decided by another group vote. No real surprise that the final design combined pictures from everyone in a simple grid, but the end result was more than the sum of its parts. No individual image really jumps out, just a wonderful blend of color and form, perfect for those involved.
Was it complicated to coordinate all the input?
InDesign gave us flexibility to shuffle latecomers to the back of the book without any major rework, and the whole project was run on the Dropbox file sharing website In order to give easy access to required files. The final four sections came back to me to stitch together in Acrobat and for final submission to Blurb as a PDF, with both hard and soft covers.
What was the reaction to the finished book?
We have heard glowing reviews from all those currently clutching it in their hands. Stories of husbands/wives taking the book the place of work, champagne in hand, exercise runs delayed when the book was found to be on the doorstep, people driving miles to collect it rather than wait for delivery. The outcome has more than repaid the endless hours and commitment to the project.
Do you have any advice for other groups who might like to try a similar project?
Just do it. If you have a group of people — whether a club where you meet in person or an online collection of people such as us — just do it.
Make use of skilled people within your group; say with publishing or previous Blurb experience. Management and production is what makes the book happen. Definitely work out where all the problems may be before you meet them and work ahead of them. Make sure everything is proofread by different people. Make use of online survey facilities so everyone can have a say.
Work to strict deadlines… but make sure they all have time in hand! Set a target for receiving the printed book, then work backwards from there.
Anything else you want to add?
This project would not have been possible without the Internet, or at least not within the time scale. It as exceeded all our expectations, and everyone has retained their own identity on their spreads. An amazing five weeks from start to finish – and everyone is so proud of the end result.