This week we had a chance to catch up with Leah Anderson, author of “Forgotten“, and winner of the Photography.Book.Now People’s Choice Award. We love Leah’s book and were really excited to get a chance to hear her responses to our Tuesday 5 – enjoy!
Why do you do what you do and where do you find inspiration?
I do what I do because of my love for animals; horses in particular. Horses have been an important part of my life ever since I was small. My friends will vouch for the fact that I drew horses in the margins of my notebook throughout my school years — and even in college!
My book, “Forgotten”, started as an assignment: a senior capstone project for my Visual Communication Design degree from the University of Washington. We were to research, design, and produce a project on any subject we felt passionate about. I had been volunteering for a local horse rescue organization, Save A Forgotten Equine, and I knew that I wanted to do something that would let the world know about these horses in need, and others like them around the country. Every day there is a new story about horses being starved, abused, or sent to slaughter in Mexico in double-decker trailers. Being a college student, I couldn’t afford to rescue a horse, but I realized that I could use design to share my passion with others, and hopefully gain support for a cause I feel is so incredibly important. So, I set out out to develop “Forgotten”, a collection of photos of horses with their rescuers, paired with testimonies written by the rescuers themselves. I have to say that I became more and more inspired as I worked on this project: every person and horse I met & photographed further electrified me. I realized that with photography, I am able to capture the very emotions and connections that cannot be described with words. I would download the images from my camera, and they would bring tears to my eyes. I had no idea that a camera lens would become my most powerful tool.
What is your favorite childhood book?
Growing up, I read every single book about horses! My favorites were King of the Wind, Misty of Chincoteague, and the Black Stallion series. My favorite part of those books were the illustrations, most of them were by Wesley Dennis. Those illustrations are still such an inspiration to me because of the life & energy they capture.
What are some of the highlights of making your book?
The whole process was incredible. Meeting these people and their rescued horses gave me such faith in humanity. I hope that their courage, strength, and love is evident in the photos and narratives, and inspires others to do what they can to help. I would have to say that the most amazing thing is watching how people react to my book. Forgotten makes many people cry as they turn the pages — and to me, this is validation of my work & passion. Of course these images are powerful to me — but for them to make a New Yorker who had never loved a horse break down in tears in the middle of a gallery opening– the message of “Forgotten” must be universal.
If you could bestow one bookmaking tip on the world, what would it be?
Well, I’m a graphic designer by training, so the first thing I notice is the design of the book. Great photography can be ruined by mediocre design. Learning basic design do’s/don’ts, (i.e. Verdana is a screen font, not a typeface for print usage) will help immensely. A great book is Design it Yourself, by Ellen Lupton.
Design tips for photography books: keep it simple, buy a good typeface (no, don’t use the ones pre-loaded on your computer), and limit your color palette. Another option is BlurbNation: hire a designer to help you! That requires no learning at all. :)