FMP Week 7 – Zine Project

I have spent the week producing a publication for the Dornoch Cathedral about the stained glass windows.  The windows are an item of special interest for many of the visitors to the Cathedral.  The docents and welcome table have been using a loose leaf binder with poor quality photographs to provide information on the widows to visitors.  We decided that it was likely that some number of visitors would be willing to buy an affordably priced guide from which the proceeds would benefit the Cathedral maintenance fund.

I produced a 32 page magazine sized publication that included photographs and descriptions about each of the 25 windows.


I was well pleased with the outcome despite the relatively short time that was available to design and produce the zine.  I had the advantage of having access to prior research on the historical aspects of the windows and a library of photographs I had taken previously, some of which I had used in a prior publication..  Key drivers for this publication where cost, portability and legibility, with accompanying photographs that were of sufficient resolution for visitors to want to purchase as a memento of their visit to the Dornoch Cathedral.

As the principal driver, production costs had to be low enough to be able to reach a price point that was attractive for visitors while still allowing a reasonable profit margin to benefit the Cathedral Maintenance Fund.  This dictated a Zine format as opposed to a photobook or trade book.  This allowed for good quality coated paper that was bright, had a good feel, and reproduced the photographs to a reasonably high standard. Page count was another factor, and I had to manage the design, layout, and amount of text in order to stay within an affordable page count.

Portability was also key as the Cathedral is typically just one stop among many in the typical visitor’s Highland itinerary.  An inflexible, heavy book (aside from the attendant cost) would cause most to balk at a purchase.  On the other hand, something light and even foldable would make it easy to pop into a purse or rucksack.

Legibility was the key criteria in choice of font style and size as well as the glossy coated paper.  It is often not exceptionally bright in building and having font of sufficient size and sans serif on bright paper makes it far easier to read as visitors walk about the Cathedral looking at the windows.

Lastly, photographic quality at a standard that reproduced well enough that visitors would consider having the publication as a keepsake was an important consideration.  This again factored into the paper choice for how the photos reproduced, but the capture and post-processing of the images was equally important.  Stained glass is notoriously difficult to photograph well and the dynamic range and colour palettes are widely varied from window to window and often within individual windows.  Particular attention had to be paid to when to photograph to prevent excessive highlights as well as excessive underexposure.  Typically, exposure bracketing is employed, but I did all of these windows with single exposures by working primarily on cloudy days and with the interior lights off.

The production of a Zine was good practice in designing and producing another publication. It made me think very specifically about the intended audience, the practicalities of publication, and the requirements of the customer in order to strike the correct balance among the competing factors. It also required editing, and in some cases, rewriting text from the source material I obtained from those who did the original research in order to stay within the design layout and page count. All of this is excellent experience and I learn more with every publication.

I have yet to determine whether I will produce a publication in conjunction with my exhibition or whether I will wait until the decision on the future of Coul Links is taken.

Week 3 – Making a Zine, Collaboratively

Among this week’s tasks was an assignment to form a group, crowdsource images and create a Zine.  I must admit to not really knowing what a Zine was before this so of course I was the perfect choice to lead our group.  The group of seven came together quickly and coalesced around one of the two ideas I proposed.  With Father’s Day being last Sunday we collectively agreed it was a timely topic and that we would ask people to take a photograph of something or someplace that evoked a memory of their father and then to write a few words on why that particular image was significant.  While everyone liked and embraced the concept we chose, I think to a person we were all pleasantly surprised by the response we received and moved by many of the images and stories.  There was something powerful in the combination of the images and their accompanying stories; something unique in each, but relatable to all.

We in total received close to 50 submissions, many of which were very poignant, some whimsical, some happy and some sad.  We each posted the photos and stories we received to our space on Canvas, and then had a group webinar to curate the collection and agree on what format we liked for the Zine as well as making assignments to complete the production.

The group worked very well together throughout the process and we were able to use both the Canvas discussion space and a WhatsApp thread to discuss progress, communicate assignments and decisions contributing to the efficiency in which we were able to complete the assignment.  While the old adage of “too many cooks spoil the broth” could come in to play in a collaborative effort, it was not the case here.  A few of the group had produced Zines or at least experienced Zines before and that was helpful in assembling and publishing the final product.  Everyone of our group participated, cooperated, and collaborated to collectively create our Zine, the link to which is below.

Dad. A Curated Look at Fathers – FINAL – PRINT RESOLUTION

How does this relate to my practice and what can I take away from this exercise that might influence my practice in the future?

My practice has historically been rather solitary and since I rarely photograph people, quite absent collaboration other than with my husband who often accompanies me on shoots and assists me in carrying kit and ensuring we do things safely.  Many of my thousands of photographs were never seen by anyone but a few close friends or family.  So it is only relatively recently as I make my work more public and contextual that I have come to appreciate that while I may not collaborate much in the making of my images, there is value in having others involved in the process of getting my images into public view.

My years in the corporate and consulting worlds taught me the value of “cold eyes” reviews as we are often too close to what we create to be able to understand how someone seeing something for the first time might see it.  It is difficult to be completely objective about something we create and we often see what we want to see, or what we thought we were creating.  The more familiar we are with a subject the more likely we are to have made assumptions and logical leaps that are not possible for someone coming to the topic for the first time.  I valued the varying perspectives of my colleagues during the Zine exercise and have also on other bits of work in this course.  The range of experience and the range of perspectives born out of their respective practice specialties has proven interesting, educational, and useful in helping me understand what other people see (or don’t see) in work I have created.

Furthermore, I really enjoyed working with others and as my practice matures, I will look for ways to do more of that in the future.  A couple of my projects are going to involve a lot more coordination and planning and therefore collaboration in order to achieve the end result.  I look forward to it.

I also am glad to have introduced to the Zine concept.  In many ways Ed Ruscha’s 26 Gas Stations was a Zine; soft cover, inexpensively produced on less than high quality medium.  I can see a possibility of using the Zine approach in the future for my work, either as an advertisement for my work or as an end product.  My eyes continue to open to the expanse of possibilities available to me.