Photo Essay

My photo essay initial idea was to take photos of different perspectives that are different from our usual view. I wanted to play with bird’s eye view and also low angle perspectives, like what my dog would see. During my first few rounds of taking pictures, I brought my dog with my and included him in various shots.

Knowing that the photo essay would be later placed in a book; I decided to pay the Center for Book Arts a visit to get some inspiration on possible book layout and ideas. The visit was fun and I was able to see letterpress in action, but I still did not know what kind of binding I would use for my book. I was certain I wanted to bind and not fold an instant book though.

I kept exploring the internet to see what I could do and I came across a scrapbook idea that I really liked. By this point of reviewing and choosing pictures, the photo essay was shaping into a photo essay around Bentley, my bichon frise and poodle mix dog. It was becoming like “A day in the life of Bentley.” Although I love my dog to bits and pieces, reviewing my pictures again the week before it was due, I realized I wasn’t completely happy with what I had. I felt like I was beefing up the book with a lot of craft and that the story and pictures itself were not all that strong. I spoke to Carmile and showed her some of the shots that I really liked and she told me to take the week to go back to taking pictures.

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At this point, I knew I had to work fast and work hard so I wouldn’t fall behind. I narrowed down 600+ pictures to 24 and sent contacts sheets to Carmile for feedback. Coincidentally, in my Typography class that week, we were starting our new project, a fun facts book so our professor actually brought in a bunch of samples of book mockups that she created and I saw the perfect layout for my subject! Remember how I said I really wanted to bind? Guess what, that changed. I opted for a folded instant book instead. I also created a sleeve for it and made the book reversible and can be folded both ways.

I’m actually quite happy with the final product, even though I didn’t get to bind. Production was painful though. It took approximately four 2-hour sessions at the AMT Lab plotter to be able to print the two documents the way I wanted it.

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Photo Essay

This one was a special one. The project required us to learn the basics of photography, choose a topic of our liking and get clicking. The problem with having your own choice, is that there are so many wonderful things to choose from, and like the last project I was pulled in various directions.

I wanted to capture colours, non-materialistic happiness, joy in the little things, the beach.

Decisions, decisions decisions!!

For the first topic, I combined ‘little joys’ and ‘by the waterside’. Here are some of the pictures I took at different times in the day.

The next step was to try my hand at book-binding. I never anticipated that I would ever create my own book from scratch, book cover maybe but not the entire thing. I was really excited about choosing the kind of paper I was using, what method I would use, and to see if my final outcome reflected the ones in the various book binding youtube videos I had researched.

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These are two trial books that I made. For one I used the non-adhesive three style sewing method while for the other I used the concertina gluing method by Scott Mccarney.

Final Choice

The topic that I chose to go with was one that I was extremely passionate about. After a hospital visit and eating pancakes for lunch,  I decided to take a stroll in a Bombay afternoon (not weird at all). On doing so I was so inspired by the street art, and run-down locations. My e-classmates work was another reason I was so inspired to go ahead with this topic.

I clicked photographs of street art that can be considered vandalism or freedom of expression, I choose to believe in the latter. It reminded me of being in the present because most of the time there is so much going on in our mind, that we are seeing but not really looking.

I photographed dilapidated houses that spoke to me in a certain way. There was a sadness, but still so much beauty. It was old and forgotten but to me it just felt like so much more. I went into so many tiny lanes, and felt like a tourist in my own city.

Snippets of the book

Look through some of my favourite spreads below.

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Book Cover

Below is the process of how I decided on the logo for my book.



Deconstructed Beauty Logo

I adopted the three style sewing method by Scott Mccarney for the final book. It was a really easy method and worked really well since I printed 4″ by 6″  pages. I wanted the cover to symbolise my entire experience and represent my photographs in a cohesive  way. The white background was striking but looked very clean, and organised unlike the free rustic nature of my pictures. Hence I decided to choose a tan paper as my backdrop and I used rope as well in the corner.

Back pocket

I used a map to pin down the source of all my photographs. I used the back flap of my book as a pocket and inserted the map inside.



Manhattan Street Performance: A Photo Essay

The process of developing my photo essay over the course of two months was an interesting one.  For worse or for better, very little of my original idea survived to the final stages of the process.

If this project taught me anything (in fact, it taught me many things), it is that sticking to your original vision of a final product can actually limit its development. As my Digital Layout professor KC Witherell says, “Don’t get married to an idea.”  This project, like all others at Parsons, put me to the test: could I gracefully allow my ideas and my work to change from my original vision?

When we were first assigned the project, I had my heart set on photographing the performers who jump on the subways and dance on the poles; I saw them everywhere I went during my first month in New York, and I thought that the way the performers affected the body language of the subway riders was very interesting.  People immediately cast their eyes to the floor, to the wall, anywhere but at the performers.  By betraying even the slightest hint of amusement or attention, it was as if the subway riders were entering into a contract with the performers: you must tip us.

Alas, the very day I decided to photograph the contrast between the performers’ body language and the subway riders’ body language was the last day I saw the subway performers until–get this–3 days after the final photo essay was due.  I spent the first weekend of the project riding around the city for hours until finally I decided to cast a wider net and photograph performers anywhere I found them, and any form I found them.  I photographed violinists, break dancers, saxophonists, children’s entertainers, bands; everyone I could find.  I tried to get close-ups of the performers’ faces and the spectators’ faces, looking for contrasts.

After the first critique with Michael Durham, former photojournalist at Life Magazine, it was decided that the close-ups weren’t really working, and in fact the most interesting photos were of the breakdancers.  Photos from days of photographing were discarded.

At that point, too, I needed to come up with a concept for the text that would accompany my photos when they were bound into my final book.  Luckily, with inspiration from Michael Durham, the idea to interview the breakdancers for my text came quickly, and the following week I went back to City Hall where I had initially seen the street performers to ask some questions.  After weeks of observing street performers, I had grown very curious about the lives they lead.

When I got to City Hall, I saw that many of the performers I had originally photographed were there again in the same spot, nearly a month later.  I watched a performance, took some photos, and then approached some of the men for an interview.  I am naturally shy, so the thought of choosing people as my subjects in the first place had been a bit nerve-racking; the thought of interviewing my subjects was even more so.  Ultimately, though, I’m so glad I chose to do these things for my work, because the results were so rewarding.  This is the work that I’m most proud of (so far) at Parsons.

With my photos taken and text written, I set about the task of laying out my book and then binding it.  This took some weeks of revision as well.  Some photos of my mock-ups:

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I decided to make my book into a circle accordion.  That way, my book would fit neatly into a cover and could be pages through as an ordinary book, but could also be displayed in a circle to mimic a street performance: photographs of performers in the center; spectators circling around.  I had to scale my book down slightly for practical reasons. Finding reasonably priced and manageable ways to print a document that’s 6.25 inches by 85 inches was unsurprisingly a bit of a mission!

Here are some photos of the (almost) final version (small refinements will be made before the end of the semester):

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Though the process was long, this was a project that I enjoyed from start to finish, and learned many things along the way.  I discovered that I love bookbinding, and that interviewing subjects isn’t half bad either.  I’m looking forward to producing many more photo essays in the future!

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The art of starting over:

Or why Parsons totally owes me a manicure.

My photo book is actually a collection of “records” acting pages and which are bound by an LP sleeve.

My original intent was to create a full sized 33rd record book—a.k.a  12-inch diameter book. However, confronted with design challenges posed by an off line vinyl sticker printer in the Parson’s Art, Media, and Technology lab, I was forced to resize to a paper size accommodated by sticker paper manufacturers. The design was modified again post-critique and goo-goned to Hell and back in order to make refinements and (hopefully) take advantage of the AMT lab vinyl printer.

unnamed-1At the moment my pages are soaking in a bucket of 1-part water to 2-parts isopropyl alcohol in the hope that someday they won’t smell and feel like orange goo-gone. They soak while I blog and file down the finger stumps I am left with after picking off 18 stickers!

unnamedAs much as I was less than enthusiastic about starting over I did learn a lot about my process as a designer.  I suffer from a tendency to plow ahead without thinking fully about the final product.  Or rather, I know what the ideal final product would be in my head but occasionally fail to think through the steps to get there.  I believe that, having worked out in the ‘real world’ for a number of years before returning to school I have been trained to work to completion, if not perfection–and I am seeing this across all my classes.

Definitely a habit that is…almost broken by this class.

BUT, now that the Parsons AMT lab vinyl printer is back in business,  I am thrilled to refine the project!


This is my semester post about one of my favorite places, The Center for Book Arts.

The Center is dedicated to exploring and cultivating contemporary aesthetic interpretations of the book as an art object, while preserving the traditional practices of the art of the book.

I like to remind everyone about this small NYC gem that is tucked away at 28 West 27th St on the 3rd floor as we embark on developing our photo essay books. The Center is a wonderful place for research and information from their exhibits they mount to the printing workshops to bookbinding classes.

See whats going on at The Center.  Hopefully it will be added to your own FAV list.

28 West 27th St, 3rd Fl., New York, NY 10001 | 212-481-0295

GALLERY HOURS: Mon-Fri 11am-6pm | Sat 10am-5pm


Earlier this month, I attended the FIT School of Art and Design Designers & Books Fair, which featured over 70 book publishers, book signings, and programs related to a variety of design disciplines: architecture, experience design, fashion, graphic design, interior design, landscape architecture, product and industrial design, and urban design.

In addition to tables set up with publishers, there was programming that spanned the weekend, including speakers such as Milton Glaser, Steven Heller, Irma Boom, Peter Bohlin, Juliet Kinchin, Philip Pearlman, and Gary Hustwit.

One of my favorite pieces was a book about Paul Bunyan which was created using wood block prints.


Another cool piece was a book about air streams—which had a metal cover mimicking the iconic trailer material. The airstream sleeve was, in part, inspiration for my photo essay book project; I plan to create a small LP cover sleeve for my book.


A highlight was checking out a book about the style of David Bowie — signed by Ziggy Stardust himself! Unfortunately, the book was going for $3,500, so it has not been added to my library.


I did splurge on one purchase, Michael Beirut’s How to: Use graphic design to sell things, explain things, make things look better, and (every once in a while) change the world.  In addition to being a gorgeous design book the captions and text copy is so clever that I could not turn it down.


Unlike the PS1 art book fair, the FIT fair was quiet due to the weather and it was easy to get a good look at everything and manhandle publishers’ products. I would definitely recommend it for any future Process and Skills students!

Bookbinding Workshop with Mary Ellen Buxton

In our most recent Process & Skills class, Mary Ellen Buxton provided us with a Bookbinding Workshop. I was super excited to participate in this workshop.

First, Mary Ellen showed us some intricate examples of bookbinding that she has done and her process in solving a bookbinding problem. She creates many drafts of the book and keeps a “cheat sheet” of how she got there inside the draft with a smaller mock up. She also showed us examples of other books such as the accordion fold books, and tunnel books.

How to Determine Grain

She then explained how to determine long grain and short grain and that the spine should always run along the long grain. To determine the grain, roll up a small part of the edge and gently press down to fell the bounce in the paper. The lighter bounce side is the longer grain. Since we want the spine to be along the long grain, we folded and cut the paper against the grain. When this occurs, you will notice buckling/cracking in thicker paper. She also showed us how to use a bone folder to fold and crease the paper. The trick to using a bone folder is to start in the middle and go outwards.

We used a color sheet for the cover and three white sheets for the inside. Each sheet is approximately 4″ in width and 20″ in length. The color sheet is then folded in half along the long grain. The white sheets for the inside are then folded into threes and one panel is then cut off and then folded in half. With the bigger folded sheets, we used the French fold and stitched the open sides into the spine. The smaller folded sheets were then added in to the first larger sheet with pamphlet stitching.

individual sheets


Pamphlet Stitching

In order to do the pamphlet stitch, use a bulldog clip to hold the smaller pages to the large page, leaving half and inch of space from the folded large sheet. Open the small book to the middle and draw three points; one in the middle of the crease and the other two between the middle of the point and the top and bottom edge of the sheet. Now, taking the awl, poke holes through the three points. Number the middle hole #1 and either of the other two #2 and #3. We need to prepare our thread for stitching, measure three to four times of the spine length worth of thread. Take the thread and run it through the beeswax so that it doesn’t rip the paper and to wax it together so it is easier to thread into the needle. Taking the needle and thread, start from the inside and pull the thread through #1 hole to the outside then from the outside, leaving approximately 3″ at the end. Then, pull the thread through hole #2 from the outside to inside then to hole #3 going from the inside to the outside this time. Finally, bring the thread through hole #1 from the outside back to the inside and tie a knot (right over left, then left over right). Cut the thread leaving 1″ of the ends.

pamphlet stitch

preparing for Japanese stitch

Japanese Stitching

Finally, we bind the french fold pages to the cover sheet using a simple Japanese stitch. Use two bulldog clips to hold down the pages and cover in place. Prepare two pieces of threads that are four times the length of the spine. Create two holes half an inch from the two corners. Working with one hole at a time, take one of the threads from the front of the book to the back, leaving 3″ at the end, bring that thread around the top and through the hole again from the front then around the side and through the hole again from the front. Tie a knot here when you are done. Repeat on the other side. Now that both sides are down, tie a knot in the middle of the two loose from the spine and then again approximately 1″ away. This now creates a hook for the book to be hung from. Cut off the excess, leaving approximately 1″ at the ends.

Japanese stitch

final booklet

final booklet hanging

final book inside

This was my first time participating in a bookbinding workshop and I’m hooked! I would love to explore other methods and come up with my own solutions to my bookbinding problems. I think I will check out the workshops at the Center for Book Arts next. I also found a YouTube tutorial I would like to attempt for my next DIY sketch book using a Coptic Stitch.