Letting it all sink in..
I’m on a train, and crazy as it sounds… it’s the first time in the last five weeks since I have my new book actually to look at it properly. Not to skim through it being over critical and finding faults, not obsessing about colour reproduction or the myriad of technical issues I had with the cover.. but actually looking, seeing and taking it in.
I am my own harshest critic, and no book is ever perfect and being so close to a project can often make you immune to really appreciate it. There were a couple of things bugging me which are tiny, and then, of course, there’s the enormous workload in fulfilling orders and getting it out to the world. Logistics of shipping and meeting special requests take up all of your available time, and it’s difficult to find space and recognise what you’ve achieved and enjoy it. There are moments you’d even doubt if it’s any good at all and does anyone really get it, are they all just being nice and polite and are some buying the book thinking it will be something else.
But then the messages start to come in, social media posts, emails, and even letters, yes real handwritten letters! From artists, and former residents who’ve lived on the Beara and reconnected once they got the book. From people who visited briefly with regret that they could not stay longer, sensing there was a lot more to the place, with that now confirmed to them. From those that know it better than anyone with generations of their ancestors with Beara in their blood. All positive, all good and you need to let that in. Not to let it go to your head, but to appreciate that you’ve created something that has genuinely touched other people, that has provided them with some level of joy and positivity, connecting them with a place that means something to them.
Photography books are not meant to be looked at in the way I have been looking at BEARA over the last few weeks. Scanning pages, looking for defects, convinced I will find them. Looking with dread at piles of boxes, knowing they all have to be signed, wrapped, packed and posted before the end of the day. But it is all part of it, and indeed it is a great part of it, far better than looking at piles of unopened boxes wondering what will I do with them all. I think photographers, in general, are very quick to skim, to make quick judgements, to scan a book looking for some standout image or something they find familiar. Sometimes missing the point of a collection of images, made with great effort, passion and commitment and edited to say as much about the photographer as they do about the places they portray.
I’m one of those photographers, but this morning I’m just someone lucky enough to live in a very beautiful part of the world that has inspired and shaped my life. Slowly I turned the pages and let the book reveal it’s full potential. Gradually I began to relax and feel very comfortable with what was in front of me. It’s like looking in a mirror, but one that reveals a lot more than you ever see. It actually takes an effort to look at yourself without any negativity or doubts, but it’s worth doing.
I’m taken right back to magical moments of breathtaking beauty before me, of solitude and peace, all the effort or discomfort of climbing peaks in Kerry winter weather long forgotten. Slowly a genuine feeling of pride and accomplishment battle through all the self-doubt. You have to remind yourself it’s your work, not anyone else’s. Take ownership of it, be proud of it and enjoy it. Separating it from everything else, like production toils, sales, profit, returns, reviews, and just opening the pages, I travel off around the most fantastic landscape for only a short while. I’m carried along by a wave of gratitude to everyone who has helped and will help make projects like this not just successful, but incredibly rewarding. Thank you all.