Binding “Letters to a Young Poet”

I recently completed the binding of one of my favourite texts, “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke. Since I read this book last year I have loved the wisdom and beauty of its language and the messages it contains. From first picking it up I knew that I wanted to illustrate it with pinhole photographs. The book was printed on standard 100gsm Conqueror paper in contour finish and using A4 guillotined to A5 short-grain allowed me to print to a page size of A6.

First, the signatures were trimmed and then pierced. As I don’t have a plough I trim the pages as accurately as possible prior to binding to make the edge finish of the pages as smooth as I can manage. The result is usually not completely level but I find the slightly rustic unevenness suits me.


The pierced signatures ready for sewing.

Sewing the signatures.
Sewing frame


Once the signatures are sewn the cover boards and spine are pasted in place. I chose to use a hollow back made from kraft paper rather than a rigid spine. The inlaid section is fully covered by the covering material and pressed down after pasting to make an indented area into which I place the cover illustration (see below).
Hollow back and cover with inlay

The book starts to take shape now. The next step is to paste in the endpapers. I find this part the most difficult as a mistake can write off the whole book. The trimming of the papers needs to absolutely precise as does the application of the paste so that it does not touch the cover material and edges nor the inner pages of the book.
Endpaper materials

Once pasted, pressed and dried, the endpapers really finish the book beautifully.
Finished endpapers

The text pages of the book were laid out using Lyx.
Book open showing text

I chose to bind illustrations into the centre of two of the signatures. The images were printed on a heavier grade paper than the text (Bockingford Inkjet Watercolour double-sided 190gsm). This makes the feel of the page flow slightly uneven when leafing through the book but it was a necessary compromise to allow the images to be reproduced as close as possible to photo quality.
Book open showing photos

The final stage was to paste and press the cover illustration into the inlaid section. Although this method of titling is more fiddly than the simple pasting on of a cover title, I personally like to use it for a couple of reasons: it is more stylish and crafted; and the cover photo is protected from abrasion when rubbing against neighbouring books on the shelf.
Book cover with title photo

Ice Haiku

I am quite dissatisfied that, having had a relatively hard winter, I didn’t seize the chance to work more on the Still Life in Ice series of pinholes. What I wanted to achieve was a collection of poems and photographs working hand-in-hand but somehow the poems didn’t come and as a result I didn’t put much in to constructing the images. Nevertheless, I did come up with one pairing which worked. As usual it has taken me some time to refine the poem and achieve the consistency and balance I sought between the haiku and the photograph. The photo didn’t work on its own (this is what I wanted to begin with); the first draft of the haiku was reasonable but, alongside the image, both the words and the photo seemed somehow diminished and disjointed. The technique of putting everything away for a few weeks allowed me to review it with fresh eyes and suddenly a small tweak to the words, a minimal crop to the image and now I have a result which pleases me to the point that I wish I had been a little more persistent while the ice was with us.

Ice haiku
Thrilling now, daring loss,
mystery unshattered.
This is why we love

This is why we love

RPS International Print Exhibition 2009

Finally, after three years of trying, I have had a pinhole photograph accepted into the highly-competitive Royal Photographic Society annual print exhibition. It has been an interesting process of entering and facing rejection for the work which I feel to be the most powerful I have produced whiist, at the same time, having my “snaps” accepted. I hope it doesn’t sound ungrateful or arrogant to say that I have felt dogged by relative success!

Thankfully, though, this time round I had my personal favourite image accepted out of the many thousands submitted from around the world for the 125 print touring exhibtion which opens in London on the 19th May.

Dream of Flight - Release



A pinhole photograph from last autumn. This was an amazing day when I walked with my son, Finn, for several miles accompanied by a male pheasant who seemed to enjoy our company and followed us like a dog.

Finn with pheasant