By Paul Hoppe
32 pages, published 6/2/2021
I made my first photo book. Well technically it is not the first one but the first one meant for publication. Writing for this website and going through my catalogue of photos I saw a certain theme emerge. Well several themes but this one caught my interest at the time. I used to take photos while commuting from and to the office. Because I could ride several trains that would take me more or less an hour each journey I was able to explore different parts of the city. I was drawn to the busy but also transient places. Places no one stayed in. Everyone was on the go. For many it was a waste of time. Others tried to spent it somewhat useful with newspapers, headphones or in conversation. Due to my schedule I would usually see the places very early in the morning and also very early in the afternoon. Only a few people would be around at those times giving the platforms, halls, passageways, stairs and escalators a strange empty feeling. Like something or rather someone was missing. I very much enjoyed the subdued atmosphere but dreaded the time spent waiting especially during the uncomfortable and grey Berlin winter mornings.
Making this book was also an interesting journey for me. I used to make photo books for personal use with a web software provided by the printing company. Those are usually catered to hobbyist and amateurs and are limited in what you can do. Even worse they offer horribly kitschy templates for all sorts of holiday and family albums. But the biggest problem is that you are locked into their shop. You can not export the files in any usable format. I spent a lot of time designing the first version of “Departure Berlin” with such a proprietary software only to realize that I can only ever use the file with this particular printer, who only ships within Europe at that.
So I went to search for a better service and came across Magcloud. They are mostly a magazine publisher. But for what I wanted to do a magazine format seemed quite interesting. Especially considering that it only costs a quarter of what I paid with my dedicated photo printing service. Of course the quality of a dedicated photo book can be better I do not think it is four times better. In the end I opted for a more affordable photo magazine from Magcloud so that more people are able to buy one if they so desire. I can also offer a digital PDF version. Magcloud takes care of the sales process, printing and shipping while I can focus on creating an interesting photo magazine.
Having made this decision another challenge awaited me. Magcloud does offer templates and manuals for different publishing software but of course only for the proprietary ones from Apple, Microsoft, Adobe and so on. Being a convinced Open Source user the go-to DTP software “Scribus” was not on their list. But helpful people on the forums made a nice explanation on how to setup Scribus for Magcloud. I have only just scratched the surface of what this software can do but I am confident and eager to work with it. My next project is already in preparation and it will be more of a magazine with essays and stories.
But enough about my journey. Here is my first published photo book called “Departure Berlin”. It contains a small introduction, thirteen carefully selected black and white photos and (I hope) captions that invite the viewer to think about and reflect on every image. It is available for $15.00 in print or $5.00 as a digital download. I certainly enjoyed my personal copy with a good cup of espresso appropriately served in a black and white cup.