Folio 2022/23 Online International Masterclass On Photobook Alumni On The Path To A Photobook And Horizontal Learning

As the final deadline approaches, Folio 2022/23 Alumni look back to a collective experience rooted in collaboration, communication, and the deepening of their knowledge of publishing practices.

The path of publishing can sometimes feel a bit obscure if looked at from the outside. Over the course of seven months, Folio 2022/23 alumni saw this distance getting shortened little by little. It’s not only the expertise of tutors and guests that facilitated this - first and foremost, it’s the creation of a community diving deep into photobook-making. What is thinking in the form of a photobook like? What can the conversations be, what the orienting principles?

With the 2023/24 enrolment still being open until June 9, we asked Fernando Criollo, Rebecca H. Gomis, Rosa Lacavalla, Cinzia Laliscia, and Thomas Martin to share their experience as openly as possible, hopefully giving a glimpse of Folio’s educational path to prospective students.

What were some of the most valuable aspects you found in the program? 

Rosa: The continuous, mutual sharing that lasted several months, and brought the reflections of people from different parts of the world into the research, thus making the work grow.  Being 14 participants working on completely different topics, we have always been able to give the same importance and dedicate the same time to each project and to everyone's needs. The conclusion of one's project has been no longer the work of one, but the result of everyone's collaboration.

Rebecca: I really valued the direct feedback from Tommaso, Giulia and Rocco, which was the most fruitful in the one-to-one sessions. At the same time, listening to other people’s feedback during the group sessions inspired me, and made me aware of details that currently might not be for my project, but I that could take into account for other works. 

Fernando: It was a unique opportunity, for me made possible by the scholarship, to learn about all the dynamics surrounding the creation and development of a photobook, in addition to learning how to sculpt all my ideas into something concrete and tangible. I could have a space to share my process together with the unique and different perspectives among participants, guests, and main professors. 

How would you describe the teaching method, and what did you find most effective about Tommaso, Giulia and Rocco's approach?

Fernando: The individual views of everyone, Tommaso as editor, publisher and knowledgeable in book distribution, Giulia's aesthetic perspective and Rocco's photographic sensibility allowed me to break with my own established structures, which helped me find new methods of expression within my dummy. This experience allowed my creativity to be enriched and to acquire a broader vision of all the possibilities for my project. It made me exceed my limits, allowing me to find new things at every moment.

Thomas: I found the combination of Tommaso, Giulia and Rocco's approaches to teaching to be very honest and supportive, which enabled me to have more confidence in my ideas and work as I was developing it. 

Rosa: If it hadn't been for them “Sana Sana” probably wouldn't have evolved so much. They have always been ready to listen to me, give me their advice and constructively tell me what was not working, without ever judging but urging me to fill the gaps. Their help very often did not provide the final solution, but rather the basis on which I should have undertaken my reflections and the evolution of my research. This method, in my opinion, was useful for making me understand different aspects of my own work which then resulted in immense satisfaction. Rocco, Tommaso and Giulia knew how to immediately put me at ease by understanding my needs and seeing within my work what I had not yet been able to see before, helping me in giving the right shape to the book in every detail. I'm already collecting positive feedback from those who have noticed how my project has grown thanks to their help.

How do you think the group sessions together with the practical discussion helped your project/ideas to grow? 

Cinzia: The group sessions have been fundamental. My story has evolved so much since the beginning. Talking about it several times made me realize what I was really interested in, and how I could better work on it.

Fernando: Sometimes art forces us to walk in the dark to find new paths. When we have doubts, when we get a creative blocking. In the group sessions, sharing each other's processes was not only a privilege, but we also witnessed how each one’s work germinated little by little and how it was an experience of mutual inspiration, since one's questions became an echo for others, illuminating our paths.

Rosa: I believe each session generated new ideas, new insights and new reflections. Getting to know my colleagues' research and working method gave me the opportunity to reflect on many aspects inherent both to the work I was carrying out within Folio, and for other future projects. Above all, this type of session gave rise to constructive discussions which often continued in the following days with the other participants.

Can you describe a specific aspect you worked on during the program, and how helped it evolve? 

Fernando: In my creative process I transform feelings, sensations and ideas into images, and then I ask myself, how do I intertwine them one with another? At times, this highly intuitive process can take a long time. When preparing for each presentation, I had to express through words what I try to express with images, helping the conceptualization and communication of my project grow. Also, in a more technical sense, I wanted to learn more about strong visuals and graphics. I explored fonts, covers design, types of papers and binding, the way images can be arranged inside the book. If some will have a white border, if others will be full bleed, etc. This learning allowed me to land things that, at the beginning of the masterclass, were no more than ideas into something real and tangible, where aesthetics and content complement each other.

Thomas: The sequencing and making of new images has been my priority through the program, with the support of Rocco and Tommaso being vital in this. The design aspect was something I was really keen on understanding more prior to starting the program: with the support of Guilia, my knowledge of design has grown immensely, especially thinking of how to balance the different elements that go into designing a photobook. 

Cinzia: Having three professionals helping me with editing was an important input for the final group of images I chose for the dummy. I understood how to create connections and links between the photos, how to work with sequencing and the pairing of images.

Rebecca: As my project was on baby steps, this program allowed me to create a body of work that has coherence, and to think about the practical aspects of a book that would feel right for it. It helped me to analyse details that I was not aware of before.

What do you think about the studio visits experience? 

Cinzia: Studio visits are the moment of new discoveries. You can meet new professionals that work with photography, such as photo editors, curators, artists and you can listen and learn how to move inside the artistic world. 

Fernando: I think it's been helpful to see how before us, artists faced challenges similar to what some of us are experiencing for the first time and learn how they overcame them. This allowed me to absorb practical knowledge to be able to apply it in our own process and in future scenarios. 

Rosa: The diversity of the proposals is certainly an enrichment. Being able to know the research of different figures within the photographic sector helps to deepen different facets of this field as well as expand one's network of contacts. 

What about the group of people you meet online? How was your personal/professional relationship with your colleagues? 

Cinzia: Having a group to talk to was great. A huge possibility of confrontation and knowledge of new artists and colleagues. Each of us has a different approach with photography but it's the best thing, I think. I learned something from them all.

Rebecca: When I joined the meetings it was very welcoming and helpful to have other's opinions and suggestions. For me it helped a lot even with building confidence about my project. It felt a safe space to talk and share doubts about each project.

Thomas: I think the group dynamic fostered online has been amazing. Meeting with my peers was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the program and I can't wait to meet as many of them as possible in person.

Fernando: For me it was a gratifying experience, after the official group sessions, we would meet on some weekends to discuss anything that has been left unanswered. They were also very kind to me, they shared many examples of photobooks, and quite a lot of information related to this, and above all we constantly had horizontal contact with each other.

What advice would you give to future students to make the most out of their experience in the program? 

Rebecca: Try to focus only on this project and prioritize it. Trust your gut and be open to all feedback.

Thomas: I would advise any future students to really give as much as they possibly can into the program, and you will receive so much back. The more actively you participate in the discussions and crits, the better the dynamic and support everyone receives. 

Rosa: I would say to keep their mind open to continuous confrontation, to get involved and to trust the advice that is given to them. To keep asking questions, and understand better what they want to communicate. Every detail is just one piece of the puzzle that will lead them to give the right shape to their work.

Any advice for them on how to prepare for the application? 

Rebecca: Work on a project that is close to your heart.

Thomas: Really consider why your project suits the book form, have an idea of what you want to get out of the program and what specifically you want to develop within your work. 

Fernando: Keep all your information clear and organized, allowing the jury to easily explore your work. Also keep in mind that this master is to have a physical result ideally, get used to the materiality and try to show your previous dummies and your process. Explain concisely and sincerely what your project is about, how it came to be, and why you are motivated to turn it into a photobook.

Cinzia: Make a strong and coherent selection of images. Write an introduction that can take the reader directly into your story. Let people enter and know you a little bit.

Rosa: It doesn't matter if you think your project is finished or is still at the beginning of its creation. Share the work that you believe is the most important to you and that you are ready to put your all into it.

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Folio Online International Masterclass On Photobook is part of PhMuseum's new educational program, comprising four different masterclasses that will all share a single intake period, running from 18 April to 9 June, with classes beginning in October 2023. Each course is tailored to meet the needs of emerging photographers, artists, curators, and contemporary storytellers looking to bring their methods to the next level. Check out which program suits you best at phmuseum.com/education

© Fernando Criollo, Folio 2022/23 Alumni
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© Fernando Criollo, Folio 2022/23 Alumni

Dummy book cover mockup © Fernando Criollo, Folio 2022/23 Alumni
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Dummy book cover mockup © Fernando Criollo, Folio 2022/23 Alumni

Dummy book spread detail © Fernando Criollo, Folio 2022/23 Alumni
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Dummy book spread detail © Fernando Criollo, Folio 2022/23 Alumni

© Cinzia Laliscia, Folio 2022/23 Alumni
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© Cinzia Laliscia, Folio 2022/23 Alumni

Sequence detail © Cinzia Laliscia, Folio 2022/23 Alumni
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Sequence detail © Cinzia Laliscia, Folio 2022/23 Alumni

Sequence detail © Thomas Martin, Folio 2022/23 Alumni
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Sequence detail © Thomas Martin, Folio 2022/23 Alumni

© Thomas Martin, Folio 2022/23 Alumni
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© Thomas Martin, Folio 2022/23 Alumni

© Rebecca H. Gomis, Folio 2022/23 Alumni
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© Rebecca H. Gomis, Folio 2022/23 Alumni

Dummy book spread detail © Rebecca H. Gomis, Folio 2022/23 Alumni
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Dummy book spread detail © Rebecca H. Gomis, Folio 2022/23 Alumni

© Rosa Lacavalla, Folio 2022/23 Alumni
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© Rosa Lacavalla, Folio 2022/23 Alumni

Dummy book cover detail © Rosa Lacavalla, Folio 2022/23 Alumni
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Dummy book cover detail © Rosa Lacavalla, Folio 2022/23 Alumni