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Folio's Tutors On The New Edition Of The Online International Photobook Masterclass
Published18 May 2023
Publisher Tommaso Parrillo (Witty Books), designer Giulia Boccarossa and curator Rocco Venezia (PhMuseum) reflect on the steps that make a strong project ready for publishing, giving us a glimpse of the challenges that Folio's students will encounter.
The first Masterclass of PhMuseum's Online Education Program Folio, started in 2020 and now in its 4th edition, is entirely dedicated to photobook publishing. Under the guidance of three industry experts, participants will consolidate and conclude a body of work with the goal of producing a dummy. While all of them will be exhibited at PhMuseum Days 2024, one will be selected by Witty Books to be published as part of their catalog.
In conversation with the three core tutors of Folio, we discussed their love for photobooks, the techniques that belong to this medium, and their vision for a consolidated program striving to open up the publishing process through horizontal collaboration.
Ciao Giulia, Rocco and Tommaso. What draws you to photobooks, and do you think you have a specific approach to the making of them?
Rocco: I have always been drawn to photobooks, it is a democratic tool, and as a medium, they offer a unique and intimate way to tell a visual story. With photobooks, you can control the sequence of images, the pacing, and the overall narrative arc and still leave the audience free to have their own read on your research. My specific approach to making photobooks is to start with a clear concept or idea, and then allow the images to guide the direction of the project. I believe that the images should always come first, and the design and layout should serve to enhance and support the photographs.
Giulia: I became interested in the field of photobook publishing during my Master at ISIA U in Urbino. I would say that I started by chance as I didn’t know what it actually consisted of initially. I delved into the topic expanding my knowledge and in two years I found myself writing a thesis focused on the national production entitled “The designer in photobook publishing: the influence of the graphic designer in the Italian photobook”. I analyzed some of the most relevant photobooks produced between the 60s and the 70s, including a consideration of the role of the graphic designer in that period and today. In this perspective I decided to focus on the work of eight graphic design masters - Dante Bighi, Mimmo Castellano, Giulio Confalonieri, Mario Cresci, A. G. Fronzoni, Michele Ketoff, Giancarlo Iliprandi and Ilio Negri. This work aimed at highlighting the importance of transdisciplinarity in this field and clarifying that the photobook is a complex object, deeply characterized by layout, type, paper, print and binding choices as well as the one of the images. These are the fundamental concepts that I try to convey during the Masterclass.
Tommaso: I always loved printed matter, and interacting with photography through its physical shape: I believe that the book is the perfect way to disseminate a visual project. My approach is really based on working closely with photographers, understanding the needs and specificities on each body of work. Despite this, I feel like all my publications have a common thread that unites them, very close to introspection and metaphysics.
What are your core principles when it comes to teaching?
Giulia: I approach the world of design with an analytical spirit, without being caught up by the graphic trends of the moment. I always try to convey the same values during my teaching. Furthermore I strongly believe that a book is the result of the combination of different approaches and visions that coexist in the light of a shared idea of how it should appear and what it should communicate to the reader. Therefore my method revolves around the understanding of the artistic sensibility of those I collaborate with or I teach to. Even if the concept of a book is very clear to me I always try to be open and listen to others point of view. Another core principle of my teaching method is to encourage confrontation and mutual exchange instead of a teacher-pupil relationship which is very important and necessary in the context of the masterclass.
Tommaso: The creation of a book is the meeting of several visions, therefore my method is based on the characteristics of both the project and the person. Though I have a clear editorial direction in my head, I always try not to impose my vision and to listen to whom I have in front. I think horizontal communication is the key: after having provided the suitable tools, all the ideas are put on the table and compared together. In this sense, FOLIO doesn’t differ much from the way I normally collaborate with artists.
Rocco: My core principles when it comes to teaching are to create a supportive and collaborative environment that encourages experimentation, risk-taking, and creativity. I believe in giving students the tools they need to express themselves through their work, while also challenging them to push beyond their comfort zones and explore new ways of seeing their work while respecting who they really are.
In the broader panorama of photography education, what do you aim for this program to bring to the table?
Tommaso: The most stimulating aspect of FOLIO is observing the development of different projects, and setting up the workflow on confrontation and mutual exchange, instead of employing traditional education methods. The masterclass represents the perfect synthesis of what I am looking for in a possible project: research, contamination of ideas and teamwork.
Rocco: With FOLIO, we aim to bring a unique and immersive learning experience that combines practical skills with critical thinking and creative exploration. I want to offer students the opportunity to work on a real project, from concept to finished product, while also providing them with the mentorship and guidance they need to grow as artists. I also hope to foster a sense of community and connection among the students, as they work together to create their photobooks and share their experiences.
Giulia: The masterclass aims not only to let the participants create their own photobook but also to provide them with all the know-how for continuing their research independently after completing this course.My goal is to show them a design approach that could then allow them to modify it to their needs and sensibilities in order to find their own path. In this perspective establishing good communication and mutual trust is crucial.
During the masterclass, students start with a project and make it grow into a finished photobook. Can you give us some insights on how this process is usually like?
Rocco: The process usually divides into two parts: consolidate and concluding. We start to analyse the concept that the participants want to explore. From there, we work on developing the concept visually on the basis of what has already been produced, selecting and sequencing images, here we also value if it is necessary to deeper the research and keep producing new work. In the second part of the masterclass, we focus more on refining the sequence and designing the layout of the book. We also discuss printing options, paper types, and binding methods. Throughout the process, we encourage experimentation and play, and we work to find the best way to communicate each photographer's vision through their photobook.
Giulia: During seven months of individual and group encounters, artists’ studio visits and constant feedback, participants will be able to professionally design ready-to-print dummy books reflecting each author’s specific identity and also be ready to be present them to publishers and international photography festivals. During the first three months Tommaso and Rocco will help the students with the editing, advising the participants on the photographs and their arrangement in sequence to better express their artistic perception and the mood they’d like to set for the photobook. At the end of this first step, I’d begin my tutorship as a graphic design tutor starting from the fourth month. With the aim to help the participants finalize their work giving advice on the dimensions of the book, the typography, the cover, the paper and the final choice of the images in collaboration and constant confrontation with Rocco and Tommaso.Tommaso: The process of making a book passes through filling the gap between virtual and real ideas, bringing to a compromise the feasibility of creative solutions with the budget that the production has to fit in. When at the first experience with crafting a photo-book, many have little confidence, and tend to lose control on the process: the masterclass provides all the tools and notions that make this path manageable, and autonomously pursuable in the future.
Do you have any advice to share with future students? Tommaso: Even if projects are not fully complete, I look for maturity, and an authorial idea that must emerge. As a consequence, receiving an application presented with a draft sequence will certainly help in fruition.
Giulia: My advice for future applicants is not to be afraid to experiment and of not having a precise idea of the result they’d like to achieve. This is all part of the process. I’d also suggest not to take this experience as a mere competition but rather as a safe context in which to eliminate doubts and worries while carrying out a project with the support of professional figures who will advise and help them.
Rocco: My advice to future students would be to come into the program with an open mind and a willingness to learn and experiment from tutors as from their peers. Don't be afraid to take risks and try new things, and always stay true to your vision and your voice as a photographer. And most importantly, remember that making a photobook is a collaborative process, so be open to feedback and constructive criticism. For what concern the submission, your work can be at any stage, what we will evaluate is your motivation to keep working and the potential strength of your research.
The new edition of Folio will begin in October, and run until April 2024. Students will benefit from group classes offering theoretical and practical guidance held by the core tutors, one-to-one mentoring sessions, and a rich program of studio visits, from this year shared with the other PhMuseum's programs Mediae and Folio. Artists and experts in the field such as Federico Clavarino, Elisa Medde, Sayuri Ichida, Mathieu Asselin, Silvia Rosi, Sybren Kuiper and more will take students behind the scenes of their practice. Applications are open until June 9, with one full scholarship to be assigned to applicants that will submit before May 19. Discover more about the program on the dedicated page.
APPLICATION KEY DATES
19 May - If you apply by this date you can be eligible for the full scholarship, and will automatically access the Early Bird Fee of €1,650.
9 June - If you apply by this date you can join the program by paying the Regular Fee of €2,000.
------Folio Online International Masterclass On Documentary Photography 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