FOLIO 2023/24 Alumni Share Their Experience With The Online Photobook-Making Masterclass

  • Published
    2 May 2024
  • Author
  • Topics Photobooks

As we welcome applications for the 5th edition, participants from FOLIO 2023/24 reflect on transforming photographs into cohesive narratives within the physical format of a book.

Unfolding the world of photobook-making and publishing, PhMuseum's online masterclass FOLIO aims to guide participants into concluding a body of work and having it ready for publishing. The 5th edition, running from October to May 2025, will be led by Lewis Chaplin, co-founder of independent publishing house and design studio Loose Joints.

As the enrollment phase is open until 20 June, with the possibility to apply for a fully-funded scholarship by 23 May, we touched base with Simon Émond, Sandra Guldemann Duchatellier, Alvin Ng, Dillon Marsh, Alicja Khatchikian and Andres Mario De Verona to have a grasp of what their experience was like amidst editing, sequencing, and designing their dummies.

Can you briefly describe the key ideas of the book you’ve been working on during FOLIO?

Simon Émond: All the steps in the book were developed during this Masterclass on my part. I arrived at the first meeting with my images and an idea of my message, but I was ready to evolve it based on the comments. Then, I also developed the material part of the book, one of my favorite parts.

Sandra Guldemann Duchatellier: The photobook I have been working on during FOLIO is based on a visual documentary project I started in 2021 which deals with my relation to memory, transmission and identity. The work has evolved towards a quite different angle in which I’m confronting the free narration of an imagined past with the documentary reality of the places I decided to visit. It is mainly located in Egypt.

Alvin Ng: The main concept of my book aims to redefine the approach to creating photobooks as a physical manifestation of abstract ideas. Essentially, I aim to transcend conventional approaches to photo books and bookmaking, offering readers a glimpse into a micro world or universe existing within its own space and time with its own unique characteristics. 

Dillon Marsh: On the surface my book is a visual exploration of the landscapes and people of the Karoo, a vast arid scrubland covering much of central South Africa. Digging deeper though, it is also about the profound stillness that can be experienced in this region, and the richer appreciation of being that this fosters.

Alicja Khatchikian: I aimed to re-edit a previous dummy book about family and memory, and I ended up finding new ways to think about those images. The new dummy I've developed is the result of this shift.

What aspect of photobook-making you found to be the most difficult, or unexpected? Which one did you find to be the most fun?

Alvin Ng: I've been fortunate to encounter few difficulties during the class, perhaps because I'm not really fixed on a specific path or approach. Instead, I felt that I've maintained an open-minded approach, allowing things to unfold naturally. So throughout the course, I've had fun experimenting with new approaches to sequencing and designing my book.

Dillon Marsh: For me, the biggest challenge is to be able to understand how other people read my photos. It is incredibly important to get this information, but to do so I must somehow detach myself from my memories of the image making process. I really enjoyed seeing how other participants went about developing their books. It can sometimes feel like a lonely endeavour, so being connected with others that are in the same situation was comforting. 

Alicja Khatchikian: Working on material that I have known for years was a great challenge, the hardest for me, along with finding the narrative key. Once the editing was sorted out, thinking about the book format and cover was fun.

Sandra Guldemann Duchatellier: It has been quite challenging. It has been difficult to find a narrative appropriated to a book, make choices and accept questioning. I had no experience and knowledge at all in designing and I lost a lot of time in learning. I enjoyed discovering the work of the other members of the group and see their project evolve.

Simon Émond:: The biggest challenge for me was choosing the images. I found it very difficult to have perspective on my work, which is very personal. The Masterclass really allowed me to have a new look at it and I was able to choose the images that would best serve my photographic story. Teacher comments are critical but so necessary.

How do you think FOLIO contributed in finalizing your project into a dummy, and more broadly to your practice as a visual artist?

Andres Mario De Verona: Folio contributed greatly to the finalization of my dummy and the program itself was a crash course on design, which I feel has added to my skill set as a visual artist. The greatest challenge for me was determining the size and layout of my book, given the variety of formats my images were made in. The program helped me detach from specifics or details of each image that I was getting hung up on, and instead reoriented me so that I can view the whole picture, which is the book as an expressive object.

Sandra Guldemann Duchatellier: FOLIO gave me methodology, enabled me to share with peers and meet inspiring artists thru studio visits. It also gave me a deadline to respect. It kind of "forced" me not to give up.

Alvin Ng: The class has provided a supportive community where I can freely share my thoughts and experiments and receive incredibly constructive feedback, not only from my peers but also from experienced curators, designers, and publishers. Additionally, listening to guest speakers share their wisdom and experiences has been eye-opening and enriching.

Alicja Khatchikian: FOLIO especially made me reflect on my practice as a visual artist. Having to present this project again after years, within a structured program and nurturing learning environment, allowed me to push it further.

Dillon Marsh: The biggest benefit for me is to get trusted opinions of my work in progress. With the constructive feedback offered throughout the classes, I can feel more confident that my book will be understood in the way that I anticipate. Presenting draft concepts, does put one in a position of vulnerability as an artist, but the space offered by FOLIO feels safe and my book is definitely stronger as a result. 

What impression do you now have of online education? What kind of relationship was created within the group?

Alicja Khatchikian: Live classes are ideal, but they also take time and energy. Being able to log in to our sessions, as well as having access to the recordings, has facilitated my presence throughout the workshop. I can only recommend investing time in reviews and peer support because I learned a lot from my colleagues.

Dillon Marsh: The online program ran very smoothly and was well planned. There was also great comradery amongst the participants. We had our own dedicated WhatsApp group and met regularly online in sessions separate from the organised classes.

Simon Émond: I think that real friendship was formed within the group. There was a lot of support on the WhatsApp group. We were even able to give our personal opinions on each other's work. It’s certain that at the beginning I had a lot of apprehension about the online option, mainly because I don’t speak English perfectly well. I was afraid of being judged and it's even more difficult to connect virtually, but my fears quickly dissipated and I can't wait to meet these people in real life and give them a hug.

Sandra Guldemann Duchatellier: I like it as it is very flexible. Great relationship. Lots of support and kindness. Mix of different cultures, personalities, experiences.

Alvin Ng: While I generally prefer in-person interactions for the intimacy they offer, I acknowledge the benefits of online platforms, which allow people from around the world to come together. I consider myself fortunate to have had this opportunity to connect with such a diverse group. Personally, I felt that the bond among my fellow peers has been strong and collaborative, with no sense of competition.

If you were to mention one Studio Visit that stuck to your mind, which one would it be and why?

Sandra Guldemann Duchatellier: The Studio Visit with Elisa Medde has been very interesting. She’s deep and has presented subjects to which I was particularly sensible.

Andres Mario De Verona: The Studio Visit that I keep revisiting in my mind was one with Silvia Rosi. During her presentation, she was showing a lot of imagery that I was reading as performance or construction, but when I asked her about performance and her process, she had an entirely different response. She did not view her images as performance, but rather as a connection to roots, customs, or traditions that she was getting back to. That’s how I understood it at least, and that differentiation has been on my mind for some time now.

Alvin Ng: Sybren Kuiper. I feel that his statement “A book must be the physical translation of an abstract idea” is my top 10 best quote of the year and perhaps all time. It's something to live by and I'll bring it forward and incorporate it deeper into my processes after the class has ended. 

Alicja Khatchikian: Elisa Medde, for her theoretical insights and great ability to share knowledge naturally.

Dillon Marsh: I really enjoyed Sybren Kuiper's Studio Visit. I am not a confident designer, so it was fascinating to see how he went about designing books. I thought he had a wealth of knowledge and presented it very effectively.

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

Alvin Ng: Be open to changes good or bad, be daring to experiment, and most of all, be kind to yourself and to others! :) 

Alicja Khatchikian: Start the program with a concrete body of work, ideally at an advanced stage of production; changes along the way are possible yet challenging and confusing at times. Don't hold back your questions and doubts. Take your time and invest in sincere peer relationships!

Simon Émond: Rigor, participation, listening and pleasure :)

Andres Mario De Verona: In my opinion, it’s best to enter the Folio program with a nearly finished project. I think being in the editing, sequencing, and design phase of your project is the perfect time to enroll in a class like this so your attention can be fully on the book, rather than on making images. The two things are very different.

Dillon Marsh: Don’t just rely on your tutors to give you feedback. Reach out to your fellow participants independently and discuss your work with them too.

Sandra Guldemann Duchatellier: If needed, to learn how to use Miro and InDesign before starting. To interact with the group as much as possible. To keep in mind its own objectives.

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FOLIO Online Masterclass On Transmedia Storytelling is part of the PhMuseum new educational program, comprising four different masterclasses that will all share a single intake period running until 20 June, with classes beginning in October 2024. 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

APPLICATION KEY DATES:

23 May - If you apply by this date you can be eligible for the full scholarship, and will automatically access the Early Bird Fee of €1,750. 

20 June - If you apply by this date you can join the program by paying the Regular Fee of €2,000.