blurbing it up

My name is Jo. I have a problem with photos albums.

I have several different kinds – the big 12×12″ scrapbooks, some tall sketchbook albums, some small sketchbooks too… Not to mention my old fashioned scrapbook with newsprint pages and taped in news clippings, an exercise book with more clippings, and my 4×6 snapshot album (an interesting project I should tell you about later). And my online albums, in two places, and my computer files, on two computers, and all the backup drives… oh, and the file of negatives and the box of loose photos…

My big albums are so heavy I could barely carry them all if I had to evacuate the house (there’re only 5 of them, but they’re FULL!). They’re very daunting to look through too. I browse them from time to time, but I’ve never been able to share them with family because they’re too heavy to carry home.

And they’re old news anyway! (Am I wallowing in the past?)

I decided to take apart some of the smaller albums (which were in random sized sketchbooks) and scan the pictures.

I started with a small album my sisters-in-law made for us for our post-elopement party held in Seattle. The messages in that album were very sweet but we remember the sentiment without needing to look through the album. It lives on my computer now, and on flickr, where I can share it. That was easy!

Next, I pulled out all the photos from my Singapore album. I had them in a tall sketchbook with spare pages at the back to add pictures from subsequent trips – that never happened. I stopped over in Singapore on a trip between NZ and Japan in 1999. It’s a great place to stop over, especially because you get to enjoy the most gorgeous flight crew in the world on Singapore Air, and Changi Airport is amazing. But we don’t fly in that direction from here.

My 2 day trip was a bit of a blur – alone, traveling between my NZ home (where I had just attended my Nana’s funeral) and my Japanese home (where I had just met future-hubby), not quite at ease with traveling solo. I did get some nice (film) photos though – if you like Hindu temples!

I scanned the pictures (and threw out all the meaningless brochures and flyers) and arranged a blurb book to tell a story – that Singapore has a wonderful architecture, blending Hindu, Chinese, Muslim/Malay and colonial influences into a unique style. Trying to convey the heat and humidity and the sense of the jungle trying to reclaim the island was impossible – if you ever get the chance you should go there. It’s a fascinating place.

The Singapore blurb book is just for me – a small record of the trip that can live on my book shelf with all my other blurb books. I don’t imagine anyone else would want to see it. There isn’t a single picture of me in there (I had not yet mastered self portraiture and didn’t have the guts to ask people to take my photo all alone) and anyway, a lot of people I know have their own Singapore memories from their own visits.

I deliberated for a day before I ripped all the pictures out of my Japan students album. It was a 12×12″, with lovely black pages and the thin vellum stuff between the pages to protect the photos (cool, but annoying, as it turns out). Sometime after I had finished my 3 years as an assistant English teacher I had collected all the photos and printed out little captions and arranged my snapshots by school and theme. I had kept an assortment of papers, culled from the huge pile of letters sent to Jo-teacher, an impossible number of heartfelt greetings. I scanned what was still meaningful, laughing and sharing some with hubby, then scanned all the photos – 199 items in total (thank goodness I figured out that you can scan several photos at a time!)

This book took me a little bit longer to complete – 2 or 3 days instead of an afternoon, although I shouldn’t have done it so fast – I wore out my clicking finger! Being able to tell this story digitally, I was able to resize photos bigger or smaller at will, packing some pages with 6 or even 9 small snapshots (me and junior high students making the peace sign, over and over and over…) while other pages put a single picture in context with a more detailed explanation. I’m not usually good about writing captions to go with the photos – most of my albums require me to sit down and tell the stories… But I worked on this album knowing that my parents and my aunt would enjoy it, but they would need some background to remind them of the stories I told them – over 10 years ago now.

Blurb books are great. They are small and portable. I make the 7×7 inch 40 page size (OK, 62 pages for the Jo teacher album) which look great whether there’s one full bleed photo per page or a collection of snapshots and captions. They’re archived online, so you can always order another one if you need to (as long as the company survives). They’re easy for someone to flick through – not so daunting as a big 12×12″ album. And they’re light and easy to mail, so I can share my stories with family and friends overseas. I have made about a dozen now, and have never been disappointed with the final result.

I still have a small Bali album and a sketchbook full of people I was friends with in Japan… probably destined to end up as blurbs. And then I have to start thinking about whether to make a best-of-Japan album… if such a thing is possible…

Sometimes I envy people who can live without constant reference to the past, without collecting reminders. But since I was a little kid I have felt a strong need to anchor myself in chronology. Journals, yes, but more so diaries and planners, dates and anniversaries, pictures, when and where and what happened in what order, memories triggered by remembering when and where a picture was taken – all this seems crucial to making sense of my life, and to my sense of myself as real…

www.blurb.com – if you’d like to preview my Jo-teacher book… (I’m not asking you to buy it (no, not at all!) but I thought you might like a chance to flick through a few pages…)

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One Response to blurbing it up

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Ooooh, I want to see this! I looked at the preview, but on my small screen I could barely make out any text.

    I love to look at other peoples photos though! It is probably one of my favorite pastimes really!

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