Editing with Mariken Wessels

© Mariken Wessels, Taking Off. Henry my Neighbor

We are talking to a range of photographers, photo editors, professors of photography, book designers and others about the physical process of editing images. Selecting, sequencing and laying out photographs - be it for a magazine, book, online site or gallery presentation - seems something of a mysterious process for many photographers and a process that seems perhaps hard to give words to. I haven't found much written about the process and that's exactly why I'm excited to see what comes up in this series.

We started the conversation with Rob HaggartAshley KauschingerJeff RichMiska DraskoczyKevin WY LeeAya Takada, the pairing of Jessica Dean Camp and Cole Don KelleyAmy WolffDaniel Coburn and Zora Murff. Today we continue the series with Mariken Wessels.

Mariken Wessels (The Netherlands, 1963) makes artist's books, installations, sculptures and photo and video works. She published Taking Off. Henry my Neighbor with Art Paper Editions (Belgium) in 2015 to international acclaim. The book was honored at The Best Dutch and Flemish Book Designs 2015, won the Author Book Award at the Recontres d'Arles photo festival 2016 (France), and was awarded an honorary appreciation by the international panel of Best Book Design from all over the World (Leipzig Book Fair, Germany).

In exhibition format Taking Off was on show at the Fotomuseum Antwerp (Belgium) during the spring of 2016.

Among Wessels' earlier books are Elisabeth –I want to eat (2008) and Queen Ann. P.S. Belly cut off (2010), which together with Taking Off form an open trilogy exploring the self-image in amateur photography and the limits of the public and the private.

© Mariken Wessels, Taking Off. Henry my Neighbor

fototazo: Tell us a little about yourself and what area of photography you work in.

Mariken Wessels: I studied drama at the theater school in Amsterdam, where I graduated at age 26. I have worked as an actress for theater and television for a good decade, before I decided my future should be in visual arts. I then started my studies at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie (also located in Amsterdam), where my focus shifted towards working with photography, books, and to a lesser extent installation and sculpture. I believe that my background and experience in drama still influences my attitude in photography today, in the sense that I often work with characters and story lines.

© Mariken Wessels, Taking Off. Henry my Neighbor

f: How do you select images to work with from a larger group? What criteria do you use?

MW: It depends on the project I'm working on. For example, for my latest book Taking Off. Henry My Neighbor I puzzled with several narrative layers. First I conduct research into the characters I present and represent, then I try to shape a story line, which determines the editing proces and how I need to combine photographs with other documents. I keep track of my research results in a notebook, but most of all I past notes and images to the wall of my studio. Thus I can see clearly where a project is heading to. Afterwards is mostly editing and working on images. Basically the research and the narrative structure guide my choices in how a project is given shape and what selections I make. This effects a book's graphic design and layout as well.

© Mariken Wessels, Taking Off. Henry my Neighbor

f: How do you consider the balancing of formal qualities in the photographs with the content/narrative of the series as a whole as you select and sequence a series?

MW: For the balancing of formal qualities with the narrative structure of a series it is also the underlying research that proves decisive. At some point it makes the pieces fall into place. You feel what is right, so it's an intuitive process for a great deal, but with its foundation in preliminary investigations.

© Mariken Wessels, Taking Off. Henry my Neighbor

f: What are common issues, problems and questions that unfold for you during the process of laying things out?

MW: I keep posing questions to myself, about why I'm making the choices I make. It helps me staying focused and alerts me to certain issues that aren't quite right yet. If I feel there are still knots to untie, I will need to figure out where the friction is. This is a natural part of the workflow. During editing and layout this flow sometimes comes to a standstill, but I know then that a solution will announce itself sooner or later. Things for me go easily wrong when I work too fast, so I need to take time and give projects plenty time to ripen.

© Mariken Wessels, Taking Off. Henry my Neighbor

f: How do you know when a layout is done?

MW: I begin making book dummies in the very early stages of a project. Making dummies is what I consider essential. Turning the pages, a thousand times, leafing through again and again. It makes clear to me what otherwise remains unsolved, so that I know where to smoothen rough edges for the final edit and layout. If a dummy leaves me unsatisfied, I'm up to the daunting task of confronting myself: where did I go wrong? I have to be honest and never compromise in order to achieve a book that I feel has the right form.

© Mariken Wessels, Taking Off. Henry my Neighbor

f: What are common mistakes you see in editing?

MW: Often I see a choice of paper that doesn't match with the content or story. The same goes for choices of fonts, style of layout or binding. I believe that everything should have been brought together in such a way that one doesn't wonder at all why a book appears the way it appears, it is just naturally there. The relationship between design and edit must be right on all levels.

© Mariken Wessels, Taking Off. Henry my Neighbor

f: Finally, what is the best advice you've ever gotten about editing?

MW: Not an advice on editing per se, but one of my teachers at the Rietveld one day said to me "Make a book!" This advice went straight to my heart. While I was already being fascinated by photography in series, I felt that photographs organized within the book format could make everything fall into place.

© Mariken Wessels, Taking Off. Henry my Neighbor


Microgrant 20: Kevin Salcedo Gil

© Kevin Salcedo

Kevin Salcedo Gil
Location: Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
Request: Nikon d7100 body
Grant Status: $108.46 of $400 (27%). Kevin will contribute $83 to the grant.
Donate here

My name is Kevin Salcedo, I live in Medellín, Colombia. I am an art student at the University of Antioquia. My studies have given me a huge passion for photography. I started by exploring the portraiture. Little by little my vision has changed in search of other languages that permit me to find myself. My current proposal is to continue to deepening my knowledge and studying photography, as well as to develop various series that I have in mind.

Mi nombre es Kevin Salcedo, vivo en Medellín Colombia, soy Artista Plástico de la Udea, durante mis estudios se despertó en mi una gran pasión por la Fotografía, inicié explorando el retrato y poco a poco mi mirada ha ido cambiando en búsqueda de otros lenguajes que me permitan encontrar uno propio; Mi propósito en estos momentos es seguir profundizando y estudiando la fotografía, así mismo, desarrollar algunas series que tengo en mente.
Puedes ver mi trabajo en la pagina: http://cargocollective.com/kevinsalcedo

© Kevin Salcedo


To me, rooms are that intimate place that reflects what we are, in a manner of speaking, a psychological radiography of each person, because in them is where we have everything that "identify us" or give us "identity." There are all those objects that we like, love or hide. What interests me is to propose a game between the body and the objects in the room; I have been exploring how the body relates, hides and sometimes became just another object in the room.

Thus, in these photographs, the body as presence is intermittent, almost absorbed by the landscape, the body becomes a part of it and at the same time it does not; the identity of the subject is compromised by its own creation. And perhaps the world today is compromised by its creation? It is like if the creator for moments was submitted to his creation, you could say that there is a certain voiding of the being, of the presence.

This is a selection of the different series. The complete series can be seen on my site.

La habitación es un lugar íntimo, refleja lo que somos, es por así decirlo, una radiografía psicológica de nosotros mismos, ya que en la habitación es donde tenemos todo eso que nos “identifica” o nos da “identidad”, allí están todos esos objetos que nos gustan, que amamos u ocultamos. Lo que me interesa de esto es proponer un juego entre el cuerpo y los objetos de la habitación, he estado explorando como el cuerpo se relaciona, se oculta, y algunas veces se vuelve otro objeto más de la habitación”.

El cuerpo como presencia es intermitente, se desvanece poco a poco, es absorbido por el paisaje, se hace parte de él y no; la identidad del sujeto está comprometida a su propia creación, ¿y es que acaso el mundo de hoy no está comprometido a su propia creación?, es como si el creador por instantes fuese sometido por su creación, podríamos decir hay cierta anulación del ser, de la presencia.

Esta es una selección de las diferentes series, las Series completas las puedes ver en la página principal.

© Kevin Salcedo

© Kevin Salcedo

© Kevin Salcedo

© Kevin Salcedo

© Kevin Salcedo

© Kevin Salcedo

© Kevin Salcedo


Medellín Foto Camp 2016

Camilo Echavarría explaining the process of developing his photobook, Illustrated Landscapes

As a follow up to last year's US trip, this year's fototazo workshop initiative was the Medellín Foto Camp 2016. Nine former fototazo microgrant recipients took part including Alejandra AriasAndrés SánchezAura LambertinezEdwin Ochoa VélezEric RobledoJuliana Henao AlcarazMargarita ValdiviesoMónica Lorenza Taborda and Natalia Lopera. The workshop focused on helping them transform their work into photobooks. 

We began the workshop in May with Mariela Sancari who worked with the students for two days in Medellín to help them produce their initial maquettes.

Margarita making an astute point during a conversation with Mariela Sancari

Andrés, Juliana, Mariela Sancari, Edwin, Margarita and Natalia after putting in a long day

In July, the group continued to develop their book projects with the help of online mentors Juan OrrantiaJeff RichIrina Rozovsky and Alejandro Cartagena. Each participant had the opportunity to speak with two mentors by Skype to get personalized feedback on their early maquette and suggestions on how to develop it.

In August, Camilo Echavarría and Juliana Vélez presented their photobook working process to the participants during a workshop at CreaLab in Medellín. Juliana also gave a presentation about the various forms the photobook takes in the contemporary context. Gabriel Mario Vélez and I gave the participants afternoon critiques on the maquettes to assess their progress and give comments on their work to help them prepare for final reviews. 

Camilo Echavarría presenting Illustrated Landscapes

Workshop participants checking out photobooks Juliana Vélez brought to the workshop

Juliana Vélez presenting at CreaLab

Finally, we ended the summer initiative in late August with a final presentation and critique of the work of all participants at a country house outside of Medellín with special guest critic Juan OrrantiaGabriel Mario Vélez and myself.

Mónica showing her book during final reviews

Andrés, Mónica, Aura, Aleja, Eric and Juliana taking a break during final reviews

Edwin presenting during final reviews with Juan Orrantia and Gabriel Mario Vélez

Here are links to video flipthroughs of the final projects by workshop participants; more will be added in the coming days:

Eric Robledo (Issuu presentation)

Finally, I'd like to thank the donors to Microgrant 19. You made all this possible.

Mónica creating her video photobook presentation

Aura documenting her photobook Diluvio