A few months ago, we interviewed Mr Femi of Pro House, a Lagos-based PHOTOBOOK binder (album maker). The following transcript was as a result of our meeting.
I am an artist. I love craft work. While on campus studying mass communication, I took a course in advertising & public relations. I had always loved doing something geared towards a targeted audience and the photography industry has a structure with a targeted audience to please, so I fell in love with it. Its like a cycle; from the client to the photographer who executes the job, edits and designs the book, who then takes it to the print lab, then the final output in most cases is done by a good photobook binder. It then goes back to the photographer who delivers it to the client. In other words, good print and good binding helps the Photographer stand out. This is the reason I tell photographers that their job, the way they edit and their style of binding is their signage.
What will be the cause of a bad/damaged photo book?
From my experience, I want to give credit to the earliest teachers that started experimenting on lenses; the likes of Joan Guitermeg that discovered the movable plate for printing in German and George Eastman Kodak who did alot in early photography development. Before the emergence of digital camera, we had the silver halide film camera but now everybody is embracing digital photography because the technology of the digital camera is everywhere. You can easily buy one, master the settings and start using it. An average photographer wants his job in time, howbeit some clients do contribute to the lateness of some jobs I had once met a client who stayed up to six months before he brought his job and wanted a miracle to happen in a day, “I want my job” “I want my job”, “I want to travel to UK”. They want to bring their job in the morning and get it in the evening or in four hours time.
Let me emphasize that from my experience in photobook binding, a book is like a slow elastic material. Get any book from home or abroad, try folding and squeezing it inside a cylinder, leave it in there for two weeks, by the time you remove it from that cylinder, it will take the shape of that cylinder. So, a very good book comes out by giving the binder quality time, preferablly three working days. If you really want to step it up into something unique, use a different kind of binding called cold gum binding. Cold gum binding takes a longer period of time because it needs something that will shape it and press it like a cast press. Which means after all the necessary arrangement with the wet gum, you have to put it in a special casing and press it for about two-three days, after which it turns into a solid shape such that trimming gives it an odorless perfectly trimmed structure of a decent book .
Presently now as a binder, I am doing almost 77% of my technical work under one roof, which gives me the option of doing either heat or cold lamination. I have recently developed another way of getting the cold gum binding done within twelve hours or even six hours by introducing a cold laminating system that does it faster alongside with a good trimmer that can trim well depending on your taste. However, l will advise any photographer that wants a unique job to give the binder time in order for the binder to be creative.
What are your recommendations for a photo book to last longer?
Before I went into professional photo book binding , I spent money to do six different kind of books and sent it to eateries where people came in, opened, and threw it around for six months, afterwards I collected them back and took notes on each of the look of the photo book. From my findings, I estimated averagely that thirty people opened and threw it around per day. These gave me a technical input of what to do to make a photobook last longer for any photographer.
Some photographers believe in voluminous photo books, I know of a friend who loves to do fifty spreads and for a book to last longer, 25 spreads is ideal, even if the client can’t pay and what you have done is like 4 combined books, we’ll take the pain to counsel the client, let the client know what’s going to happen if the book is voluminous. If you have 25 spreads for a 12 by 24 or 12 by 18, the binder will be creative enough to use some beautiful glue sheet media board within it to give a considerable size of photo book which is not too big and will last longer. If it is too weighty, the book tends to have problem at the groove. I would advise photographers to avoid voluminous photo book except the book/ sheet is very light. If the sheet is not light, then you should be using a photo paper. You shouldn’t exceed thirty spreads.
In this Industry, how can you make your product speak for you?
O.k! In terms of making your product speak for you, I’ve said this over time to photographers… I was a photographer before I joined the Binding business. To anybody that will listen or read this interview, I want you to know that success is not complete until you’ve raised another successor. For you to have success, you must teach your successors how to be unique. For example, if I enroll as a trainee with photographer A, and have undergone training with him over some couple of years, after graduation, I shouldn’t be shooting and packaging my product and services in similar ways as his. I should be different (unique).
In our company (Pro House), when we started out in photo book commercially, our carrier bag was different. Presently, we still have four brand new bags that has not been introduced to the market; the lesson here is that you must learn to be unique in the way you package, the way you shoot, your business card, the way you attend to your clients etc, should reflect your uniqueness. Its a vital requirement for any person who wants to standout in business.
There are some brands that have stood the test of time, once you see the colors and logos of such brands they stand out, you must learn to be unique. In today’s photo book business especially in this part of our world, if you place ten different photo books down and our work is also placed alongside the others, a client who does photo book in Lagos can identify easily the one done in Pro House. Presently, I am working on a full “picture bag” photo book binding that will have the picture of the client on it, and the photographer’s logo on the bag too.
What will be the cause of a binder doing an imperfect Jobs?
To be honest, you can’t give out what you do not have. I must give kudos to all binders who work in this part of the world particularly in Lagos. I was on facebook sometimes ago and stumbled over a guy (an Italian) based in U.S. He engaged me in discussion to find out what I do, I told him what I do and mailed him some pictures of what I had done.