Messages, Visions and Dreams by Mark Caceres
I am a big fan of accordion fold books and am always on the lookout for ones that take advantage of this structure to tell their story. Messages, Visions, and Dreams by Mark Caceres is a terrific example utilizing strong, shadowy images printed in a super-deep black on both sides of the page (a must). Read on to find out more about Mark’s process and inspiration for creating this textless photobook.
-Teresa Burk, Head Librarian, ACA Library, SCAD Atlanta
Teresa: Tell me a little about the project, was it always conceived as a book? Print process, paper choice, editioned?
One day I drove by a small church near my home and noticed members of the congregation outside dressed in long white vestments which reminded me of African religious practices I had seen in Brazil. I introduced myself to the pastor and asked if I could photograph during the services. I photographed periodically at the weekly Sabbath services during 2014 and 2015. Initially, I had no idea how the project would develop and I certainly did not have any clear conception of presenting the work in book form. I only knew that I wanted to make images that were not grounded in the reality of the events taking place in the church. In other words, I tried to steer clear of a traditional photojournalistic narrative. As the project evolved, I focused on this question: How do we find meaning in the chaos of life when rational thought does not provide answers? The title Messages, Visions and Dreams came from the name of the part of the Sabbath service in which members of the congregation recount dreams or visions for the pastor to interpret.
Only in 2016 did I begin to think seriously about creating a book after having some brief conversations with David Carol and Eliot Dudik at the Slow Exposures Festival.
The printing choices were made pragmatically. I wanted the print quality to be similar to my inkjet prints with very deep blacks and an ethereal quality in the images, so I chose a double sided matte paper stock from Red River Paper and printed the panels myself on an Epson photo printer. Since the book is essentially still a maquette, it is not currently editioned.
Teresa: How did you decide on the accordion format? Was it challenging to print? Anything you would do differently?
I chose an accordion format because I wanted one side of images somewhat grounded in reality and the other side more mysterious and surreal. I wanted the viewer to move from a fixed and somewhat recognizable reality and then gradually travel deeper and deeper into the realm of the subconscious.
The printing was challenging in terms of having full bleed images whose borders conform exactly to the creases of the accordion on both sides. Controlling the skew of the paper as it printed was the biggest challenge, but the placement of the seams (each book consists of three long sheets of paper glued together) was also problematic.
The book in its current form will need some tweaking. I may apply a protective spray to the panels to minimize scratching and smudging of the ink and paper and possibly select a different paper stock for the cover since the present paper I’ve used for the cover doesn’t crease cleanly. An elastic band to hold the book flat may also be used.
Teresa: Did you show the book to the congregation? What was their reaction?
The book is a very recent creation and still a work in progress, so the congregation has not seen it yet. I have, however, given them prints of photos made while working on the project. The prints were received positively, but they were seen primarily as a literal document of church activities.
Teresa: How does this photo book fit into your artistic/photo practice?
Books are my favorite way to view photography, not only because of their tactile quality, but because the artist can control the sequence in which the photos are viewed and create a visual syntax through the pacing and arrangement of the images. The judicious addition of text also can add depth of meaning and context.
Since I am drawn to images that are puzzling and open to multiple interpretations, the design of the photobook gives clues that the viewer can use to create some sort of narrative.
Teresa: Is book making a new direction for you? If so, what would you like pursue next or what are you working on now?
Yes, book making is something new for me and I see this project as a way to present my work more coherently and thoughtfully. The process of editing, designing, sequencing, choosing materials, and construction is endlessly fascinating and gives me a greater appreciation for photography as an art form.
In terms of photo books, I plan to continue refining Messages, Visions and Dreams and then produce a small number of books, perhaps 50. I am also currently working with one of my mentors, noted photographer Jeff Jacobson, on a book with the working title Dreaming America. The book will require a few more years of shooting and will feature color images made throughout the United States. The project will explore themes of politics, race, religion, and nationalism. A short edit can be viewed on my website.
Teresa: What are some photobooks that have influenced you?
Many of the photobooks that have influenced me the most were created by my mentors. Bazan Cuba by Italian photographer Ernesto Bazan is by far the most thought provoking and poetic photographic exploration of life in Cuba after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Chip Simone’s book Chroma presents seductive color images framed in surprising compositional forms. Another book I return to often is Jeff Jacobson’s Melting Point, which presents the state of our world through his mastery of the surreal and the ironic. All of these books have thoughtful sequencing and appealing design which strengthens the impact of the work.
Messages, Visions and Dreams was influenced primarily by three photobooks. The accordion structure of the book owes much to Laura El-Tantawy’s Post-Script. The presentation of enigmatic, monochrome images with deep blacks in Astres Noirs by Katrin Koenning and Sarker Protik was a great inspiration, as was Far Cry by Portuguese photographer Paulo Nozolino.