There was no great plan or ‘skeleton’ of my book. In about the year 2004 I began to collect images and categorised them into various aspects of life in Lesotho; Transport, agriculture, industry etc.
These themes were all put together into a very rough mock-up.The software for this cost 12 quid in London. Being a trader at heart, my first thought was for sales material to help sell the project.
One miserable winter day in June 2009, having nothing better to do, I went to the book launch of “Then and Now”. This is an anthology of images taken before and after 1992 by South Africa’s top photographers. There I met the editor Riaan De Villiers, of Highveld Press. He edited that book and of course he knows all the contributing photographers. When I showed him my mock-up, he said that we must publish. We did, in November of that year. The skeleton may have appeared somewhere between these two events but it must still be locked in a cupboard.
We spent three months working on the layout of the book. A large amount of time and thought was spent on the format! The 2 dimensional proportions were discussed and thrashed around more that you would think is possible. Then the weight, the number of pages and therefore the number of images. After weeks of cross-thinking we were able to look at the selection of images. I think this was only in September and we had to be on the shelves in November! Riaan re-designed his office, juggled around his staff and installed special daylight balanced lighting so that we could re-grade all the “RAW” files of the images together and not farm out. He did most of it at night, un-disturbed by staff and the nuisance of light filtering in though special blinds had been installed for the project.
At last we could begin the final selection of images. We still had 200 (out of thousands) and needed to reduce the number to about 80. Pages, weight, rhythm, tedium attention span; I had no idea that these things were so important in a book of pictures. We took two weeks working with one of the top book designers in South Africa, Tim Sheasby, to put the book together and find it’s “handle”. Difficult to describe the feeling on that last day of October when the final Pdf file was set via FTP to Lawprint in Midrand. The excitement did not abate as Riaan and I visited the printer daily. We were to check each batch of “pulls”; the eight page – A1 sheets pulled from the giant off-set litho Leidenburg 12 station printing press. Each pull was carefully scrutinised by the master printer and checked in great detail. It appeared that Riaan grading of the images had been precise; only very slight adjustment of the “blacks” was required before the presses were set in motion for the main run.
A week later the first books were in our hands with that unmistakeable ‘fresh-off-the-press smell’.
Basotho People at Work was in the shops in November 2009, as planned.