a guest blog post by Cherry Potts
I’m standing in a photographer’s studio juggling a slightly too big pile of books and a picture of myself aged about seven. I’ve been here a while. The books have been splayed into a fan across my chest, piled on my head, held out earnestly like Oliver Twist asking for more, currently they are in the crook of my arm and I am asking Tom who else will be in his Outcome project. He is reeling off celebrities, mostly male, mostly white; and actually mostly young(ish), I am thinking who else I know who would meet his criteria. Mostly writers, that would make for a not terribly entertaining collection of pictures, given we are supposed to be embodying our professions or hobbies. So, why, the childhood photograph?
Outcome is Tom Dingley’s brain child, and at this point is entirely based online. His brilliantly simple idea is to take pictures of LGBT people with pictures of themselves as children to show how far they’ve come. The project is aimed at young people questioning their sexuality and the purpose is to show that they is, very emphatically, life after coming out.
What about physical exhibitions? I ask. We talk about galleries, and somewhere in the back of my mind, while Tom tries to get me to look like I enjoy having my photograph taken an idea forms, to be swiftly dismissed. What about a book?
Arachne is a very small outfit – basically me, and a couple of friends I call on for proofing and to help at events, and my long-suffering wife Alix, who does front of house when I don’t feel up to it, and reads in for shy authors. We’ve only ever published text based books, but I spend a lot of time thinking about cover designs, and we have had an art exhibition… no we can’t; we can’t afford the outlay for full colour – it’s too high a risk.
I talk to our printer. He doesn’t do colour. That settles it. But then, he knows someone who could… the samples are awful. No we aren’t doing it. I talk paper stock with a number of other printers. They obviously think I’m mad, and a couple of quotes send me reeling in shock.
I talk to some more printers, I hold paper stock over pictures and discard sample after sample. Can we really afford this?
But then, it’s no good, I email Tom.
We talk to an art college about exhibition space, for the launch they can’t help, but we suddenly realise we might not have to pay for exhibition space- not everywhere at least, and that the show should go on the road.
So, if we do this book, I say to Tom, as we wait for the bus, wondering where in the UK to take the exhibition, we need lots more pictures and we have to sort out the gender imbalance, and the race imbalance, and the age imbalance, and where are the transpeople?
We’ll have to crowdfund, I say, as the 68 pulls up Are you up for helping? We’ve done a crowdfund before, twice. The first time we didn’t get the money, the second time we did, just. So I’m used to the process. I MAKE Tom speak on camera, he hates it. We set up the crowd fund. Money starts coming in. A LOT of money starts coming in – Do you think this guy hit an extra zero by accident? We email each other at 6 one morning, but no, we have our target in a matter of days. Do I think this book might sell? Do I!
We raise more than twice what we need, and start talking about the travelling exhibition. Tom hits the targets I gave him for numbers of photos, and we spend hours poring over little prints on my table, working out who goes in and who doesn’t, and the order of the pictures. HOURS!
We go to look at the gallery at University of Greenwich, and they remember Tom who did his degree there. It becomes clear they are very keen to have the launch at the gallery. We have lots of meetings, while I stave off the worst throat infection I’ve had for years, and try to say as little as possible. We agree an astonishingly detailed and exciting programme of events. Now we just need those books.
Steep Learning Curve – a phrase that was invented with me in mind. I know how to typeset a book, of course I do… but a photographic book? I’m back to first principles: different page layouts, no page numbers, working out the bleed actually matters! Some of the pictures don’t readily fit the format, to my horror stray elements repeat themselves on the opposite page, people’s fingertips go missing, and emails are sent saying strange things like – does the original file have more leg?
It takes several goes to get it right, and the printers do me a sample on the paper I’ve asked for, which looks – alright. I chase Tom for files of higher Resolution, and then we finally send the files – and no, it still isn’t right when we get the proofs. Kind printer talks me through what is going wrong and I resend the files trembling with anxiety. We are now a week behind schedule.
Alix and I go on holiday. I need that holiday! The books are due for delivery the week of our return. Then, a phone call. How many did I need right away? Because there is a stray intermittent fault – a mark on random pages, and they are doing a 100% check, but can only guarantee to deliver a proportion by the due date. We are now going to be two weeks behind schedule, possibly 3, and the launch has to be when we’ve planned it:, the University are sorted, rooms are booked, lighting effects agreed, miles of rainbow ribbon purchased… and anyway, it coincides with International Coming Out Day.
The advance copies for reviewers and crowd funders and the launch arrive and … It’s gorgeous. I hardly dared hope they would look this good.
Will the bulk arrive at the distributors in time? Will the distributors get them out to Waterstones in Greenwich who are stocking for the duration of the exhibition?
We’ll have to wait and see!
OUTCOME: LGBT portraits by Tom Dingley is published by Arachne Press.
The exhibition is at The Heritage Gallery, University of Greenwich, Old Naval College, Park Row, SE10 9LS 10-14th October 10am-5pm except Monday 10th 10am-4pm http://alumni.gre.ac.uk/outcome/