The creative process that happens behind-the-scenes of a photograph can be almost as beautiful as the final end product. Those first thoughts, notes, sketches and test shots tell a whole story by themselves and are a joy to look at. This article will discuss three books on (photographers’) sketchbooks or visual journals.
Creative process and visual journals
Last week, I wrote about how titles can enhance people’s appreciation for your photography. Similarly, I believe that seeing a photographer’s visual sketchbook or journal with their behind the scenes processes can do the same. It can enrich your knowledge on the photographer’s work and ideas and thus heighten your appreciation for their finished end products.
Even without seeing the final end product, however, looking at these visual journals can be a very enjoyable activity in itself. It is fascinating to see how people are working on their own creative processes, in their own unique way.
Seeing how other people conceptualise their projects, build from their ideas and work through them is a valuable learning school. Compared to specific techniques or finished photographs, this aspect seems to be less often documented on the internet or in photography courses.
Therefore, in this article, I am sharing three books that show these behind-the-scenes processes and can inspire you to start your own visual journal, sketchbook or photography playbook.
Sketchbooks: The hidden art of designers, illustrators and creatives
Sketchbooks: The hidden art of designers, illustrators and creatives is the first general book I bought on this subject.
I went through a period of visual journaling before getting interested in photography. I still own a box with books filled with snapshot pictures, articles, quotes, texts, drawings and paint.
During that time, I got this book highlighting sketchbook creations by designers, illustrators and other creatives. The book shows spreads out of different sketchbooks from a total of 41 creatives. Accompanying the visual material is a short bio of the artist and their personal thoughts on the subject of sketchbooks.
Some use collages, others keep it simple using only a black pen, some are wildly colourful and playful, others stick to a minimalist look. Amazing how many different end results can come out of a simple blank page in a notebook.
Arja Hyytiäinen – Cahiers 2002-2011
While the first book was about creative people in general, the second book comes from one specific photographer: Arja Hyytiäinen.
In the spring of 2014, I went on a train trip through some European countries. I brought a small analog camera with me to collect memories. At that time, I didn’t know anything about art photography, hadn’t followed any courses etc. In one of my last stops, beautiful Ljubljana, I walked into a photography gallery and had a look at the books.
There, I got intrigued by a small booklet by Finnish photographer Arja Hyytiäinen titles Cahiers 2002-2011. On the backside: the following quote:
I want to document the fragments, the inner visions. Images that haut and save. Hands carrying fava beans as corpses. An image as a whisper. Timelessness as the measure. Fictional and self experienced.
Inside the book, a beautiful chaos of thoughts, plans, memories and random words were written down in Finish or English, accompanied by drawings, sketches and photographs.
For some reason, this small intimate visual documentation of a stranger’s life and creations moved me more than all the other photobooks. So this collection of Arja Hyytiäinen’s visual journal pages was the first ‘photobook’ I bought.
Finally, the latest addition to my sketchbook books collection came later, when I had already found my passion in photography and others became aware of that. For my birthday two years ago, I received a big book called Photographers’ sketchbooks.
The set-up is similar to the sketchbooks book, but now the focus was on photographers. How do photographers conceptualise their projects or sketch their visual ideas? A total of 43 photographers and their visual behind the scenes processes found their way to the book, resulting in 319 pages including as much as 520 illustrations.
Among them, some names were familiar to me, such as Saul leiter, Visiane Sasse, Alec Soth and Daisuke Yokota. Others, such as Naoya Hatakeyama and Eric William Carroll, I didn’t know, but I found myself very inspired looking at their projects.
This book is still very inspirational to me. Every time I flip through it, I notice new aspects or photographers I overlooked before. Every time I get inspired again.
I hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse of these books. Do you own your own visual journal, sketchbook or logbook? If not, it might be time to start one and see what kind of new visual journeys will follow.