About this project
THE HOME STRETCH!!!
IMAGES ... From the Ashes - by Billy Blake
"Interpretive photography by a master; his work with both shades of grey and brightness of color speaks for itself," - Glen Miles, art collector and dealer ... "Blake's photographic artistry is undeniable," - Bob Ore, gallery owner ... "I marveled at his work 40 years ago, one of the best with light and color," - Don Wilson, gallery owner ... "Seventy years in the making. I know I've bugged him for at least 30," - Preston Fischer, TV producer ... "A lot of photography captures beauty, Blake's is also interesting and sure looks great on a wall. I was saddened at his loss. This book will be triumphant for him," - Tom Avitable, producer/director ... "Only a few modern photographers of his acclaim can be said to have never compiled a book. It's about time!" - the whole team at Pacific Art ... "I've known Billy forever and saw some of the first photos he ever took. I was blown away. Art is often subjective, but Billy always gives the viewer layers and dimension." - Richard Donner, producer/director, in an interview with The Malibu Times
I am Billy Blake and I am humbled by the comments of friends and peers, though not so humbled as to not include them. In fact, this whole process is humbling, but I am loving it. After all - I have to be one of the few resident senior citizens on kickstarter :) I am seeking funds for a book of my photography and several gallery exhibitions featuring works from that book. This book will contain my finest images, over 150 photos of varying styles and subjects, including select re-creations (and storyline) of some of my early work, whose negatives were sadly destroyed in a horrific Malibu fire in 2008.
Every book will be a hand-signed, numbered, and limited edition - beautiful, hard-cover coffee table book. And except for a few books I will keep for galleries and personal, I will offer the opportunity for obtaining additional copies of the book ABOVE AND BEYOND the rewards, exclusively to backers, at ANY level $20 and above. I'll have to determine how many, and what the formula is, after the project closes.
I am 71. I have resided in Southern California since 1995. My lifelong passion for photography dates way back to my youth in New York. In my youth as a NYC street photographer, I shot John Lennon (a magical afternoon), Woody Allen (he was funny back then), and many others. But I didn't feel I was producing art. As I completed my education and began to hone my own style, I learned to seek and shoot people, objects, and scenes that carried more personal meaning; I began to give these images my own interpretation. My photography has been featured in over 30 gallery exhibitions and I've received a measure of positive acclaim. I can't really say why I never compiled a book, despite much urging of friends and associates. I think the process of doing it seemed daunting. But I made plans to finally do so in 2008 and those plans were laid to waste, literally, when a fire attacked and consumed my home. I lost so much, including over 90% of my first 30 years of images. I wallowed for a bit, but thankfully soon rose above the despair, and set upon the task of re-creating the lost images most dear to me; to do it right, this took years.
I hope that you can take the time to read the more complete story, below.
I have separated the rest of this narrative into 5 parts so you can easily scroll up and down to the parts that matter to you most; these are: Background; Project Specifics - Budget and Goals; My Photography; The Story; and About Me.
BACKGROUND: I am a photo-holic who got hooked on photography at a young age. Over time, my work became well received. I was featured in many public showcases and one-man gallery exhibitions, and my photographs hang on some pretty impressive walls. Despite the prodding of many close to me, I never compiled and published a collection ... until now.
A 50-year library would naturally include many works from the pre-digital "film age". In 2008, I dedicated my basement to the arduous task of finally digitizing this work. I spent countless hours getting it done. On July 3, 2008, I awoke in the middle of the night to a raging fire. There was no time for anything but survival. Later that morning, my basement was no more; a couple of hours after that, the house had burned completely to the ground. (See "The Story", below).
I passed through self-pity and despondency. I had lost all my possessions - being uninsured like a fool. But truthfully - truthfully - only the loss of the 30 years of non-digitized photos and their negatives mattered. It's how I defined myself. So it was like I lost a piece of myself.
Thankfully, I was soon able to channel the anger into defiance, and I picked myself up, as if to rise from those ashes (metaphorically speaking). I spent the next several years faithfully re-creating some of my most cherished lost photographs, tapping into memory and soul. I am proud to present them in this - my first-ever book, accompanied by narrative, along with many other photographs they've inspired.
The title - IMAGES ... From the Ashes - relates both to the fire that destroyed decades of my life's work, as well as my resolve to "rise above it".
I've shared some of the story in the video, and in far greater detail below.
PROJECT SPECIFICS - BUDGET AND GOALS: The monies I seek to raise ($24,000) will allow me to reach these goals: to complete the compilation and publishing/printing of a very special limited-run collector's edition version of the book, AND to produce larger-scale renderings and didactic panels necessary for three featured gallery exhibitions showcasing work from the book.
BOA Gallery in West Hollywood has graciously committed to hosting the initial month-long exhibition. After the LA showcase, I've also got gallery commitments in New York and Toronto. (I sometimes think forward to that Opening Night gala at BOA, and feel that it will be THE crowning validation of a heartfelt process. I cannot wait; hope you can make it.)
If we exceed targeted funds, I will tour the live exhibition to additional cities, and perhaps exhibit at a few juried fine arts festivals. And if I need to print more books, I will - BUT - I will not print nor number more collector's edition copies - this is a finite, limited run, forever. I will add more definitive "stretch goals" after we see how it progresses.
The book will be high quality, hard cover, coffee table variety; 9 x 12 page size, horizontal; there will be 12 sections (or categories) overall, such as Light Studies and Abstracts; one of 10 re-imagined photos (or re-creations) will lead each of the first 10 sections with storyline text about each; it will be approximately 112 pages; there will be some additional narrative at the end of each section because I want to share my work in the context of my story, which is largely what this is about. The printing will be in the U.S.
The budget includes: approximately $9,000 for a press run of 300 high quality books - again, each of them hand-signed and numbered; $2,800 to reimburse my awesome team of copywriter ($1,000); graphic designer ($1,200), and videographer ($600) - thanks so much, guys, for working with me on the come; $4,000 for the production needed for the initial gallery showcase; $1,500 for each of the other two showcases (mostly covering cost of travel as I anticipate sales from the first showcase - which is in my hometown of LA - to offset the production costs needed for the second and third showcases). The rest of the budget covers kickstarter fees, Amazon fees, miscellaneous fulfillment costs, shipping, and a small contingency.
I have indicated on some tiers that shipping will be included within the U.S. only, while I added new tiers with global shipping; however I do encourage non-U.S. persons thinking of backing to reach out to me to discuss.
Below is more about my photography, with samples. After that is the more detailed story which has spawned this project.
My earliest work was often defined by overlapping shades of grey, and early reviewers commented favorably on the clarity I was able to garner from dark grey images taken close to dusk.
THE STORY: On July 3, 2008, I awoke in the middle of the night with a start. To this day, I don’t know if I heard something, smelled something, or maybe it was just simply one of those eerie premonitions that comes from a place all its own. There was an orange glow. And while we had experienced many shades of the color orange since Peggy and I made our home renting a modest place on the beautiful Malibu beachfront, I never before saw orange at 3:30AM, that's for sure! The orange began to dip and dive and I soon realized my neighbor’s house was fully ablaze. My first inclination when I see anything stark, significant or profound is to go get my camera to document the moment. I thought about it, but no way - there was no time. I heard the fire crackle as it quickly headed in our direction. I woke up Peggy, she grabbed the dog and we stopped for nothing. Less than a minute from the time I awoke, we opened the front door to exit, and thick grey smoke billowed and poured inside. We just closed our eyes, took a deep breath, and ran blindly through the smoke. We never came back. On the way out, there was a small bag, fortuitously left on the path to the front door, which contained disks comprising my digital library of photographs. I am thankful for that. But nothing else of any nature survived, and the basement was no more. The fire was fierce, destroying everything in its path. It even melted the computer hard drives. Peggy is the more grounded one of us, a practicing Buddhist. After months of kicking myself over the loss (and the insurance lapse, which buried me economically), she impressed upon me two things - that I should be thankful I had awakened when I did, and that I needed to stop feeling sorry myself and get "in the now" and do something proactive and constructive. I may not listen to reason right away, but I do eventually. :)
IMAGES … From the Ashes … pays homage to some of what was lost through its inclusion of select photographic re-imaginings. I took 10 photos that were most forever etched in my brain and heart, and did my best to faithfully duplicate their nature, import, and intent, and included a explanatory narrative about each. I call these the "Re-Creations". I then grouped other images based upon their categorical and inspirational relevance to each re-creation. Categories in this book include Decisive Moments, Reflections, Abstracts, Light Studies, and Favorites; each re-creation comes with a story; and each category concludes with further explanation and notes.
ABOUT ME: I have had a long career in entertainment (first in publishing and then in producing films - see BIO). I am the Einstein-like genius who conceived of a film where Sylvester Stallone would sing country (for which one critic said "I saw it on an airplane and walked out".) But nothing has ever fulfilled my innate desire to be creative and expressive like a camera. I recently turned 71 and while I am grateful for health, the love of a wonderful woman, two great kids, and three precious grandchildren, I am also one of those people who finds it difficult to sit idle. I am happiest when engaged in the processes of capturing moments and enhancing images. Through the 5 decades of my adult life, my photographs have mirrored my moods and perceptions, and told tales of my life experience. Then the fire happened, and you've read the rest by now.
So I'll just add this: This is the most personal work of any kind I have ever endeavored to compile. I feel it simultaneously presents my art while it also acknowledges a Great Paradox - that there is sometimes a futility to existence, yet against that futility, the indomitability of the human spirit can prevail - you just have to get out of your rut and give it a fighting chance. The re-created photographs come from memory and soul, and shepherding their evolution into a reborn reality has been cathartic and joyful for me. The added irony that I was finally compiling a book after decades of requests when the fire struck, makes me feel like this project somehow has meaning that transcends me. So I think that whereas other books may someday also present work, this book will always come closest to presenting life. I also like to think that maybe there is a moral here - not to wax sentimental or too much over the top - but I think there is truth to the fact that all physical possessions and manifestations are transient in the end, whereas our innermost thoughts, feelings and memories are forever.
Thank you again for sharing a slice of your valuable time.
Anyone wishing to comment or converse can find me at email@example.com.
Risks and challenges
I have truly done the leg work, and believe I can say with certainty that there are no prevalent risks and challenges not already overcome. The re-created photos are done - after 4 years they are "in the can", as they say. I have finished selecting and sequencing by category every photograph comprising the content of the book. Copy is mostly written. Design is mostly done. And - everything has been backed up, so even if mother nature wants to test me again with another one of its disasters, "hah!" - I will say, cause this time I've got it covered. The rewards I chose to offer are easy for me to deliver on time. The featured gallery exhibition at BOA is all set, and the galleries in New York and Toronto are happy to schedule me when I give them a range of dates. I really and truly don't foresee any complications.
Having said that, I have been in business a long time and I suppose it is only prudent to respect the adage "always expect the unexpected".
Finally - I am a stickler for communication, and I look forward to engaging backers and would-be backers on any subject related to the project, at any level, with answers to questions, discussions of rewards, or even pure chats. I will be accessible and responsive to all.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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