I grew up surrounded by cats, dogs and horses, in a household where stray animals from the streets would come and go as we looked for safe homes for them. Animal Soul, which is the first of hopefully many similar installments, is a culmination of thousands of kilometers and many months of preparation, photographing, sorting, editing, designing and thinking.
Animal Soul is a carefully curated collection of close and personal dog and cat portraits. I look for hints of truth in the photographs I make, and I have found that this is surprisingly accessible with animals. The reason for this is that I don’t believe animals understand what a camera is. As a result, they don’t behave the way we do when faced with a camera. They don’t adjust themselves, turn to their good sides, pull a prepared face, or hide anything. What’s left is a truly honest moment between them and the camera.
I am often asked how I capture the personalities of the animals I photograph. I honestly don’t know if that’s what I am doing. I can never say with certainty who an animal is, I don’t think anybody can. What I can do however is capture a photograph that hides nothing, yet leaves everything to the imagination. Once I have made portrait, I don’t necessarily need the image to be about the specific animal, but rather a representation of them. What I mean by this is that I want people to see something they can relate to in these photos, and perhaps make up their own stories about who the animals are. I love showing my work to my little nephews and nieces because they say things like, “This one’s a princess! She has a huge castle and a beautiful voice!” or “This guy is thinking really hard about what he wants to eat.”
Call me traditional, but I still believe that the ultimate form a photograph can take is on paper. We can scroll through images on our phones and computers, but they will never carry the same gravity as when we can feel the paper it is printed on.
I am self publishing Animal Soul for the same reason most artists self publish. I want to be in total control of the creative process. I dabbled with the idea of teaming up with a book designer, but I knew that my workflow was such a mess that, at least for my first book project, this would pose problems. I bought dozens of books, studied for months on the best ways to prepare a project like this, and ultimately went about it myself. Aside from the editing of the written text, I have put together every element of this book, and it is ready to be printed.
It was very important for me to keep the book inexpensive. I want Animal Soul to be accessible to all, and by keeping the price fair I feel it gives the project far more reach.
By pledging this project, you will be part of something that you carry with you for years to come. Photos on the internet will come and go, but this book will sit nicely on your shelves and tables. Not only that, it wouldn't happen were it not for you. This is something truly special and unique to crowdfunding platforms.
Currency conversions are estimates based on the rates of 19 January: £1 : €1.31 : $1.43
Robert’s photographs surprise me, they intrigue me, and most of all, they give me pause. I have found that there are two distinct moments that occur when looking at them. The first is the natural glance. The moment we register what the photo is, and then continue to the following page. The second moment, and the one in which these photos carry their weight, is the instance where we’ve lost our desire to discover what lies on the next page and instead stare at the photo staring back at us. It is that very moment where we realise that the word ‘dog’ and the word ‘cat’ no longer play a role in our experience of the photograph. The very subject of ‘animal photos’ is one that almost by definition is consumed in short, bite-sized and share-sized portions. This is where these photographs give me pause, here I begin to realise how unfamiliar these photographs are to me. How distant I have grown to losing myself to something of this nature, without any desire to look past to what comes next. As I look through this series, I often lose myself in the idea that I am standing still and looking at something so familiar, as if I have never seen it before. I can safely say that after having studied this collection, it is difficult to look at dogs and cats in the way I did before. I grew up with animals yet still, I look at these photos and I can't help but feel as though I have only grazed the surface. When I see a dog or cat, I catch myself imagining what a portrait of them would yield, what a frozen instant under the right circumstances could tell us. I look at the animals and I wonder, who are they?
Robert manages to find a profound and quiet respect for his subjects, and this echoes through every single photograph in this book. We are put into a position in which we stand eye to eye with the animals that normally walk by our feet, yet it is not uncomfortable. It is in fact wonderfully heartwarming.
I have been with Robert from the very first photo of this series. Although it seems as though this series happened accidentally, especially based on how he tells it, it had been brewing for a long time. Robert has incredible respect, patience, and fascination for animals. He carries this calming aura around him that animals seem to be drawn to, and I’m convinced this plays a great part in his work. He describes his ultimate beauty to rest in the quiet, simple moments, and he sees these moments in a way only he does. This series is not about dogs diving under water, or cats sitting on computer keyboards, which are valuable projects in their own right. It is just about the animals, and nothing else. Sitting still, doing nothing, and that is it. Yet despite how simple of an idea this may seem, to my knowledge there has not been another series of photos like this. The photographs hide so little yet at the same time, leave everything open to the imagination.
To leave you with just a few words. Give these photographs the time. Come back to them. Again, and then again. I promise, you will find something new every time you open these pages. Because, after all, how often do we look back at the same photographs we claim to have already seen?
- 30x30x±3cm (Depth to be confirmed after final print)
- 220 Pages ±2kg (4lbs) (To be confirmed after final print)
- 140+ Photographs, both full bleed and with passe-partout.
- Hardcover / clothbound with Dustjacket
- Four colour press
- CM Silk 170 gsm semi-matte paper
- Printed on FSC Certified sustainable paper
- Printed and shipped from Belgium
- 50% - Printing - This includes proofing, binding, finishing and everything else. I opted for a printer in Belgium for two reasons. I would like to be present for the printing process and I want to be able to meet the hardworking people who are making my book.
- 30% - Shipping - This is the estimate based on the traffic that flows into my website www.robbahou.com.
- 5% - Packaging - This involves shrink-wrapping the books, purchasing the boxes for distribution, packing each order and renting a truck to bring the books from place to place.
- 5% - Kickstarter Fee - The fee kickstarter takes for hosting a project.
- 10% - Unforseen Costs - This is the insurance. All the costs above are bona fide generous estimates, however I am accounting for the fact that things do go wrong, and I would like to make sure they don't.
- Leftover funds will go towards upscaling the initial order of books from the printer. I.e. Instead of ordering say, 500, I order 750, which I will subsequently sell from my website.
In regard to the last two perks, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org before pledging.
If you want to order in bulk, please get in touch with me as well. The shipping cost varies per shipment, but I haven’t accounted for bulk shipments in the perks selections.
Risks and challenges
This is my first book and I am new to the world of publishing and distribution. I’m diving into the deep end, but I am quite certain that everything has been neatly prepared. I have worked out a deal with a fantastic printer in Belgium to print the first copies. Once the order goes through it’ll take about a month to print and bind. I want it all to be ready to ship by around April 2016, but I’m setting the delivery date for May to absolutely make sure that I will be able to fulfil the orders on time.
Most art books of the same size and quality (actual print quality) can easily go for triple the price. I tried to keep the price as low as possible to account for the fact that shipping is by no means inexpensive. This is the best quote I could get for the volume I expect to move. I unfortunately don't have the distribution network of the big booksellers who don't need to charge much for shipping.
From the get go I was planning on funding the project myself, but this has proven to be quite a stretch, so this is why I have chosen to try kickstarter. I have set my funding goal for the minimum amount required to supplement my own investment to get the book produced and shipped to you. I’m very thankful that there are options like kickstarter out there, to support the smaller players like me.
Considering that I expect the book to be ordered from various places, it makes setting a funding goal a little bit complicated. Shipping to Belgium, The Netherlands, France and the surrounding countries is about €8, whereas shipping to the US and most other countries in the world is about €22. What this means is that the amounts pledged towards the book will vary tremendously by who is ordering. Ultimately, I have set the goal to assume for 50% international and 50% local, and any discrepancies will be financed by myself.
The book has been completely designed and prepared. I’m embarking on a few more shoots to solidify the collection, but other than some text editing, it’s ready. I have produced and printed three drafts so far, and each one has taken major steps closer towards the final product. My most recent draft is about 80% of what I imagine the book to be. This is the one you see in the video and in the product images.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (33 days)