Handcrafted Modern Europe: At Home with Midcentury Designers is the working title for a new book with all original photography of the homes and studios of thirteen of the most notable European architects and designers of the Mid Twentieth Century. I see homes as a portrait of their inhabitants, so I photograph each space with an eye not only to the architecture, design and wide views of the rooms, but also the small quiet moments that reveal these creative people's character. Some homes are well known house museums, like Alvar Aalto’s house in Helsinki, Finland. Others are homes that have been kept in tact by the family who has inherited the house, like Bruno Mathsson’s home in Varnamo, Sweden, and still others are inhabited by the designer themselves, like Gae Aulenti’s apartment in Milan, Italy. In the interest of keeping some of the designers and architects under wraps until publication, I am only sharing a few of the houses here. But you can look at my blog (www.lesliewilliamsonphoto.blogspot.com) from April thru September of 2012 and get a heck of a lot of hints!
So that is my project in a nutshell, but the backstory is a bit more involved.
To talk about Handcrafted Modern Europe, I have to go back to 2005. It was then that this work all started with a list - for me it was a dream list. On it were all the homes of architects, designers, and artists that inspired me and whose homes I was curious about. Some I had seen before in magazines or books (but I wanted to see more…), and some I didn’t know if they still existed, I just hoped they did. That list became a book project in 2006 when I started photographing the houses on my list in fits and starts over the next 5 years. Because I was doing it with my own money, it quickly became a book of houses only in the United States. The result was Handcrafted Modern: At Home with Mid Century Designers which was published by Rizzoli in October of 2010. The first printing sold out in three months and has gone on to sell incredibly well and develop a beautiful following of admirers interested in the same beauty, design, craftsmanship and humanity that I am. There has been much written about Handcrafted Modern, including pieces in the NYTimes, LA Times, and Wallpaper among others. Last year there was even a cover story on my book in the Japanese magazine Casa Brutus. I am grateful to say it continues to sell really well.
Along the road of photographing these homes I realized two very important things. The first was that I would never stop doing this work because it gives me joy. There is nothing on this planet I would rather be doing than photographing these homes and sharing them with all of you. The second thing I realized was that I had better hurry up because the Mid Twentieth Century designers and architects that I loved so much are quickly disappearing and their homes with them. If these designers are still alive, they are in their 80’s or 90’s at this point. Even the house museums tend to change and evolve over time and move away from how the space truly was when the designer lived there.
So with a sense of urgency, I started planning the European book in mid 2011. I heard myself saying “I’m shooting the European book in spring 2012” and from there I have just plowed ahead. I knew that this new book would have to be different from Handcrafted Modern from a financial standpoint because the fact is I am still paying for HCMod rather than making money from it. Many people are shocked by this, but the fact is, these types of book – with all original photography – are costly to make and take time. I don’t have a team of researchers helping me or an assistant to travel with, I am a one man band. That means nights, weekends, every free moment I can find goes into working on this book. It is a joy but also a tricky financial situation. Even with an amazing publisher like Rizzoli to publish the book and a nice advance, I knew it wouldn’t be enough. The advance ran out about 2/3 of the way through my second trip in Europe. Just to give you some raw numbers, to photograph the Alvar Aalto house alone cost about $3000. I have shot 15 houses so far of which 13 will appear in the book.
Why I Need Kickstarter Funding
So here I am in the home stretch. I have a deadline impending and basically have to make this book my full time job for the next few months just to turn it in on time. There is a lot of work ahead, with writing the book, perfecting the image edit of the chapters, making final match prints, etc. My goal of $41,000 will get me to the finish line.
Here is a loose breakdown of how the money will be spent.
- Travel expenses - $12,500 (This includes everything from airfare, baggage fees, accommodations, food, trains, cabs, gasoline, rental cars, you name it. Travel in this day and age is expensive!!)
- Post production costs – $9,400 (A lot of things get rolled into this number but it is basically me prepping and printing images, making them perfect and writing the book. This includes lab time, paper, final image prep, house artwork permissions, etc. But mainly it takes time...lots of time.)
- Kickstarter Rewards and postage - $15,000 (a lot of money, but I have to buy the books from my publisher. Even at my discount, it adds up!)
- Amazon/KS’s cut - $4000 Kickstarter and Amazon payments both take about a 5% cut.
So many beautiful projects have been seen to fruition through the help of all you lovely Kickstarter supporters and I hope mine will be one of them. As I figure it, I need to pre-sell 410 books to make my goal – all books will be autographed to you by me. If I exceed my goal, all the extra money will go towards continuing to photograph the homes of the Mid Twentieth Century designers. I still have two more books of this to do - one in South America and one in Asia, so I have my work cut out for me and I am thrilled for it. I hope you all will decide to come along with me and help in this project. I share my journey in images on my blog at www.lesliewilliamsonphoto.blogspot.com . You can go there to see previews of the book, images from my iPhone that I shot as I was on the road, and some of the trials and tribulations that go along with doing such a big project virtually solo. And of course there will be updates on this Kickstarter and the project as I work towards publication. I am excited to share the process of making this book with all of you!
A special thank you to Greg Tuzin for making this wonderful video and to George McCalman for connecting us.The beautiful music you hear is Cowgirl from Torey's Distraction by the Album Leaf. If you aren't familiar with them, treat yourself to a longer listen. thealbumleaf.com
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge with projects like these is always money. With my Kickstarter goal met, I see no obstacles to bringing this book to publication. I have a publisher in place and an estimated publication date of Spring 2014.
Because I do the lion's share of the work (the design of the actual book I don't do), I guess I could get sick and there could be a delay for that reason. I am only human after all...
The absolute worst case scenario is that I lose my publisher. But since my first book is still selling out of stores, I am confident that won't happen.
I see this book being published on time and your rewards sent in a timely manner, but whatever happens, know that I will keep you updated the whole way through.
- (35 days)