About this project
I have a real book in my hands now! Thank you all so much! If you're in the San Francisco area, please join me in celebrating the completion of funding this evening!
I have a hundred page photo album with nearly a thousand photos my great-grandfather Walter Koessler took in World War I. It's in pristine condition, beautifully preserved by my family over the last hundred years in Southern California. They've even saved the negatives– untouched, crisp and unfaded –and a box of stereographs from the war and the early 1900s.
This album is a real treasure. Trained as an architect and conscripted into the German Army directly from the classroom, Walter became an officer in the reserve artillery battalion and he took advantage of many unique opportunities to record his experience on film. He captured the haunting experience of building and living in the trenches, the sunlight pouring in through the broken windows of bombed churches, and the clouds through the wings of biplanes as an early aerial reconnaissance photographer. After moving to Los Angeles to work as an art director in films, Walter made this album. The story the book tells begins with a pack of young men playing at war and ends with their crushing realization of what war really means.
These photos have captivated me for nearly two years, even after paging through them hundreds of times. It's an unbelievable, rare and intimate story, a deep look into the first world war you can't find anywhere else.
The images deserve to be seen and appreciated in the context of their whole story. They're compelling on a digital screen, but having spent many hours with the originals, they are significantly better on the pages of a book you can explore as a physical object. If I can find enough supporters and meet a minimum order requirement for this ambitious project, I will create a book from this album at its original size with my notes in the margins so you can have this full experience with history too.
"When Dean first shared this discovery with me, I knew he'd found a rare family history treasure — but I don't think I, or he, or anyone realized at first what a treasure of shared world history this collection would turn out to be. It's such an amazing story: a time capsule from an ancestor, finding its way to the hands of a young man who works in the digital world. I'm glad Dean is able to preserve it, and I'm happy to see it shared with the world." - Xeni Jardin, Boing Boing
As seen in:
What I'm doing
I want you to experience this part of our shared history. I've done a lot of research about the photos in this book and Walter's journey. I even went to France to attempt recreating the photo above. This project means a lot to me and I've spent a lot of time working on it.
My goal is to scan and archive each image in the book, make an annotated version of it in its full form, and share that with all of you. I've already begun this process by posting some of the pages and their photos on Tumblr. I also want to print these images in a book roughly the size of the original, with space for my notes and closeups in the margins so I can share my research.
Digital images are neat because they don't take up space, you can zoom in closer than the eye can see, and they are easy to share. But the images in this book belong together, not separated or in a mishmash online. They deserved to be printed, held and spent time with. They're a priceless, rare look into forgotten age that you'll come back to again and again.
The book itself will be available in high resolution PDF form and as a high-quality offset printed, casebound 11"x17" coffee table book. I've rejected vanity press for this project because it's absurdly expensive at nearly $1 per page, and it greatly limits the sizes at which you can print. Each book would cost over $150 and the quality would not be worthy of Walter's work. I've begun researching the best ways to do photo printing, found a printer, priced it, checked paper samples, and begun laying out the book. These are going to be really beautiful prints, with a fold out page in the back for the large aerial panorama. A collector's item for sure and much higher quality than a vanity press could deliver. Here's a blank copy of the book's actual materials, this is the size and format I'm making it at:
I need supporters to help me approach a 1000 copy minimum order quantity so I can move forward. When ordering a book from the non-early bird levels, you'll also receive a print from one of the book's photos.
I'd also love to get people following along as I scan images so they can spot things I wouldn't normally see and share their expertise. The Internet has been invaluable in identifying military equipment, locations, people and much more. For backers $25 and above, you'll receive access to high resolution images of prints and negatives as I scan them so you can see my progress and pitch in if you'd like. Definitely get in on at least on this level, this stuff will knock your socks off.
The goal here is to have rewards dated for December 2013 in your hands before Christmas. I cannot guarantee that will happen (see Risks and Challenges section), but if I meet my funding goal I will do everything I can to meet this goal.
I hope that this project will make you consider the stories in your life. How do you create and record new ones? How do you review the ones you've already made? How do you preserve the stories from your family? Go make those stories something you can share, can't ignore or forget, and want to spend more time with.
High level rewards
For those of you particularly interested in early 20th century photography, military history or World War I specifically, I have some very special rewards for larger backers.
Walter took fifty nine stereoscopic photos throughout the war. These show military equipment, biplanes, and possibly a crucifixion in 3D when seen through the proper viewer. I'm planning to make classic View-Masters and reels of the best ones to make viewing these images easy and fun! You'll also receive digital versions of the stereograms in anaglyph magenta/cyan and side-by-side formats. I'm expecting to be able to include four reels of six images for each backer here, but I may be able to make more if there are enough backers at this level. Here's an example of one of the 3D photos as an animated GIF:
Triptychs or panorama
These photos are incredibly detailed, and as I've been scanning the prints and negatives I've found nuances and hidden bits you can't see in a small image. Walter took photos that tell stories, and I'm curating a few triptychs for this. These may change in the future as I find more negatives, but here are some mockups of possibilities. You'll receive options from me if you back at this level.
The back of the book will include a fold out copy of this aerial panorama Walter took, with annotations of trench and front positions. This reward level will have an option to receive a print of this panorama instead of a triptych. The book board will be removed in this image.
Prints from the original negatives
I've started experimenting with printing photos in the darkroom using traditional photo enlarging and processing techniques from the original negatives I have, and the results so far are exciting.
As I work with these images, get better and larger paper, and learn more about enlarging them, these photographs are only going to bring you closer to the day they were shot. Walter's negatives are pristine and clear, and he took many wonderful photos. Printed large, they show details you just can't see with the naked eye.
I won't be making many prints. The negatives are nearly a hundred years old now, and I'd really like to put them back in storage. But for the few of you who want a beautiful and rare art print from the original negative, this is a great opportunity to get one made for you. Few people have negatives from this era, and I doubt anyone besides me is crazy enough to actually print from them now. Sizes to be determined, but at least 8x10, and I will provide a series of images for you to choose from.
Visit from me, showing of all the materials, and discussion
I want to make these photos available for the hardcore enthusiasts to see first hand. It's so much fun sharing the story and images with people, and I could talk all day to the ones who are most interested. So let's do that.
At the highest tier, I'll fly out to your gallery, museum, club or organization with all the materials I have. We can spend a day discussing them and going through everything. I've limited this to five so that I can prevent undue stress on the album and materials, but I've priced it relatively low so that small but determined clubs still have a chance of organizing a meeting. Can't wait to meet you!
Risks and challenges
This is my first Kickstarter. It's been a long time in the making because I believe this is a deeply important thing to share and share right. Here are some points I expect may present challenges and how I intend to reduce the risk behind them.
I have never written or published a complete book before. Fortunately I am getting excellent advice from print designers and publishers who do this regularly. Since I work for major online publishers (boingboing.net, Kevin Kelly and others), many of my friends have made books and print products before, and the printer I've chosen comes highly recommended by the publisher of Coilhouse Magazine, so I'm confident that I'm in good hands. I've already begun the layout of the book, received financial quotes and checked paper samples. I've set out a timeline from now until I plan to ship, and I'm ready to commit to it. I've given myself a substantial time buffer between each stage of the process to prepare for things going wrong.
I expect shipping physical product to have some unforeseen hangups. I have first-hand experience in seeing this done, but I have not done it myself. I've consulted with experts in retail shipping to make sure my timeline and goals are reasonable. International shipping is particularly risky and troublesome, but I've already begun pricing it out and preparing for it. I am hiring help with packing and shipping once the books arrive to make sure this goes smoothly.
Printing large numbers of photos is new to me. I've priced this out, done test prints, and begun learning more about printing from negatives. I've got experience printing high quality photographs, and I've connected with SF Photoworks to print the reward images. I've done test prints at RayKo Photo and I'll be working with them to create the best traditionally processed prints from the negatives I can. I've been working with photos for years, but I've never printed them in large quantities, so this is an area I'm actively learning more about to get the best results.
Although unexpected production challenges will undoubtedly arise, I've spent a year and a half and plenty of my own money on this already, and I will not give up until you get your rewards. I look forward to you joining me in reliving history through First Lt. Walter Koessler's photo journal of World War I.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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