Funded! This project was successfully funded on September 5, 2013.

Photo-main
Play
00:00
00:00

Help me print the personal photo album of a German officer in World War I. A thousand beautiful images from the trenches to the air.

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!

See the collection as I scan it on Tumblr

More information at WalterKoessler.com

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.

Saint Quentin Cathedral, August 1917 (Walter Koessler) - October 2012 (Dean Putney)
Saint Quentin Cathedral, August 1917 (Walter Koessler) - October 2012 (Dean Putney)

"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.

Stereoscopic View-Master

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.

Trenches

Churches

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 Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

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.

FAQ

  • Now that it's finished, the book is 140 pages with a fold out panorama in the back. It's printed on 200gsm matte paper, a beautiful thick stock that will last a long time.

    Last updated:
  • Here's what I want to accomplish from this Kickstarter:

    Make a beautiful book you couldn't get any other way than a full print run.
    Over deliver and produce a product that makes everyone really happy.
    Not have a ton of unsold books floating around my house after I've fulfilled rewards.
    Have enough money to overcome unexpected obstacles and push production forward faster.

    Book printing is expensive as a lump sum. Shipping books is even more expensive. My time and the time of people who I need to hire to help me is even more expensive than that. And I want to surprise you with little extras here and there as I can. This is all factored into the goal and includes a nice buffer so I can be comfortable in meeting those priorities above.

    In those terms, the goal isn't actually that high. I think of Kickstarter as a way to make something much better than what you'd be able to do without support. The goal should put you in a position to do great things, and you should be prepared to take advantage of that. So yes, this is a reach, but you've already proven that people care about this and want it, and I'm so proud to have you with me on this journey.

    Last updated:
1,995
Backers
$113,298
pledged of $50,000 goal
0
seconds to go
  • Pledge $8 or more
    You selected

    625 backers

    Receive a PDF copy of the book optimized for viewing on tablets and desktops.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $25 or more
    You selected

    358 backers

    Receive a download of high resolution photographs of each page of the original album. Zoom in on each picture to see details not visible to the naked eye. All previous rewards included.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $40 or more
    You selected

    36 backers

    Receive an 11x14" print from the album. Printed from a digital scan of the original negative. All previous rewards included.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $10 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $70 or more
    You selected

    100 backers All gone!

    SUPER EARLY BIRD SPECIAL: Receive a hard cover copy of the book. It's much more compelling to hold the actual artifact in your hands. PDF and digital downloads included.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $30 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $75 or more
    You selected

    180 backers Limited (320 left of 500)

    JUST THE BOOK: Receive a hard cover copy of the book. PDF and digital downloads included.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $30 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $75 or more
    You selected

    300 backers All gone!

    EARLY BIRD SPECIAL: Receive a hard cover copy of the book. PDF and digital downloads included.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $30 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $89 or more
    You selected

    234 backers

    Receive a hard cover copy of the book at its normal price. 11x14" print, PDF and digital downloads included.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $30 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $150 or more
    You selected

    44 backers

    Two books. $75 per book! 11x14" print, PDF and digital downloads included.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $40 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $200 or more
    You selected

    55 backers Limited (145 left of 200)

    Receive a 3D stereographic ViewMaster and reels of images from Walter's stereogram collection. Includes digital downloads of the images in multiple formats for other viewers. Beautiful print book, 11x14" print, PDF and digital downloads included.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $30 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $200 or more
    You selected

    13 backers Limited (187 left of 200)

    Receive a triptych or panorama I've curated from the album, printed from digital images. Choose from trenches, churches or an aerial panorama. Beautiful print book, PDF and digital downloads included.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $30 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $210 or more
    You selected

    4 backers Limited (6 left of 10)

    Three books. $70 per book! A real steal. One 11x14" print, PDF and digital downloads included.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $40 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $500 or more
    You selected

    9 backers Limited (11 left of 20)

    I'll print you one photo directly from the original, 100-year-old negative. I'll give you options for images. Size to be determined, but at least 8x10. Stereographic ViewMaster, beautiful print book, PDF and digital downloads included.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $30 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $3,500 or more
    You selected

    0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)

    I'll fly out to your area, bring all the original materials and photos with me, and we can talk about it and look through everything together. Perfect for galleries, museums, clubs and organizations who want to see these materials first-hand. Beautiful print book, stereoscopic ViewMaster, 11x14" print, PDF and digital downloads included.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $1,000 USD to ship outside the US
Funding period

- (30 days)