dienacht Talk: Jana Kießer – "das bleibt unter uns"
In our dienacht Talks, we interview people connected to the photobook world in any way.
We run the first interview with Jana Kießer, whose first Photobook Dummy was nominated for the Kassel Dummy Awards in 2019 and won Silver at the German Photobook Awards.
Tell me a bit about your project, please.
My photographic series “das bleibt unter uns” (engl. "this remains between us") is a rehabilitation from a sexual abuse incident in my own family. I translated my feelings into subjective, symbolic photographs. Additionally I used analog archive photos, which I took as a child in our house and quotes from my former diary, I set in opposition to passages from my father's letters that he wrote to me from jail.
In this project I reworked the long process of recovery and its linked feelings by transferring them to the photographic medium.
Beyond that, I designed the body of work to encourage people who are affected to break their silence and work through their story.
The project was my graduation work at Ostkreuzschool for Photography in Berlin, where I attended the class of Prof. Linn Schröder. I self-published my book "das bleibt unter uns" at our graduation exhibition "Year Twelve" in October 2018 in an edition of 50.
The final form of a project can be an exhibition, an installation, or anything else. Why do you think a photobook is the most suitable for your project? And did you see this project as a book from the very beginning, when you started shooting or while you were shooting?
Since the series was my graduation work, it was clear we would have a group exhibition in Berlin. I knew I wanted to make a book in addition, so I would have my work completed and brought into a form to present it apart from our graduation show.
After a year of working on the series, when it had developed and I was able to imagine what this book could look like, I started really thinking about the design, materials and financing.
I see my book as a type of family album that reveals an intimate insight to the viewer — it provides the time to understand my series, to read the sentences, to dive emotionally into my work and scroll back and forth pages.
Would you say that in general, photobooks are the medium you want to work with, or you see your other projects ending up in different ways?
I definitely want to work with photobooks in the future. I'm fascinated by the craft of bookbinding and want to learn it myself.
You made a first dummy of your project during my workshop in Leipzig. And a very first dummy made during a short period of time – 3 days – is usually a starting point, a basis in order to see what works and what doesn’t, it needs some sleeping over. How much from the initial idea did you change?
I liked the size of the dummy book so I kept it. I changed the cover design, found a font I really like, changed the layout of the insert booklets and lastly also added new photographs because the series was not finished by the time I made the dummy.
The hardest part of making the book was to integrate the two booklets that include the archive photographs I took as a child and the confrontation of sentences from my former diary and parts from my fathers letters he wrote to me from jail. It was important for me that one could take the booklets out of the book. My bookbinder Ralf Liersch had the final idea on how to include the booklets, which you can see in the photos of my book.
I made an Instagram Post in which one can see some making-of photos from my book. You can find it here.
The dummy was definitely a very good first version of my book and it helped me a lot to develop its final form.
Why did you decide to join a workshop as a starting point for your book?
Since it was my first book, I wanted to work focused and intensive on the dummy with a person that has knowledge about bookbinding and design.
You were nominated for the Kassel Dummy Award last year. Was the nomination helpful for the book or for you as a photographer?
I'm proud of my first book being shortlisted for Kassel Dummy Award and am very happy it is travelling the world and is exhibited at many photofestivals. The next stop is from February 3-5 at Officine Fotografiche Roma.
I think the nomination helps to draw attention to the project and the topic. And of course i feel honored knowing that an international Jury selected my work for the shortlist.
Would you recommend applying for a Dummy Award?
Yes, it gives the project visibility. My book was also awarded with silver by the German Photobook Prize and will be shown at Frankfurter Buchmesse this year. I'm glad many people will see the book and i hope to find a publisher for it.
You self-published the book in a small edition afterwards. Why did you decide to self-publish?
I didn't think about another possibility at that time, i was very focused on finishing the project. Now that the first edition of my book is sold out i would love to find a publisher and create a second edition.
Can you tell a bit about the process of making a book, starting from having a dummy to making the final book? (finding printers, deciding for and finding papers and other materials, working with bookbinders, etc.)
From the book dummy to the final version it took another five months:
Finding the paper was quite easy, I got a big box with sample papers from the printing house and chose very quickly the right paper for my book: metapaper smooth, it is soft, has a beautiful structure and also features a warm white tone. Seeing the first test prints, seeing how my photos look on the paper I chose was one of the most exciting moments of making the book.
For the final layout I worked together with a designer: we changed the cover and made different test prints on linen, found a font that fits the project, adjusted the font color on the book spine to the tone of the skin from the cover photo, printed dummy versions of the insert booklets in the copy shop — basically we spent the summer in her office.
The final idea on how to include the text and archive photo booklets into the book came from the bookbinder. He found a way to include the two separate booklets without making the cover remain partly open. He made the book spine a bit wider to avoid that and it worked out.
After all I'm happy with the design and would love to publish a second edition of the book.
Thank you for reading — and thanks to my family and everyone involved in this project!