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Creating photo-books

From: Creative Inspirations: Natalie Fobes, Photographer

Video: Creating photo-books

(Music playing.) Natalie Fobes: So the salmon book, which was my first book, my little pride and joy, when I came up with the idea of doing a story about salmon and the cultures of salmon around the Pacific Rim, this was going to be a book. I just felt it. I shot for it. I planned it that way. It was going to be a book. I was lucky that it actually was published, but in my mind there was no question that this was going to be a great book and a book that needed to be done.

Creating photo-books

(Music playing.) Natalie Fobes: So the salmon book, which was my first book, my little pride and joy, when I came up with the idea of doing a story about salmon and the cultures of salmon around the Pacific Rim, this was going to be a book. I just felt it. I shot for it. I planned it that way. It was going to be a book. I was lucky that it actually was published, but in my mind there was no question that this was going to be a great book and a book that needed to be done.

Now, another book that, my second book, 'I Dream Alaska,' came out of a number of assignments to Alaska, traveling all throughout the state, in winter and summer, and having just some amazing experiences up there. And it was only then when I got back and started looking at this collection of work that I realized that I needed to do a book on Alaska. And the twist with this one is that it's a book with a little, a little bit of a quarter turn approach.

What I really wanted to do was to write a love letter to the people of Alaska who had really gone out of their way to take me under their wing, and to show me things that I'd never seen before, and to have experiences with them that I never would have had if they hadn't been kind to me. I laugh and say that my career is built on the kindness of strangers, and it's true. It's very, very true.

So this book was done in a Polaroid transfer technique. You would take a picture of the slide, and then before the dyes had a chance to fully develop on the Polaroid medium, you would strip off the negative, lay it down on a piece of prepared watercolor paper and then roll it. Wait for about 60 seconds and then hope that you got all of the blacks down, slowly peel back the negative, and the result would be that you would have these wonderful textured photographs, where the dyes had actually transferred over to the watercolor paper.

Again, I wanted something that was just a little quarter turn off of reality. These photographs had been taken over 15 years of my travels to Alaska, and I didn't want people who looked at the book to think I had just done it yesterday. I wanted to give them a little bit of a feeling of age, a little bit of a feeling of history, maybe a little bit a feeling of magic. Now, not all books are done as a starving artist.

In fact, this is one of the fun books that I did, and this was a commissioned piece. I was commissioned by the Seattle Mariners to spend two years photographing the construction of Safeco Field. I would go down there for a couple days every month and just head down there, and whatever I thought was interesting I would go and photograph. So I got to do some really cool things like hang out with the ironworkers on top of the roof before there was any kind of way to get up there, and I still remember climbing 200, about 230 feet straight up on an open ladder that had - it was fixed to the structure with bailing wire, and getting up through the hatch, and my legs just collapsed underneath me.

I mean, fortunately I was on top of some sheet metal at that point, but the guy that was with me said, "Hey, what's wrong?" And I said, "Oh, I just need a moment. I'm enjoying the view." But the fact is I could not - I was just jelly. But there, it was really fun. I got to know some of the guys, and it was really neat to be a part of something that has changed the skyline of Seattle forever. It was a neat project.

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Creative Inspirations: Natalie Fobes, Photographer

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Natalie Fobes
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