Pre-Press Updates, and Thoughts on Printing

Dear Friends and Supporters, Fellow Pilgrims All!

Before starting my update, as we enter into Great Lent, as is our Orthodox praxis and holy tradition, I ask your forgiveness… God forgives!

Monastery of the Transfiguration, the Sisterhood exchanges forgiveness.
Photo © Ralph H. Sidway

The main thing to ask your forgiveness for is the lack of recent updates. It’s not for lack of news, which is significantly more than the recent steady progress (which we are happy for!) we have been making through Autumn and into the Nativity and holiday season. (But I’ll get to that in a moment.) Rather, it’s been a tumultuous couple of months, from coming down with Covid at the end of the year (only mild-to-moderate symptoms, thankfully), to having to pack and move (a process which is nearing its conclusion).

During this same period, St Tikhon’s Press has been seeding their communications with the publishing world equivalent of “teaser trailers” for The North American Thebaid book. Their brief mentions of the Thebaid book in blog posts and emails underscore their commitment and dedication to making it a significant contribution to the life of Orthodoxy in America.

Much of our recent progress has involved setting the introductory texts for each monastery. It has been a joy to revisit my notes and blog posts from my travels as I prepare these brief descriptions, and I hope and trust my reflections on my pilgrimage will resonate with you and others.

I have also been contacting the monasteries to confirm image usage, an especially important process as a couple of the communities were initially somewhat reserved about their inclusion in the Thebaid book. Though I was given their blessing to photograph, the final decision to publish was withheld, so I am most grateful for the positive reception the images and page mockups we sent these monasteries have been embraced, and permission warmly granted for inclusion in the finished book.

One of the biggest “signs” that we are tracking towards publication is the process of securing revised quotes for the printing. This makes it real, and adds a sense of urgency to all our labors in finalizing the texts and formatting, and working through the remaining pre-press photo edits, not to mention the detailed editing, proofreading, spell-checking, etc., which involves bringing in “fresh eyes” to notice what our core team, in our daily familiarity, may have missed.

Lastly (for today), I want to share with you a brief but marvelous post by Fr Mikel Hill, manager of St Tikhon’s Press, in which he raises and answers the question, “Why Print?” His approach is clearly concentrating on the value of printed books of text, but the principles he puts forth can just as powerfully be applied to photographic books. Consider this passage:

The very inconvenience itself of books leads to the formation of a different relationship than one has with digital forms media, which are “conjured forth, then disappear. We consume them.” Books, by contrast, “are embodied. They live in history. They have their own biographies.” They demand commitment, space, and respect. We approach a book with a certain sense of awe and humility, mindful of the many lives this particular volume, this specific paper and ink, this impression by real type upon this page, has shaped and will continue to shape, long after our death.

This reaffirms what I wrote five and six years ago when first launching this project, that “by committing up-front to the finest book printing, image reproduction, archival materials, and state-of-the-art publishing, pre-press and proofing technologies, we have attained a clear vision of our goal and methods, and have great confidence in our ability to create a worthy volume which we hope will be a lasting gift to Orthodox Christians and the Church for many years to come.”

Fr Mikel goes on to describe the virtues of a printed book, which seem to be uncannily appropriate when applied to a photographic book about Orthodox monasticism in North America:

A permanence transcending generations, a rootedness and immobility, and a refusal to reconfigure are each elements that not only shape the experience of reading a book but shape the reader himself. The medium by which we interact with ideas will influence the formation of the ideas themselves. (Emphasis added.)

Elsewhere I have posted about the devaluation of images in a culture where 1.8 billion images are shared each day via social media. Yet in spite of all these images we remain malnourished for the most part. We are left longing for the Image that might Fill us, Move us, Call to us, Change us, Direct us to the Way. In spite of having posted hundreds of my images here in my galleries, I was and am still convinced of the necessity of presenting fine images — photographs — in print form, and particularly, in a large book format. This appreciation for and dedication to The Photographic Book as providing a “permanence transcending generations,” that “not only shapes the experience” of viewing the images, “but shapes the [viewer] himself” is the underlying philosophy of publishing which imbues and propels our work on The North American Thebaid Book as we prepare it for print.

Fr Mikel Hill closes out his article, “Why Print?” with the following:

It is for these reasons that STM Press is committed to promulgating the value of carefully printed and quality bound texts. We are convinced that our efforts to promote the worth of physical books contains a potential to re-shape and transform the way we think and act, that books are in themselves a spiritual tool for the renewing of our minds in an age that has forgotten how to read...

…and forgotten how to see. Do click over and read the full article.

With my recent move (and covid) behind me, watch for not only more frequent progress updates, but a series of posts looking back at the course of this photographic pilgrimage, which has proven also to be an inner pilgrimage. Unsurprisingly.

Thank you for following along on this journey. A good lent to you all.

Thebaid Book Layout Reaches Key First Goal

Dear Friends and Supporters, Fellow Pilgrims All!

After several weeks of layout and design work since my last post, I’m happy to tell you we have reached a real milestone now, with significant progress being made each week.

Early Prototype Thebaid Book Cover,
Entrance to St Herman of Alaska Monastery, Platina, Calfornia

Also, before I get started, I wish to thank our new supporters who have pre-ordered the book. Interest continues to grow in the forthcoming Thebaid coffee table book, and we are deeply appreciative of each of you who have committed up front and pre-ordered your copy (or copies). I should mention that we will continue to accept pre-orders at The Thebaid Store up until the book goes to print. This is especially critical for the Deluxe Limited Edition in Bonded Leather, which will not be available through retail outlets, but only through pre-ordering using the link above. Of course the standard hardcover edition will be available through St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press, and a range of Orthodox and other resellers.

Back to today’s update!

The heart of the pre-press process has been our weekly production meetings, and with only a couple of exceptions, St. Tikhon’s Press (STMP) and I have been locked in for our Thursday afternoon sessions since early August now, and wow, they have become increasingly substantial over the last several weeks. Even on those couple of occasions when we haven’t been able to hold our weekly meeting, we have still been communicating in detail by email, sending notes and work lists back and forth, and sharing our files by Dropbox and Google Drive. By mid-September we were getting into precise questions of image placement, layout, sizing and sequencing, specific photo edits and text edits, so that our meetings have been ranging from 60 to 90 minutes on average! Which brings me to the big news for this update.

As of the latest batch of page mockups, STMP has completed about 90% of the initial page mockups, which nearly completes the basic layout. This is really the first major pre-press goal, and enables us now to go back through each regional section and monastery to confirm everything and complete any final image editing, etc. There are some special texts to be added and other features, but the heart of the book is firming up quite nicely.

It is important to note that our design and layout work is not merely about the details, the “nuts and bolts” of setting up a photo book. We have approached the book in a way similar to “composers” of a musical piece, seeking to present the photographs in a lyrical, poetic way, with movement, rhythm, harmony, dynamics. And this is the part of the process that I look forward to entering more deeply into, as it marks a return to the start, to the heart of the original vision I had for this project.

Watch for more frequent updates as we now move into the next stages, which will include the proofing process.

Thank you for your support and prayers, and for accompanying me on this pilgrimage!

Real Thebaid News, and a Real Path to Publication

Dear Friends and Supporters, Fellow Pilgrims All ~

First, my apologies for no updates during the year of covid. As for many of us it was a strange and challenging year, and brought all progress on the Thebaid book to a standstill.

As I recently found out, the covid lockdown hit St Tikhon’s Monastery Press hard also, but in different ways. My time for the book evaporated overnight, as everything became ruled by the “tyranny of the urgent.” Part time day job became full time, and my modest volunteer ministry at my home parish became a greatly expanded role (like a second job, truly): facilitating live-streaming of services, signups, heightened communications, and much more.

In contrast, St Tikhon’s lost their volunteer staff (largely students from the seminary) for the Press and Bookstore, the reduced manpower affecting their publishing capacity, and requiring real dedication to hold to their existing printing schedule.

So it was with a great sense of relief and actually joy, that we linked up by phone a few weeks ago and set in place our Path to Publication.

Visual Pilgrimage by Region

Because I had already done so much file prep and image editing, and had provided an abundance of image files to the Press in late 2019, Fr. Mikel Hill at STM Press has swiftly resumed his organization of the book and general sequencing of the photographs, which will follow my actual travels, leading the viewer on a visual pilgrimage through the major regions of America. I will be providing detailed layout and image placement instructions each week, with Fr. Mikel sending back PDF galley proofs for me to approve or tweak.

The groups of images will be punctuated by special articles, contributed by American monastics. Select quotes and information about the monasteries will be highlighted in text boxes overlaying full-page-bleed images and 2-page spreads. There will be a rhythm, a cadence, a flow to the book. And I’ll be sharing some of the galley proofs here for you to keep you informed on the progress.

Weekly Production Meetings

To effect all this, we will be conducting weekly production meetings by phone and Skype, and have already begun these “Thebaid Thursday” sessions.

All of this is invigorating enough, and I get the clear sense from Fr. Mikel that he (and Abbot Sergius) are very enthusiastic about completing our work and getting the book to print. There is a joyful energy around this resumption of our shared work, testimony to our shared purpose, the advancement of Orthodoxy and Orthodox monasticism in America, through the beauty and mystery of these images.

‘Time’ to Finish

For me personally, the ability to take an extended sabbatical from work and devote myself 100% to The North American Thebaid Book, is the “critical mass” of the publishing process. This is actually how the entire project began, with a convergence of time, vision and inspiration, followed by scheduling, travel and photography. Now, it seems the fullness of time for the Thebaid Book has come, and with that elusive element of Time opened back up for me, and with it the renewed vision, collaboration, and activity leading to the finished book, in your hands.

Thanksgiving, and a Teaser

Thank you all, for your patience and trust, and for your continuing prayers for this project. And my thanks to those of you who took a few minutes to reach out and see how I have been and where things stand. I am so gratified to be able to report this solid, real news, and our Real Path to Publication.

Rather than post one of my images today, I felt it most appropriate to post a “teaser” of sorts, the galley proof of the prototype Copyright page from the early design work at St Tikhon’s done towards the end of 2020. I look forward to sharing more pages and spreads in the weeks ahead.

January 2019 Thebaid Update

On to publication of the Thebaid Book in Spring 2019!

This update serves as a special ‘Thank you’ to our dozens of dear supporters, for propelling the North American Thebaid Project to the threshold of its goal, the publication of the large-format, photographic coffee table book, due in Spring 2019 from St Tikhon’s Monastery Press, South Canaan PA.

In the coming weeks and months I’ll be deeply engaged in photo editing and book design, sending files back and forth with the design team at St. Tikhon’s Press, and working closely with our pre-press partners at Four Colour Print Group in Louisville and FCI Digital in Dayton, as we work to fulfill our goal of creating an inspiring, museum-quality photo book. We can’t wait to get it into your hands!

St Tikhon’s Press announces the Thebaid Book to over 20,000 readers

St Tikhon’s 2019 Liturgical Calendar, featuring photographs from the North American Thebaid.

St Tikhon’s Monastery Press chose to announce their role as publisher of the Thebaid book through a statement in their 2019 Liturgical Calendar, which features fourteen full-color images from the Thebaid Project.

Covering over a dozen Orthodox monasteries across America, from several of the canonical Orthodox jurisdictions and archdioceses here, this beautiful calendar has now been distributed to hundreds of parish churches, reaching an audience of over 20,000, who began using this unique liturgical calendar on January 1 of the New Year.

We are deeply grateful for St. Tikhon’s Press and their public endorsement of the Thebaid Project. You can order the St Tikhon’s 2019 Liturgical Calendar direct from STM Press…

Continue reading “January 2019 Thebaid Update”

Thebaid Store returns online! – Now accepting pre-orders for the Thebaid Photo Book

After a period of technical difficulties following the launch of our new Thebaid Online Store, we are officially back up and running, and accepting pre-orders.

Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville NY, one of several prototype cover designs you can view at the Thebaid Store.

 

This large-format, fine-art “coffee table” book represents the culmination of a unique multi-year project, which has combined crowdfunding, social media, and an unprecedented photographic pilgrimage to over thirty Orthodox monasteries across the American continent, to help raise awareness of and interest in the Orthodox Church and its ancient monastic traditions, and thus contribute to the “churching” of America.

Full specifications are provided for all products. Signed copies are offered, with signed & matted fine art prints. Quantity discounts for signed bundles are also available. At a glance:

  • Quantity discounts available for signed book & print bundles.
  • Additional info and answers to frequently asked questions are provided.

Proceed to the Thebaid Store…

 

Thebaid Images featured on covers of STM Press 2019 Liturgical Rubrics Book, Pocket Planner

The close relationship between the North American Thebaid Project and St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press continues to bear fruit, with the publication of the STM Press 2019 Liturgical Rubrics & Calendar, and their 2019 Pocket Planner, each of which feature a stunning photograph from The North American Thebaid on the cover.

These are in addition to the publication of the 2019 St Tikhon’s Monastery Press Liturgical Calendar, which features fourteen photographs from the Thebaid Project. More info, with images from this large-format wall-calendar and links to order from STM Press are provided here.

I continue to feel deeply thankful and honored that St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press has so embraced the North American Thebaid Project, and is using more of the images for their outstanding line of liturgical calendars, books and resources, which will go out to many hundreds of Orthodox parishes and thousands of believers across the United States and Canada.

Specifications for the STM Press 2019 Liturgical Rubrics & Calendar, and 2019 Pocket Planner follow:

Continue reading “Thebaid Images featured on covers of STM Press 2019 Liturgical Rubrics Book, Pocket Planner”

Thebaid Project awarded 2018 Ganister Foundation Grant

The Ganister Foundation recognizes the North American Thebaid for its “innovative approach to advancing the mission of Orthodoxy in the United States.”

The Ganister Orthodox Foundation recently announced its grant recipients for 2018, which included the North American Thebaid Project, a two-year photographic pilgrimage covering over thirty Orthodox Christian monasteries across the continent from several jurisdictions, including over a dozen monasteries of the Orthodox Church in America.

Founded in 2001, the Ganister Orthodox Foundation:

Provides financial assistance for organizations and parishes with innovative approaches to advancing the mission of Orthodoxy in the United States…

Favor is given to proposals that address priority needs of the Orthodox Church in America, especially those that do so in catalytic ways.

The selection process also weighs leadership experience, clarity of goals, the presence of a stable funding base, and faithfulness to the teachings and ministry of the OCA. (Emphasis added.)

Continue reading “Thebaid Project awarded 2018 Ganister Foundation Grant”

Looking Ahead to the Finished Book

A word about the quality of the North American Thebaid book, which we plan to publish in 2018:

One of the earliest and most important decisions I made when forming the North American Thebaid Project was to learn about the printing of fine photographic books, so that I could ensure an excellent finished product.

FCIlogo2012-horiz

That search led me to a world-class printer with over thirty years in the trade, Four Colour Print Group, and its pre-press subsidiary, FCI Digital.

I should mention that Four Colour Print Group and George Dick came personally recommended by journalist Genevieve Lacer, who has done two fine art coffee table books with them, which I have personally inspected and found to be of the highest quality. (They were also the lowest of three book printing quotes I received!)

When I met with George Dick, President & CEO of Four Colour in February 2016, I took with me examples of award-winning coffee table books by photographers I admire and follow, as well as my own 2014 retrospective photography book, Pursuing the Light, and George and I analyzed and critiqued them.

One edition, a little over twenty years old now, by one of America’s finest landscape photographers, showed definite signs of the pages yellowing around the edges, and to George Dick’s trained eye, it was clear the paper choice was the cause, perhaps because this was still at the dawn of printing from recycled materials, and the paper had acid and/or lignin content, which causes it to lose its pure white lustre as it ages.

With that warning example, and many stand-out features of some premium volumes used as benchmarks, we outlined the specifications required to create a finished book of the highest quality and image reproduction, with archival longevity, and identified the following:*

Continue reading “Looking Ahead to the Finished Book”

THEBAID CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN LAUNCHES!

THE CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN HAS LAUNCHED! 

Monks ringing bells, call to worship.
Ring the bells!

Please head over to our Indiegogo Crowdfunding Page and explore the many rewards for supporting the North American Thebaid Project and helping us reach our initial fundraising goal.

Sign up for email updates (at right) and watch for Project news. This initial crowdfunding effort will enable travel and photography to begin in September-October 2016 (God willing!), and is essential to the successful launch of the Thebaid Project.

We offer rewards (“perks”) starting at $10 and $25 on up for all levels of backers. Starting at the $50 level, Thebaid supporters will receive copies of the First Edition of the finished book, scheduled to be published in 2018, after the travel and photography has concluded. Detailed info on all the perks is below the “Continue Reading” jump…

Continue reading “THEBAID CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN LAUNCHES!”