The book’s space interviews: Myopia


04 dic The book’s space interviews: Myopia

Book: Myopia
Photographs: Hillie de Rooij
Book design: Rob van Hoesel
Editor: The Eriskay Connection
Date of publishing: March 2015
N° of copies: 500
Dimensions: 20×27 cm
Binding: Softcover
Paper: Cyclus Offset 70 gr, Munken Polar 150 gr, Maine Gloss satin 135 gr, Starline Creamback 300 gr


Which are the 5 indispensable pictures for this book?

Photographer: (1) The photo where the men are laying on the ground; (2) The ebola photo; (3) The young girl drinking from a cup; (4) The girls with a yellow ‘Praxis’ bucket; (5) The photo of a group men and in the background an aquarium. Those photos are for me the photos that start or trigger a story, it raises questions and is the beginning or end of a story. The five pictures don’t work well together, you will need different kind of photos to complete the idea of Myopia.

What is the framed structure of this book?

Book Designer: De Rooij collected photographs from various European newspapers, websites and magazines that show Africa. She analyzed each image by appointing the way Africa is portrayed in it. This resulted in a long list of keywords such as; Sand, Wild Animals, Plastic, Dark Child, Reclining Men, Palm Trees, Drought etc. She used this collection of “codes” as guidelines for her photos that she made in Europe, including countries as the Netherlands, Greece, Italy and Norway. With her work De Rooij makes us aware of the fact that our image of Africa is dominated by a preconceived idea of what Africa looks like. She shows us that we do not simply look at pictures. There are rules and codes involved that affect the way we look at images of the world. We use our memory to interpret images,but in seeking recognition we remain stuck to visual clichés.

How did you choose your book designer?

P: First, I’ve made some dummies by myself to find out what kind of book I wanted to make for this project and what the feeling of the book should be. I was looking for a designer who makes nice clean books but always with a twist or special detail. So I looked at many books from different designers. And then I found Rob van Hoesel. And because I knew what kind of designer he is I had all the confidence that the design would be great.

What was your approach to get into the photographic project?

BD: When I was faced with the rough material, a collection of around 100 images, I first categorized the images. On one hand to get a sense of the nature of these pictures, but also as a first step to develop a structure for the book. We soon distinguished the 3 major bodies of work; the touristic type of images of Africa, the journalistic type and the artistic/social type of images.
To be clear; none of the images in the book are actually made in Africa. A major question for us was how and when we would reveal this secret in the book, if at all.

How did you develop the work on the book?

P / BD: I’ve started the project in 2012 and just a few weeks before it was printed I made the last photo to make sure all cliches are represented in the book. During the process of making the book we played a game with the visual language of images and the connotation of different materials. We wanted to give the reader the impression that he sees an Africa that seems familiar to him, which he seem to recognize. We wanted to do this as visual as possible. Only in the end of the process we added the subtitle in the beginning of the book and in the end the essay of Jan Postma. Just to give the reader a guidance on how he should read this project. Once we divided the images in the 3 types, we wanted to make a clear distinction in the handling of these types in the book. So we searched for the right form for each of them. Also the idea of a scrapbook came to our mind. We wanted the book to look like a fragmented collage of images, as if they where ripped out of different sources and glued together. There is no underlying story but there is definitely a associative connection between all the images. The main goal was to be as convincing as possible, we wanted the book to say; ‘yes, this is Africa!’.


Which narrative slant did you choose for this book and why?

BD: The decision to use 3 different types of paper steered the sequence since the papers would follow up each other in a logical way determined by the binding. Than we looked for strong connections between the images, this could be a simple thing as color or form, but also combinations could emphasize more complex societal or geographical notions. We aimed to evoke as many associations as possible in the readers mind. Finally we decided to only make a small notification in the colophon mentioning where the images were actually taken, only revealing the secret to the attentive reader. Although there are many visual elements in the book that might give away the secret or at least raise some eyebrows…

What’s the difference between the book and the photographic project slant?

P: The book is a complete product, everything in the book we thought through and has a meaning; it works together to tell my story. In an exposition there are elements that you can’t control and not all photos are suitable for an exposition. I also never show the same selection of photos and use different presentation methods to play with how the meaning of a photo changes when it is presented in a different way.


How did you choose the materials and the kind of printing?

BD: The publication contains a fragmentary collection of 3 types of images; the tourist image, the journalistic image and the artistic image of Africa. We used 3 different techniques to ennoble the offset printing and 3 different types of papers which each refer to corresponding media types (travel brochures, newspaper, art book). The materials are actually quite obvious; for instance the journalistic type of images are printed with a rough grid on newspaper type of paper, which make them convincing as being existing newspaper images.

How the materials’ choices are connected to the photographic project?

P: Three types of paper and the way it is printed makes a strong reference to different types of media and thereby provides an extra dimension and meaning. For example if the photo of the white car in front of a building would be printed in color and on a glossy paper one would interpret it very differently than the way the photo is used now, in black and white, printed with a rough grid on thin recycled paper.

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