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White Snow on Black Ice

Making the Book: Black Ice

Update (2014/8/3): The book is finished. See detailed photos of how it turned out on the new holger feroudj / store section.

When I went to Germany last winter, for the first time after more than 3 years, it was only natural to take my camera and use photography to connect to what I was feeling when re-visiting all these places I had rich memories tied to.
Acting out of intuition at first, I pretty soon knew what I wanted to say – my vision was clear and I worked every day on this Germany project I had on mind.
This book here is an initially unplanned side project, a sub chapter of this larger Germany project.

At the core, I was looking to capture the invisible bond of memories connected to these places of my past. Places that make me re-live certain events, painful and happy alike; and yet, memory doesn’t work like a video recorder. Memory changes upon re-living it. The harder you try to see and remember, the deeper you go, layer by layer, the more likely you are to re-write and change your past without even realizing it. Until you become convinced of it. Until you feel that you really experienced it. Crazy huh?

With this in mind, not articulated yet, though, I set out to take photos…
Back in Japan, I then spent a long time with these photographs, putting them on my wall, living with them while focusing on other things. I went into the incubation phase I mentioned before in “The Yin and Yang of Creativity.

Making the book: Black Ice

Making the book: Some sketches

Making the book: Black Ice

Making the book: Black Ice. Cutting and trimming.

One of those other things I was focusing on is learning how to make proper books with my own hands. Materials, techniques, binding, gluing, folding… Using ancient manuscripts and modern textbooks as a guide. Fascinating stuff, and powerful. (And fun!) Sure, you could merely have your photos printed in a book and that’s it – as many people do -, and that’s fine, but a book can be so much more than that.

I realized pretty soon that the photos I put on my wall didn’t quite convey what I wanted to say; this didn’t work as I imagined it. At the same time, though, all kinds of ideas jumped into my mind how a book and its 3-dimensionality, as well as a rather unconventional way of printing, could be much more effective at expressing this… and so the first pebbles started rolling. They set others in motion, and a chain reaction started, that with lots of ups and downs (it was not so easy to figure printing on black paper out, haha) 6 months later cumulated into a little book: “White Snow on Black Ice”

Making the book: Black Ice

Choosing the right paper: black is not black is not black.

This is not merely a photo book anymore. It is not what you imagine when you hear the word “photo book”. Instead, it’s an object that conveys an experience that would be impossible to convey in mere photographs, especially not on a screen. Some people will hate it because of the way the “photos” are represented, fleeting, hard to see. That’s fine, but they miss the point.
Compared to the other books that are in the pipeline right now, this is by far my most experimental and “impressionistic” one; the overall feeling and mood the book conveys is more important than the photos themselves.

Making the book: Black Ice

Left: Last print run finished; the first and the last page.
Right: A stack of books and a dumbbell is my book press for now.

Making of White Snow on Black Ice

Pressing a batch of books with my high-tech dumbbell

Actually, as you already saw and know if you’re subscribing to my monthly newsletter, I already finished making the first “dummy” book. Since it is not the final book, I won’t show it publicly here on my blog, but it is almost identical to the finished book.

Is the final book perfect? Hell, no. Of course, with things like this you have to compromise on some points, and I’m sure I could spend another 6 months on improving minor details. Actually some troll is pulling me pretty hard right now to do just that… you know how it is to get lost in details. And of course, there is still so much more to learn – but isn’t there always?

There is a time for improving, and there is a time for shipping – and this baby is ready to see the light of the day now.

Making the book: Black Ice

Left: Choosing paper for the flyleaves. Right: Sewing the book up


This video shows in a minute how I did the binding:

Making the book: Black Ice

Making the book: Thread binding

Making the book: Black Ice

Making the book: A printed spread before cutting

I could go on and on and on about the book thing in general, about the hours spent learning paper, gluing and binding, about this project in particular… For now, though, I’ll leave you with this here – the progress of making the first edition of “White Snow on Black Ice”.


Update (2014/8/3): The book is finished. See detailed photos of how it turned out on the new holger feroudj / store section.


Christopher Puchta

The link is broken +holger feroudj
I'd like to check out what you did with it 🙂

holger feroudj

ah, damn, thanks!! fixed it!

Christopher Puchta

I don't wanna be THAT guy, but the links when clicking on the images don't work either 🙂

I really like your idea and where you took this projects, though! Even more amazing that you actually pulled through and finished (well, kinda :)) it, instead of keeping it as maybe-project.

Branko Nuss

So is this one single book you're making like this or are you planning on making these things by hand and selling multiple copies?

holger feroudj

+Christopher Puchta – please, BE that guy! These days I noticed that some of my albums on my website don't work anymore, maybe because I moved the site a couple of weeks ago, and I never realized – which sucks! So I'm very happy about every single thing you point out to me 🙂

And yes, you hit the nail on the head (or whatever the saying goes like): Many of my ideas get stranded and I was in danger of letting this one slip through, too, because it wasn't "perfect" yet – well, it probably never will be. So now I'm getting it out as it is! 😀

holger feroudj

+Branko Nuss – The dummy to see how everything works together, the paper, the print, the binding, etc. is finished and I decided I'd do few very minor chances.
The photos here are from the first book of a first edition of 20 that I'm gonna make and likely eventually offer for sale, too.
The book is about to be in a dummy contest, so there's a couple of restrictions I have to deal with first, though 🙂

Branko Nuss

That's an interesting idea.

Branko Nuss

…I mean making a demo from hand.  There is a lot more to the process than I would have thought.

holger feroudj

+Branko Nuss I'll make the whole edition from hand, of course! The way I do this particular book is likely impossible to do with machines in mass production. Sure, like big cutting machines or folding machines could make a big chunk of the work easier and faster, though… but I'm a one man factory 😉
And yes, book making is not rocket science but there are many, many things to keep on mind and consider (which is really a big part of the fun, all the creative possibilities you have… it is kind of like architecture)

You’re making all the editions by hand? You’re crazy! And that’s great, think I might have already mentioned it, if I have opps, love to hear more on your experience learning about everything right up to printing

Well, if you consider that the biggest chunk of work goes into the actual “architecture” of the book and all design aspects, then the making itself is not that time intensive anymore, once you developed your “recipe” 😉 it’s still a lot of hands-on work, though, of course – but I love working with my hands, so that doesn’t really feel like “work” per se (that is, until something goes wrong unexpectedly haha). Printing, of course, is a big part – and let me tell you that one challenge here is that you’re most of the time working in spreads instead of pages, so you need large format printers, or make a small book. Then there’s different kinds of printing, different papers, etc. – one factor influences another factor, and you can start seeing why this all takes a bit of time to make it work 🙂
Of course I’d love to talk more about this with you, should you be interested 🙂

I could probably come up with a million questions … how it all goes together, how you did the research, who you talked to, tests you tried, paper selection … omg paper … how you felt going into vs your feelings now coming close to completion, needless to say I would like to talk more about this 🙂

Sure, I love talking about this 🙂 Well, I learnt the theory of how to do this using an old (ca. 100 years old) “bible” on book making and a newer book I got in Germany last winter. It’s not a “modern” book, though. When learning a skill, I prefer to learn it in a conservative way, no shortcuts, with emphasis on the “boring basics” – so yeah, that’s what I did and am still doing, all by trial and error. You start to develop a feeling for glue and glue mixtures, and for the way it interacts with different kinds of papers… and yes, there are so many different papers – I tried more than 20 black ones, and that was already a selection from the many more that are out there.
Of course, I am still in a steep learning phase and far from having mastered the craft, but it’s quite fascinating to see how it is possible to make a real book just from sheets of paper and all the different steps that go into it 🙂

Will you make another book after this one? Would love to see how this all works and what goes into it, the whole process. I have a reverence for paper, I love looking at it and learning about it, but I still haven’t found a project that would let me work with it on a level that I think I could do justice to it. I shared something in my last letter that I might be close, but I am still unsure; maybe I just need to dive in and do it

Yes, there’s some other stuff in my pipeline 🙂 For now, though I’ll start producing the other volumes of this book’s edition before I go into the production phase of the next book’s dummy. I’m far from being finished with editing and layouting anyway.
Would love to hear more about your paper idea – it sounded pretty interesting! Seems like we really ought to have a good talk 😉

I am going to be trying something out with the paper idea after next weekend, I haven’t sorted details yet more like ideas floating about that I grasp onto. Lots of ideas, but never good ones, or ones I want to follow through on. But yes, long chat is in order, I’ll get back to you on that

P.S: And the book design? Well, lots of ideas, lots of corrections, always keeping the overall concept in mind, many ‘ah hah!’ moments in the shower… 😉

Some of my best ideas come just as I am falling asleep, I will jump up and scramble to find paper and a pen before I lose it … if I am lucky I can understand what I wrote in the morning 😉

I can see how you’d be interested in book binding, seeing that you’re into other analogue processes. I would love to learn this craft, too. Holger, are you a working artist (do you earn a living as an artist?). Did you print your photos directly onto the paper that you bound into the book? This is very interesting…

Thanks Jen! Yes! I love to work “hands-on” – well observed! There’s something to be said about working with processes that are actually physically tangible (also see reply to Kristopher’s comment just above). I’m a working artist, yes, but as in a “artist” who also, has to work all kinds of odd jobs to stay alive. So no. I’m not earning a living with my photography/books – I’m an amateur. Funny that you mention it, though – I was updating my about page only yesterday to include that aspect, but have to refine it a bit more. It’s way too long now. So if you check it out right now, you’ll still find the 100% truth about me haha.
If you have any questions about book binding/making – go ahead! I’ll do my best to share the little I know 🙂 I liken it to architecture.

That’s a fantastic project – never realised you were ready to crawl this deep into the rabbit hole when you were mentioning book binding a while back. I hope you’ll give me the chance for a hands-on experience someday :).

Oh, and Black ICE? Don’t make me re-read Neuromancer again after all those years 😛

Oh yes, I want to crawl in even deeper! haha 😛 There’s still a lot hidden in that rabbit hole.
You made me extremely curious about the Neuromancer thingy – what role does “black ice” play there??

(channeling my inner nerd here)
Neuromancer by William Gibson was (or probably is) one of the most important works in the genre of cyberpunk, that is, science-fiction that deals with the convergence of man and machine. Just think of cyborgs (retinal implants, artificial muscle tissue), or AIs who start to develop their own consciousness. In Neuromancer, the internet (or as he called it “cyberspace”) is a virtual space that can be accessed via neural interfaces. In this cyberspace, ICE is a special kind of software designed to keep out intruders. Black ICE is a lethal form of the program that can kill hackers. (Wouldn’t you just love to have this as a wordpress plugin 😉

It’s a 30-year old book, but worth the read if you like science-fiction.
With all your bus and plane trips you could probably read it in a couple of sessions 🙂

Sounds actually quite interesting indeed – especially since it’s already 30 years old. I’ll put it on my list 🙂 Also, I’m quite sure my brother already read it – sounds like exactly the kind of book he loves. Thanks for the recommendation!

Your are the man! Ship it baby. I like that attitude. There is always more to improve and more to learn.

I’m looking forward to seeing it 🙂

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