How to Create a PhotoBook


What is the initial process in the creation of a photobook?

Answer by: Harikrishna Katragadda and (inputs by) Shweta Upadhyay, Photographer and Writer

A photobook is different from a book of photographs, or a collection of photographs illustrating text, because its form configures and drives the narrative. The form of the photobook has its own language, and it communicates both by the presence of images, and their absence through the silences of blank pages. Its coherence is more illusory and dream-like, and depends on the mood and the atmosphere, as much as the events depicted in it.

When I have a collection of photographs that have the potential to be expanded into a photoessay, it is an indication that it could also be further developed and made into a photobook. A short artist statement is a helpful, although not compulsory, starting point to clarify the idea and the theme through words and metaphors. At the heart of the art of making a photobook is sequencing the images and designing them in a layout.

There are two ways I have approached the process of making photobooks. My photobook You Can’t Step Into the Same River Twice is a long-term documentary project on the pollution in the Ganges, using cyanotype prints. This body of work, on the theme of pollution, was pretty much complete. The images were first grouped using a particular aspect of pollution, and then sequenced to create a narrative flow using abstract photos as a transition device. Since the colour blue was a constant, it felt natural to design it into an accordion fold photobook, which when opened and laid out, visually reflected the image of a river choking, gasping and struggling to keep itself alive.

But a set of images need not always have a clear narrative arc. This happens when the narrative is poetic rather than a traditional story with a beginning, middle and an end. This was the case in my photobook I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you, which came out of a collaboration with my partner. We worked with images of her, shot over four years, on the expressions and registers of love, and the ways of seeing one’s lover, the desire and heartache of looking for the elusive other, in the world around. The subject of these portraits that appear in dialogue with other images, across the page spreads, that reveal the body of a lover and relate it to the organic world, wherein identity, memory and desire draw on a universe of meaning making. Here, sequencing was more intuitive, and involved a lot of trial and error. The focus was to delve into the subconscious world, and the interiority of the character. So the images have a subliminal connection, rather than a linear one.