Friday, August 7, 2020: If Roses Were the Only Flower
As longtime visitors know, I’ve dreamed of publishing a book of my photographs for many, many years. That fantasy fell away with the creation of my website, Alighting, a showcase for 730 images at last count, and a surprisingly satisfying alternative to print.
Fast-forward two years and a book with my photographs has now been published, rocketing to the top of the NY Times Best Seller list in only a few days—just kidding about the last part :) The seeds for If Roses Were the Only Flower were planted back in March or April when I began playing around with some modest poetry I thought would make an excellent children’s book about racial tolerance. I was hoping to find an artist who could do the illustrations until I realized that my photographs could serve that purpose just as well. By then, it was also apparent that my audience was adults. I’ll let the preface take it from here:
[My] inspiration was the doctrine of signatures, an ancient belief system I was introduced to many years ago, that examines the physical characteristics of a plant, e.g.,its shape, color, size, texture, etc., for clues about its healing properties in treating different ailments.
Although the doctrine of signatures has been largely discredited by the scientific community, its emphasis on the value of straightforward observation holds a certain appeal to me—perhaps because I’ve been a professional photographer for most of my life. This book, with poetry that is part Joyce Kilmer and part Dr. Seuss, and photos selected from my personal and commercial photographic work, grew out of the conviction that one can draw lessons about the human condition just by making note of the natural world around us. It focuses largely on one of Mother Nature’s most compelling attributes—the astonishing diversity she displays wherever we look.
As I hope you’ll discover in reading though, that’s not where the story ends.
If Roses Were the Only Flower is available for purchase here. You can also buy it directly from me in which case I’ll add a personal note. Payment however might be a bit more tricky so please email me at email@example.com if you want to go that route.
(Click on image to enlarge.)
Imagine a world where apples were the only kind of fruit:
We’d certainly have variety
To fill our fridge from A–Z,
And ask of Eve’s historic nosh
Was it Honeycrisp or McIntosh?
We’d have no watermelon seeds to spit,
Nor sundaes named banana split.
No orange marmalade on scones,
A treat to make us ditch our phones.
No cantaloupes that are so ripe,
Or berries that are worth their hype.
No dates or figs as good as candy,
Or pomegranates for the randy.
If Jello came in just one flavor,
I would not call that a favor.
Anyone new to self-publishing who would like to hear what my experience was like is also welcome to contact me to arrange a chat. In a nutshell, the creative part was great fun; getting the files ready for the printer though was a nightmare that needn’t have been. It got so bad at a certain point, in fact, that I lost all desire to do another book. That lasted about three days fortunately and I’m already at work on another much longer one where my photos will have the starring role, not just a supportive one.
Good luck with your new career, Alan. I have great admiration for such a brave undertaking but I know you are certainly up to the task.
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Thanks Ken but I don’t see this as a new career — not when the anticipated market is not much bigger than the profit I make on each sale :)
Congratulations, Alan! First, the Alighting website – what a beautiful site that is, so well-designed. I will have to go back and look more.
This book brings together your keen humanitarian sensibility, your gentle humor, and your visual expertise. The poem quoted here is brilliant – so simple but so engaging, lively, and of course, to the point. It must be very satisfying to have the book in hand. I’m glad you’re going to do more.
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Thanks so much for the very kind comments Lynn. Ordinarily, it would be very satisfying, especially because I was so pleased with the reproduction which was everything I could have hoped for. But as the designer, I discovered some small typographic errors I made that really bug me — not that most people would ever notice them.
They’re being fixed as we speak but it reminds me of what I like so much about blogging — how mistakes can be quickly fixed at no additional expense.
It’s strange too because this is neither a photo book nor book of poetry, and at this point in time, I have no idea how it comes across to people who are seeing it for the first time. I’m not even sure what I think of it, given its crazy mix of different photographic styles, quirky humor, and heartfelt reverence.
Do libraries have hybrid shelves?
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It IS interesting to imagine how a library would classify the book, from what you/ ve described. Do you know Teju Cole’s Blind Spot? The subject matter is very different, I guess, but that’s a book with a photo on every other page and a text on the page across from it – if I remember right. The text seemed as important as the photos when I looked at the book and I really liked that approach.
I’m sure you’re right about the typos – other people are unlikely to notice. I proof my blogs so many times! I’m a stickler, too.
Maybe you can post a spread from the book sometime….it would be great to see a little of it.