The book’s space interviews: Ramya

Interview by Chiara Capodici with artist Petra Stavast and book designer Hans Gremmen.
Treterzi, October 2016

What is the framed structure of this book?
HG: We started off with the small booklet Petra made of Ramya in 2002, so the first 64 pages of the book are similar to that, or at least on the right pages: we inserted related images Petra took in 2012 on the left pages. Following, we decided to work with chapters (as listed on the back cover) to make the overall narrative structure more clear and coherent. Doing so, we’d created the freedom to use different ways of structuring the images within each chapter.

How did you choose your book designer?
PS: I’ve known and worked with Hans Gremmen since 2004, when we first started Fw:Magazine (now Fw:Books, publisher) together with a group of just graduated art students. Within and through Fw:, Hans started to work more frequently with artists that use photography. Besides many group-projects with Fw:, we’ve worked together on my prior books as well. We both strongly focus on the content, let that direct us in finding solutions. We usually have the same sense of direction and he can translate that, together with my vague thoughts and doubts, in a clear and straight way.

What was your approach to get into the photographic project?
HG: Working on Libero we already were dealing with different layers of visual storytelling. With this project it somehow felt as if we could continue were we stopped with Libero. The material is more complex and the overall story is less clear, so we had to invent new ways of getting the story across, an interesting challenge.

How did you develop the work on the book?
PS / HG: There were many piles of images and texts collected over 14 years, that from start on functioned as an archive divided into chapters. We started making selections within each chapter, in some cases images were connected in time and/or place so the selections became reliant on each other. Hans made a first attempt on making a comprehensible edit of ‘the archive’ as we called it, where he stayed very close to the original chapters as I collected them over the years. From that edit and structure on, we started connecting the images to the texts, clarifying where needed: most work was spend on the text, captions and footnotes. As for the object of the book – cover, material, size and such – we both had the same strong idea of the direction that had to go in. During the total process, we both like to ‘stick to the material’ which makes working on it almost like a dialogue with the work instead of sharing our separate opinions on the work.

What’s the difference between the book and the photographic project slant?
PS: Actually, there is no difference: the project is – in any case / output – divided into chapters.

How did you choose the materials and the kind of printing?
HG: The canvas I chose to give the book warmth, a humanly feeling. The soft yellow and the use of warm grey endpapers emphazises that. The paperstock of the entire book is uncoated, which maybe isn’t the logical choice for photographs if you’d like them perfectly sharp printed with all their details but in this book, it makes all images more accessible, they open up to the reader: they invite you to read them and not to just look at them.

How the materials’ choices are connected to the photographic project?
PS: The project consist of many different types of images: scans of newspapers, rasterized low-res images from internet, perfect 4x5inch negative scans, texts etc. We longed for all these extremes to become a whole and in order to achieve that, we decided to make use of only one type of paper. For each type of image to keep its own character, lithography was very important in the process too. As for the feeling of the book as in the object, I wanted it to be straight yet soft, which translates very well in the combination of the soft fabric-like cover material and the hard cover with the straight back, which makes it feel kind of like a log you plop down on a table without any hesitation, as a firm gesture.