Catherine Cattanach is a Wellington-based portrait photographer, wife, mother and coffee aficionado, who was named NZIPP Wellington Photographer of the Year 2018 and NZ Creative Photographer of the Year in 2016. Recently she ventured into the world of photo book creation with two stunning publications Eryngyium and Homage. In her interview she reveals the process and valuable lessons from her experience.
What is Eryngium?
Eryngium giganteum is a perennial thistle also known as Miss Willmott’s Ghost, after the 19th Century English gardener Ellen Willmott. She loved its large, thorny flowerheads and used to carry its seeds in her pockets, so that she could surreptitiously scatter them in other people’s carefully-planned gardens.
Why did you create Eryngium the book, and produce it as a Flush Mount Album?
Eryngium was created for the 2018 NZ Art Show as a catalogue to show visitors the range of my botanical work on offer. It was a cash-and-carry art show, meaning that as pieces sold they disappeared off the walls. So it was great to be able to show people the full range of my work, and they could order sizes to suit them.
Why did you create another softcover edition titled Homage?
Homage was originally created as a Flush Mount Album for the 2018 NZIPP Iris Professional Photography Awards, where it won a Silver in the Book category. I called it Homage because it was a photographic ode to the beauty of this amazing thistle.
Then I was selected as one of 19 artists given a room in which to create a unique artwork for the QT Museum Hotel’s Gallery 4. My room featured custom wallpaper with enormous Eryngium thistle heads, and the hotel was interested in stocking my book too. So I made a softcover version for guests to buy as a memento of their stay in the hotel.
How did you design the book?
I designed the book in Photoshop, then imported full-page images into Smart Albums using the Momento Pro guidelines, to create a print-ready PDF.
You only included text in Homage. Why so?
The first edition had no text other than the title, but after some expert feedback, and looking at other photo books, I added a description of the plant, an explanation of Miss Willmott’s Ghost, and a Georgia O’Keeffe quote to the second edition. This was a learning experience for me, as I wasn’t sure how to add text or a quote without it being cheesy, but once I found the right words it made the book come together a lot better.
How did you determine what price to sell the book for?
That was a difficult process. I canvassed other people’s opinions for an appropriate price range, including talking to Momento Pro staff. The fact that it’s a limited edition book was a major consideration. I decided there was a psychological barrier about hitting three digits so I decided on NZD $95.00. For an art and photography lover choosing between a small framed print of a single image at NZD $245.00, a limited edition book with 24 prints for NZD $95.00 offers great value.
Where else are you selling your softcover book?
At the Dunedin University Bookshop. I got a call last week to say a customer had come in requesting a copy – that made my day.
How long was the journey from shooting the images to printing the book?
Fairly quick really. I started shooting the images in February, created the two Flush Mount Albums (Eryngium and Homage) for the Art Show in June and the Iris Awards in July, then the softcover book was published in September.
You also made greeting cards with images from the book. Why?
After several people pointed out that my botanical work lent itself to gift cards, I made two greeting cards to sell on my website. And to send out with client orders of my fine art images and portraits. I chose Momento Pro’s Matte paper which is a stylish and contemporary stock and they come with a thick envelope that makes them feel like a premium art card series.
What’s your top tip for someone wanting to create a photo book?
I found it immensely helpful to print out spreads, lay them out on the floor, then push them around to re-order them and get a feeling for the best sequencing. Viewing them in physical form rather than just on your computer really helps so much to determine what is and isn’t working. You also need to be open to ‘killing your darlings’ as they say! Sometimes there’s a spread you dearly love but you realise it just doesn’t fit with the rest of the content, so it has to go.
Buy a copy of Homage or Catherine’s greeting card series at catherinecattanach.com.