Saturday, 13 January 2018

Photo Book Cover(s) | Chinese Opera Photo Book Project


Being confined indoors for long stretches by the recent horrible winter weather in New York City, I started to choose potential picks for its front cover, and will eventually choose its back cover as well. After all, one has to start somewhere in a photo book, and although others perhaps make the cover choice as their last step in the book creation process, I prefer to start with it.

It's common knowledge that people spend an average of 8 seconds looking at a book's front cover and 15 seconds studying the back cover before making a decision whether to buy it or not...so the choice of both front and back covers is obviously critical to the success of Chinese Opera In The Diaspora.

The initial short list for the front cover of Chinese Opera of the Diaspora (its tentative title) is as per the above thumbnails. Although this "contact sheet" is skewed towards male performers, I have much more images of female performers for another sheet, however I believe that the final front cover choice will be that of a male performer because their roles demands them to be more facially and bodily expressive, especially if these are warrior roles.

I found it difficult to specifically shoot for covers during the many Chinese opera performances I attended. Making sure that my images -while making them- had adequate negative space to host title and sub-title typography, was virtually impossible due the movements of the actors on stage, the stage lights and, in many cases, the decorative stage backgrounds. For the covers, I preferred shots of performers being on their own, holding accessories such as weapons, scrolls or jugs.

So those that made the cut were (1) of performers with strong expressions and gestures, (2) had plain dark backgrounds (a combination of low light, spot metering and post processing), and (3) could be stitched to provide ample negative space to accommodate title typography.

I also made the decision to use a single simple and uniform typography, rather than a combination of various styles, and chose the title color(s) to match those of the performers' costumes to bring those elements together.

On some of the cover choices, I added the script of 中国戏曲 (pinyin: zhōngguó xìqǔ which means Chinese Opera) almost like a Chinese stamp alongside the title to add visual "authenticity" to the cover. 

Out of these thumbnails, I have two favorites; the lower left for the front cover and the middle right for the back cover (although it will not have titles, but just a blurb about the book's contents, the ISBN etc.)

I look forward (sort of) to the next NYC snow storm to work on more options.