Masthead header

making the book ~ visit to Talas

Some things take a long time. Or to put it another way: some things take their time. I’ve been working on making a book. This book project has, for reason obvious and not, meandered over the past year and a half. And I’m glad it did. Big take away from last year was that I need to stop resisting the unknown. When things are not going according to plan there might just be a reason why.  The book project stalled in late 2012.  Something about it just wasn’t coming through in the original format I was inclined to pursue.

And then a little serendipity came into play and I ended up taking couple of workshops with Lauren Henkin in 2013. Lauren is a bit of a maverick. A talented photographer, whip-smart, imaginative and one of the most resourceful people I’ve met in a long time.  I admire Lauren greatly. One way she expresses her work is through artist books, which she self-publishes.  Lauren Henkin’s books are simply beautiful and one of a kind works of art. I’m happy to own one these amazing books, “Still Standing, Standing Still,” as it inspires and motivates me.

The “Self-Publishing for Artists” workshop I took with Lauren last year infused me with delirium. Now I not only wanted to publish a book but self-publish it.  Not just self-publish it but print every page myself of a limited edition of 30 books. There’s so much to consider, think about, plan, collaborate on, figure out, edit, edit, edit… make decisions, produce.  It. Is. So. Exciting!!!

And just like that I jumped into the the world of artist books.  I’ve always found the world of artist books to be a wonderland I wanted to explore.  And now I’m in it finding my way towards making one of my dreams a reality.  There’s a lot of work!  Many challenges for sure but the process so far is quite exhilarating.  The hands-on aspect of it gives it a somewhat organic/intuitive  flair that comes from participating in every step of the production.  Each step informs the next.  At this point the editing and sequence of images is done… give or take a page or two. I’m now working on the accompanying text. While that is happening, at a rather snail’s pace (but I won’t fight it), I’ve started the process of figuring out what the cover should be. I had an idea to begin with few months ago.  By now the idea has morphed into something completely different (thanks to yet more serendipity).

Time for the book dummy version.  There will be more posts coming up following the progress of making my first limited edition book of photographs.  First, a couple of visits to Talas.

Talas is a mecca for anyone wanting to self-publish.  It is a place where one can get all supplies needed for bookbinding.  As is stated on their website:

Established in 1962 by Elaine and Herbert Haas, Talas became the first company in the US to serve the museum and library community with hand bookbinding and conservation supplies.  Today the Salik family continues to operate Talas as a family run business, serving institutions, companies, and individuals around the world with the highest quality supplies and materials available. Centered on customer service and a small business approach, we are continually expanding our product line to meet market trends and our customers’ demands.

My two visits there were very informative and productive.  All my questions were answered knowledgeably by a lovely young woman named Jessica who was super helpful.  I’ve started a small collections of various sample books of different papers, materials etc, which will be useful not just for this current project for others in the future. Definitely have a much better idea of how I want to go about the design of the cover and in the next couple of weeks I’ll make couple of actual samples fit to size.  Above are a few of pics from Talas and one from my studio looking at the sample booklets.

Part of the process of making a book is making lists (as it is part of making anything really).  Here’s one (partial and incomplete, but a start nonetheless):

Options for cover

  • what material
    • fabric
    • paper
    • vellum
    • paper vellum
  • what color
  • texture
  • lettering
The fun is just starting!
PS: If you hover over the capitalized words above for Lauren Henkin or Talas and click on the highlighted link, it will take you directly to the web pages for them.



Cathy Stewart - Wonderful window into your process and materials. can’t wait to see your book!

Monika Sosnowski - Thanks Cathy!

Looking back

All images above © Monika Sosnowski

2013… It was a good year for the most part.  Busy.  Exciting.  Hopeful.  There were setbacks and disappointments.  And losses…

The images above aren’t necessarily the highlights of  the year or even my favorites.  I’ve chosen them mostly because each one somehow represents an attempt to be open to the moment.  Some came about because of projects I’m working on and others because I found myself  to be at a place and time with a camera.  Happenstance.  One is the product of a panic over the realization that there was something very wrong with the camera (the shutter mirror detached on my Canon 5G) and yet the image that now exists somehow works, in spite of it all .  Another might be considered a failure in the eyes of those who consider photographs strictly for the sharpness of detail.  I too wish this one particular picture was more in focus (by the way it’s not the obvious one).  The photograph is not in focus because I was distracted by being self-conscious.  Sometimes the images we hope for the most fail because our emotions get in the way or otherwise we can’t disengage from circumstances surrounding us.  One image turned out differently than expected: better.   The initial exposure is just the beginning of the photograph.  How it gets processed determines much of its mood.

One image is about wonder, another a response to sadness and yet another of a point when it felt like I will never photograph again.  One image I just love and can only hope to always be that lucky.  One picture is about being mesmerized by the light.  Surrending to it.   And one is just because – it was a beautiful day and I was out with my husband and friends.

As I was contemplating the reasons for inclusion of the above images in this post I came across the following:

“The capacity of photographs to evoke rather than tell, to suggest rather than explain, makes them alluring material for the historian or anthropologist or art historian who would pluck a single picture from a large collection and use it to narrate his or her own stories.  But such stories may or may have anything to do with the original narrative context of the photograph, the intent of its creator, or the ways to which it was used by it’s original audience.” ~ Martha Sandweiss

I found the above quote on the page preceding the beginning of Geoff Dyer’s book titled, “The Ongoing Moment.”  It appealed to me on many levels, one being that it touches upon the mystery of  how we end up with the photographs we do.  What set of circumstances motivate us to go somewhere with a camera?  How do we decide to click the shutter at one particular moment and not another?  And how often do we end up with exactly what we thought we would capture?  And on that same page another quote, which I must include here as well:

“… the only thing in which I have been actually thorough has been in being thoroughly unprepared.” ~ Alfred Stieglitz.

Enough said.

Monika 1/2/2014


Peter Dudek - Awesome images. Yowsa. Print me a few.


Roberta Glick - Beautiful photos. Saw Peter in C-Town last night. Hope you guys are staying warm.

Monika Sosnowski - Roberta – thank you for checking out my work and your super comment!

Frame of reference ~ Subscribe by email now!

Untitled (Frame of Reference, a diptych) © Monika Sosnowski, 2013

I’ve made a small update here!

There is an option now to subscribe to this blog by entering your email address in the ‘Enter email’ field up above on the right and then clicking on the ‘Subscribe by email’ tab next to it.  By subscribing you will receive notifications when new content is posted.  And I have big plans for this virtual workspace!

Aside from posting about my work, I want to use this space as a kind of a forum about photography/art/writing/life/etc.  So for example over the past year I’ve added to my growing collection of photography books and I’d love to  showcase them here.  Not as a review but more like a commentary and tribute.  And speaking of books, over the next few months I will be posting on the progress of my self-publishing artist book venture.  Artistically speaking, 2013 was a really good year for me in spite of some challenges.

There’s much work ahead.  A lot to learn and discover.  The blog is part of my practice, part of this creative process, part of what I do and I’d be over the moon having folks be part of this virtual conversation.

Thank you all for your support!



notes form infinity 3: the witness

New Radiator Dried Apples © Monika Sosnowski, 2013

Most pictures tell a story. It may not be the whole story (it never is), but if you look at a photograph closely, hold it in your hand, feel it really  - it might just reveal to you not one but many stories.  Such is the way of  photographs.

So what is a photograph anyway?  Perhaps a fragment of intention.

A month after the return from Warsaw she comes across a photograph from a wedding ceremony.  There she is, a quiet, wide-eyed seven year old sitting on a crimson colored velvet chair. Her white-stockinged toes, nestled in golden trimmed sandals, peak out from beneath the long white dress and just touch the divan.  To her left the groom’s parents.  Behind them the groom’s brother as one of the witnesses and to his right, sitting directly behind the girl, her mother’s witness – a poised looking woman with her sheer gloved arms lightly folded.  The girl will forget most of the details of the wedding, though she will always conjure up the moment when the tiered cake collapsed.  And although her mother’s witness figured in their lives with regularity it was not until recently that the girl, now a woman, realized the connection.  It happened when she was looking at some photographs she took in the woman’s apartment when she visited her in Warsaw.  She knew for a while that the woman was her mother’s lawyer, a confidant, a trusted friend.  As a child she spent many times in the woman’s apartment, which was filled with beautiful and curious objects – many paintings on walls, books, crystal vases, souvenirs from travels to places in Africa, and there were always delicious sweets offered…

Not much has changed since those days of wonder except for the new radiators.  As she’s reviewing the images she took that afternoon, wishing she could have stayed longer and taken her time with the camera, she suddenly remembers the photograph from the wedding.

Her mother’s witness.  That meant something.  It should mean something.  How is it that such matters eventually fall to erosion of time and lose their substance?  But then again this is what happens when one lives in separate worlds.  Distance folds the past away into oblivion.  Some hope for that.




P Romaniuk - I love the way your first paragraph so beautifully and succinctly reveals the power of a photograph that comes from visceral experience of the physical print.

Monika Sosnowski - Thank you Paul for your comment . The physicality of the print is indeed an essential component of the medium. The print as an object has a kind of literal and figurative weight, dimension, surface etc., that together animate the image. I think we interact differently with the physical prints – there’s a greater awareness not just of the power of the photograph but also its fragility and temporality.

Notes from infinity – 2 (The beginning, perhaps the middle)

Centrum, Warszawa © Monika Sosnowski, 2013

Finally she travels back a year and half later.  The timing isn’t ideal but it’s all that’s left.  If not now she’ll have to wait at least seven months and that pains her.  But the moment the online transaction goes through she panics. Not the reaction she was expecting.  She thought she’d be excited but she’s not.  She questions her decision.  Maybe she should have waited till spring…

No.  It has to be now or otherwise opportunities might be lost, someone might die, the unforeseen may occur obliterating the work she began.  She needs to finish her project.  Just a few images are missing (they’re not).

She had a year and a half to get ready.  There’s three and a half weeks left till take-off.  She’s already convinced that somehow she’ll be late to the airport.

[to be continued]


About the image:  I kept ending up around that spot without meaning or wanting to.  It was always in passing and in a rush to get somewhere else fast.  I knew each and every time that I need to slow down, return, stay a while.  It did not happen with the exception of a few quick takes on the go, on the sly, almost in spite of it all.  If you live in Warsaw you might recognize the place right away.  Maybe not.  After all it is such a passing thru..  I wanted to talk to the peddlers selling the prettiest small bouquets of  wild flowers.  I wanted to photograph them or the girl handing out flyers.  I kept promising myself to come back.  I will.



Notes from infinity

Tramwaj © Monika Sosnowski, 2013

And so a bit of a self-portrait.  Taken on the very last day while I searched, in vain, for a place selling coffee.  It must have been too early in the morning.  The New Yorker in me was indignant and honestly I wanted to go back home.  But it was painfully obvious that the moment I’ll get on the plane I’ll wish for more time.



The problem of exile.


The exile from fatherland, from faith, from the right to criticize,

to regret, to rebel, to feel bitter.

Exile from yourself.

Homelessness of the heart.

Anna Kamieńska, extract from The Notebook 1965 – 1972


Plot point


The films of Krzysztof Kieślowski continue to have a profound impact on me.  The Decalogue and The Double Life of Véronique are especially close to my heart.  I’d go as far as to say that I literally identify my sensibility, as a person as well as an artist, with the themes portrayed  in them and the general tone that permeates throughout.

Writing about The Decalogue, Nancy Ramsey wrote in Kieślowski’s Reasons for Living: “Themes of chance, fate, honesty, the possibility of a divine presence, and social and personal responsibility are all broached through10 stories of individuals who Kieślowski said, “suddenly realize that they’re going round and round in circles, that they’re not achieving what they want.”  What governs our lives? Is is chance? Or is there some controlling presence behind the visible reality?” (from Video, 2000)

Kieślowski stated that the main theme of The Double Life of Véronique is to pay attention to one’s life and to know that one’s actions have an impact on people we know and don’t know.


In less then two weeks I’ll be back in Warsaw.  Back in Poland.  Back to continue the work – the project started in 2011.  The ‘Tenderness of Things” grew from its inception, evolved, paused and staggered.  Continued to declare itself.  Over the past year the book form of it emerged with a welcomed clarity, which led to a revision of the title.  Thus “the tenderness.”

Above, yet another take, another consideration. Krzysio, above, my childhood friend, has a framing shop below the apartment I lived in once.


Once Upon A Time

Bedroom © Monika Sosnowski

“Poems flooded me.  Fell on me like wild bees.”  - Anna Kamienska

Another image from “Once Upon a Time.”

The stuff that fills the spaces we occupy.  All the things we bought, received, found, forgot, outgrew. What we leave behind.. the stuff nobody really wants – not even the trespassers who ransack fervently looking for what might have been missed.  Or who knows what.

The mattress alone holds a thousand and one stories.  The ties. The pants.. the ones worn last.  Hasty departure? Unforeseen circumstances? Perhaps.  Or perhaps also.  The reality is something else – not insignificant, but in this instance maybe irrelevant.


Preliminary musings.  Very preliminary.

On another note… the making of an image.  What becomes a photograph. What is a photograph? What is the above photograph about?

Document? Fiction? Portrait? Landscape? Nude?

Like wild bees..