We photographers often talk about serendipity in the process of photographing, yet rarely do we acknowledge its mysterious presence in the editing and sequencing of projects.  Occasionally the building of a book just seems to evolve organically –– with serendipity often playing a role.

I remember the morning last spring when the four of us –– Rebecca, myself, and two of our publishers, David Chickey and Darius Himes of Radius Books –– first settled on the two photographs for the front and back covers of Violet Isle (my photograph above of the unbound covers was taken on press in Singapore this past July.). As soon as David Chickey, the designer, mentioned his idea of the fold-out covers for Violet Isle, these two images immediately sprang to Rebecca’s and my minds.  Within moments, David and Darius agreed with our choices. Only later did Rebecca and I realize that the front cover ––her picture of the brilliantly colored pigeon’s wing –– and the back cover –– my photo of the baseball stadium at dusk ––represent the chronological bookends of the project, an unexpected bit of serendipity. I had taken the photograph of the two young men standing atop their bicycles watching a baseball game in Sancti Spiritus, on my first trip to Cuba in 1993.  Rebecca had taken hers on a rooftop in Havana in 2008, the last year we photographed in Cuba, some eleven trips later. ––ALEX WEBB


During three of our 11 trips to Cuba, Alex and I visited Ediciones Vigía, the handmade book workshop in Matanzas, a small city not far from Havana.  These wonderful and playful handmade books are often made out of very ordinary materials –– cardboard, string, yarn –– with the workshop’s more elaborate book designs incorporating dresses, dolls, kites, shoe boxes, and even the underside of an umbrella.

So much to my and Alex’s surprise and delight, our designer at Radius Books, David Chickey, had also seen a collection of these books, which in part inspired his design of Violet Isle, including the cardboard slipcase (photographed above by Alex).  Talk about serendipity!

This summer there was an exhibition of these unusual handmade books in New York at the Grolier Club, an exhibition that since has traveled to Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  To see a selection of the Ediciones Vigía books, please follow the link below.––REBECCA NORRIS WEBB

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One Response to “MAKING BOOKS: Violet Isle”

  1. Could you create this photo in your mind? | Michael Fioritto Says:

    […] was chosen as the cover of their book about Cuba, Violet Isle. This is a photographic gift that comes from spending time with your subject. From walking and […]

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