I'd like to take a few minutes to thank you all once again for your orders of my photographs, and to thank you for your patience about receiving them. I am sorry for any delays there have been in getting the prints to you—and I'd like to explain why they have occurred.
Most all of the orders were printed by October 15th or thereabouts. (Only a very few remained to be printed beyond that time—the few prints from particularly troublesome negatives.) The reason your prints weren't shipped immediately was this: for shipping I use reusable wooden boxes with screw-down lids. They come to you wrapped in brown paper. A return address, to me, is already on the lid, so that after your prints have been taken out of the box and the lid screwed back on, the box is ready to be sent back to me. No further wrapping is necessary. Only postage is needed.
I have 15 boxes for 8x20 prints and 17 boxes for 8x10 prints. I would have figured that would have been enough boxes to build to accommodate my orders. So that prints can be sent promptly, and so everyone can receive their order in a timely way, it is necessary that the boxes be returned to me as soon as possible.
Much to my dismay, some of the boxes have been out for over a month. I do realize I am asking you to pay for return postage on the box. That is an expense you didn't figure on—but I feel that, considering the very reasonable price of my prints, that it is not too much to ask. In the past I did use non-returnable cardboard containers. After far too many prints were destroyed in transit, I realized that for me, wooden boxes were the only way to go.
To those of you who have returned the box promptly—I thank you. To those of you who have not yet returned the box—please do so as soon as you can. And to those of you who have not yet received your prints—please have patience—they'll be there soon.
Since the 1st of September, when I returned home from my trip, I've spent almost all of my time working in the darkroom. Beside printing your orders, I printed from the 1979 negatives I made while out West, and even began to make a small dent in the pile of approximately 1000 unprinted negatives from the past few years. Fortunately, I was able to hire an assistant, and what would have been endless 18 hour days became manageable ones, and though this work has taken far longer than I had expected, I did finish what I had set out to do during this time.
A week or so ago, final selections were made as to which photographs are to be included in my book. My selections surprised me in a few instances. Realizing that a book should be more than merely the sum of its parts, a few pictures I had originally thought to include were dropped in favor of others that seemed to work better in relation to the whole. I have learned a great deal going through this process.
Because I have just made these selections, book production has been delayed. Instead of a March 1980 publication date, as I had originally hoped, I am now figuring on publication sometime during the summer of 1980.
Several years ago, when I first conceived of this book, I figured it would consist only of reproductions from 8x10 negatives. Last year, as some of my new 8x20s were printed, it seemed a good idea to include a few of those—and I thought that since there could only be a few that they could fit into the 8x10 book and fold out. As my trip neared an end, in late August, I realized I wanted to include more than just a few 8x20s, and thought to do, therefore, a large size book—11x23—but this didn't make good design sense for the 8x10s. To my suggestion to put an 8x10 on the right hand side of one 11x23 page and the number and title on the left hand side of the same page—(as opposed to putting it on the preceding page)—my designer said, "Michael, that's an excellent solution to a bad design. I don't do bad designs."
At that point I wrote and asked your feelings about book size. Many of you did have strong opinions about the book size and did respond to my request to let me know them. I am grateful and thank you for that. Most of you said, "No foldouts. Do a long book."
What I eventually decided to do is to make the book in two volumes. One, 11x13, will have approximately 45 8x10 reproductions. The other book will hinge at the top—so that you won't need a four foot table when it is opened.
One of the advantages, I see, about self-publishing, is that fairly late in the process one can still make the most major of changes—as I did in deciding on a two volume set. A regular publisher, I am sure, could never have been able to agree with this change, with its attendant increased costs.
The decision to go to two volumes instead of one, and the decision to reproduce 60 photographs, instead of 50 as previously announced, has, of course, resulted in greatly increased costs. Consequently, the price of the book, on publication, will be $225 instead of the previously announced $150.
Some of you have written me asking for additional prints and books. My print prices are currently $200 and $400—an not the $175 and $350 as they were when I saw most of you. However, to those of you who have bought prints from me this year, I plan to continue my special 1/2 price offer of $100 and $200. The book, however, with the first print, is now $200 with an 8x10, and $300 with an 8x20, instead of $150 and $250 as it had been.
My exhibit during October and November at the Robert Freidus Gallery in New York City went quite well. This was the first time that both my 8x10 and 8x20 prints were hung together. The gallery hung the work beautifully and the mix of sizes made for an interesting show. Favorable reviews appeared in the NY Times in the Arts and Leisure Section on Sunday November 4th and in the Soho Weekly News during the week of November 12th. If you would like to see them let me know and I will send you copies.
In a few days I will begin another photographic trip. Just last week, Art Sinsabaugh invited be to join him for a few weeks travel in New Mexico. I feel honored and just couldn't refuse him. In mid-January I will continue on my own through the South for several months to make pictures there.
As I am about to leave, book production is about to begin. Half-tone negatives and proofs are currently being made.
It's an exciting time. Adventures lie ahead!
With warm best wishes for the coming Holiday Season,
Michael A. Smith
P.S. While traveling, I am in weekly contact with home. Mail and phone messages are received regularly.
P.P.S. Again, I apologize for this xerox format—but it seems the best way to keep in touch with so many people.