Private Collection - My First Coffee Table Book
Private Collection: Volume 1
I picked up the camera in 2011 with the intention of challenging myself to learn a new craft and create photographs that I found pleasing. It was my last year at design school, and although I had experienced plenty of love in graphic design, I felt called to explore photography as well.
Fast forward to 2016 (we'll go over those middle years in a separate post). I had just ended a friendship/relationship with one of my primary clients and was questioning my entire path. I had been photographing celebrities, up and coming models, and working with world-renowned brands, traveling to exotic destinations to shoot the girlfriends of the rich, yet I wasn't feeling fulfilled. I had achieved everything my upbringing had trained me to accomplish: Money, fame, travel, "friends," material, working hard, and women. To me and those around me, I had made it. So why was I feeling so empty? Was I going to dedicate the rest of my life to these pursuits? "doesn't it get boring after a while?"
In 2016 I realized I need to explore a new path, or at least try to slow down. I discovered meditation, and after several unsuccessful attempts, I managed to clear the internal noise and become still. I spent the first half of that year meditating; clearing out the past, releasing tension and trauma, regaining ground as a new being.
Eventually, through some divine intervention, on the day I finished the book "The Alchemist," I experienced my first LSD trip at my home in the presence of sunlight, plants, the summer breeze, a loving partner, lots of fruit, and many candles. For the first time in my life, I felt an all-encompassing love and acceptance for myself that I had only experienced through what I call "a grandmother's hug." The whole experience felt like someone decided that I am ready, and provided the key to break through the last bits of resistance.
A few months later, in September 2016, I traveled to the Island of Bali with all of my cameras. I had never experienced an island, let alone an island in Asia, so I was photographing every single detail that stood out to me. The architecture, the colors, way of life, colors, plants, and even the insects were all new to me.
After returning to Los Angeles and settling, I was encouraged by friends to start the process of putting together a coffee table book.
Seemed easy! I had spent five years photographing hundreds of models and different locations, so it felt like I have a substantial archive of images for a book. I set a deadline and promised myself that I would have a book published by January of 2017. What a fool!
I printed all of the photos that I felt were strong enough to be considered, and started placing them on foam boards. The selection of photographs consisted of both film and digital images.
After spending a month with the printed photographs and eliminating the ones that weren't making an impact, I realized something that made my heart sink: I could not use any digital images in the book. I had to shoot everything all over and this time strictly on film.
The realization came from comparing the photos I had taken in Bali. I had accumulated a significant amount of digital images of plants, flowers, and light, with a small number of photos taken on film. But the photographs taken on film were much more impactful. At the time I couldn't put it into words, but something about them just felt much better; especially when printed.
I tossed aside the deadline, deleted my social media apps, and went into a creative hole. No more digital cameras.
Another decision was to keep everything I created off of the internet. I wanted the photographs to remain exclusive to the book, and also to change the intention behind the movement of the creative force. At first, this was a challenge. I had become used to sharing my best work on social media and the internet. Either for gratification or validation or to prove myself to no one in particular. I was also lucky enough to work with muses who were open to keeping the images off of the internet as well. After years of creating and posting, we had all grown tired of the same routine, so the timing was perfect. After a few months of creating beautiful work and maintaining them offline, I adapted the practice as a continuous approach (to this day the best pieces stay off of the internet)
What started to inspire me a few months into this new journey was my Iranian lineage, something that I had pushed aside until that point because of the trauma I experienced while living in Iran in the 90's. Then, during meditations, I would see symbols and structures that didn't make sense at the time, but later I would find their link to Zoroastrianism and ancient Persia. From there I realized the close correlation between photography, light, Zoroastrianism, shamanism, quantum physics, Sufism, music, paintings, psychedelics, and ultimately vibration (these realizations set the foundation for what later became Sol Academy; that later became Photo Zero).
After months of shooting, dropping off the film at the local lab, scanning them at home, placing them into the layout of the book, shipping the negatives off to Canada for drum scanning, I announced the pre-order for Private Collection via my newsletter and across social media platforms in November of 2017. I felt like the book was at the best place it could be and that it was time to move onto the next phase: printing.
The announcement was received much better than I had imagined. I had taken a break from the internet and social media, so a part of me assumed that no one would care. The pre-orders started to pour in which solidifies the commitment towards creating this book. Now I had people to respond to.
I kept the pre-order short to a 30-day period, and I didn't promote it too aggressively. It was my first time publishing a book, so a part of me was worried about getting too many orders (and I am happy I did that! I have been personalizing and packing each book at home. Each book takes an average of 20 minutes to wrap and personalize. It takes time and attention, so if I had to do that X 400 I would have lost my mind..)
The following month after the pre-order challenged my commitment to deadlines and planning. While I was getting ready to send the file to the print shop, I created four photosets that blew me away..so I had to do what any sane artist would do: push back the deadline and include the new sets in the book.
I cut the negatives, labeled and packed them, sent them via FedEx to Canada where Jon from Wetink Fine Art drum scanned the images and sent the high-resolution files within days. Relief! We could finally go into print.
Reality had other plans.
I had already chosen the dimensions of the book, the paper, and the cover material months before, but a week before I was planning on sending the file to the print house, there was the option of a different, more premium feeling paper. So we had to place an order for the paper stock and wait a few weeks for it to arrive. The cover material, a beautiful beige colored linen, was accidentally replaced by a gray color. The binding house had ordered grey linen instead of the beige, so we had to correct that confusion at the last minute and wait for the beige linen to arrive.
While we were waiting for the material to arrive at the print house, I decided to keep an open mind and add anything else that would be worthy of being showcased in the book. The book material came at the end of February 2018, and by then I had added five new photos to Private Collection, which really complimented the flow of the book. I pretty much shot until the very last minute. Why not! I had learned to take it day by day.
After months of changes to the deadline, I picked up the first batch of orders in mid-April of 2018. Finally! I had the book in my hands. But I had no time to celebrate. I had entered the last stage of this book experience: Packing and shipping.
I wanted each book to be an extension of my being, so it became a goal to personalize each book and put in the most love and attention that I could. You could say that all I had to do was to place the books in a box and ship them out, but why stop short of creating a one-of-kind experience when you have worked so hard at creating a coffee table book? So again I had to practice patience, and ask the same from the people who had pre-ordered the book.
As I write this post, I have 40 books sitting on my living room floor. Each has been signed, has a personal note, small print, and some other surprises that go along with it. On Tuesday I wrap them and drop them off at the local post office, where they will find their new home.
If it's anything I've learned with this process is to be patient and allow space for the evolution of an idea, instead of stubbornly sticking to pride and the views of the past. Patience is the number one lesson from this entire experience. The understanding that creative endeavors do not fit within the structure of time and rigid planning. A creative project of this magnitude should be approached step by step, day by day; not skipping ahead. Being completely immersed in the mini-processes that eventually shape the whole. Allowing it to form its own language and bring forth new ideas. A natural evolution.
If I were to sum up what this book means to me it would be Transformation; not only for me but for every person who participated in the creation of it. This book is a result of the evolution of life and the creative force behind its movement.
Through its creation I have gained an extended family; which is every single person who pre-ordered the book. This entire project has been a labor of love, and this love is shared with a group of people who decided to support this vision, who are now family. Thank you.