It All Began With Great Trips / Europe.
My brilliant but hopelessly unworkable and ultimately unsuccessful idea was to print all of the information needed for a wonderful do-it-yourself one-day adventure on an 11"x17" sheet of paper, complete with a large map, text and photos, and folded as a brochure (drawing, right). This would be easy to use in the field, and easily carried. A map this size could be read even in poor lighting conditions, and could be packed with small details. The text, on the reverse side, would be folded into six 3¾"x8½" columns. The concept was really quite simple, ultimately winning praise from dozens of newspapers including the New York Times. The photo below shows my dad, sister-in-law Linda, and brother Richard looking over one of my brochure-guides in Sion, Switzerland in 1979.
The only problem was in marketing. More on that later.
In the meantime, it is late 1975 and I have to start working on this project while continuing to earn a living at our studio in New York. Now, the commercial photography business is highly erratic — either you are swamped with work or you sit around for days on end twiddling your thumbs. At that time I had decided to "do" not just Europe, but North America as well. So, as soon as I had a few days free I hopped a train down to Washington D.C. and checked into the Mayflower Hotel. First thing the next morning I walked to the old Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in Georgetown, then along its towpath until I came to a place that rented bicycles. From here I pedaled my way alongside the water for several miles into Maryland, passing locks, the falls of the Potomac River, a rough section that I had to carry the bike over, and finally the Great Falls Tavern and its museum of canal artifacts. For anyone interested in both bicycling and canals, this is an amazing little adventure. Late in the afternoon I began the return journey, reaching downtown D.C. around sunset with but one frame of film left in my Nikon. As I passed the front of the White House, I propped the camera against the railing and took a long exposure as the lights came on, which I later sold to TWA for use on a travel ad. At least that paid for the trip.
After several more little outings in the Northeast, I decided for the time being to stick to Europe as doing both continents was more than I could handle alone. I should have known better — after that aborted movie experience.
The winter of 1975-76 was spent, between photo assignments, in writing the material gathered so far. But more was needed, so I took two months off in the spring of 1976 and traveled by train through Holland, Germany, Austria, and Italy, always on the lookout for possible one-day little adventures for my brochure-guides.
By late '76 I was ready to launch the project. The text was written, maps drawn, and photos printed. Now I needed a printer who also did typesetting. After this proved to be too expensive, I thought about doing my own typesetting, which could be combined in the same keystrokes with word processing. Once the type was set I could use a less expensive out-of-town printer. With today's computers this would be a simple matter, but back then it was more complicated. The most reasonable solution, which I took, was to lease a computerized phototypesetting machine called a Quadritek — something that fit easily into my apartment (photo, above). By now the enterprise had completely taken over my humble abode, with a drafting table and copy machine in the dining room and darkroom equipment in the kitchen.
Interested in photography? Check out my "Assisting Avedon" blog.
SO, just what Little Adventure am I up to now in 2013? Why, just the most challenging one of them all! CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT.