The first ever photo art book of butterflies photographed in flight. Museum quality archival prints stitched and bound by hand.
While a work of art is inherently unique, some pieces can also claim a historic first. I Dreamt I Was a Butterfly appears to be the first ever book published of the butterfly photographed in flight*. The significance of this, as with the beauty of the butterfly, is in the eyes of the beholder. Either way, we are proud of its place in history and delighted with the result.
What has emerged from the creative chrysalis is much more than a book: it is a stunning photographic collection presented as an exhibition in your hands. Inside, the butterfly draws us into Nature’s chaotic world of wind, light and shadow, the random yet precision accuracy of its flight patterns leading us into the depths of a wonderland we think we understand.
For this collection, we are publishing a limited edition of 250 handmade books. The images, printed to the highest standard of museum archival quality, are hand-stitched and hand-bound into an elegantly crafted hardcover, then numbered, dated and signed by the artist.
The book is constructed of acid-free archival materials and housed in a matching hardcover archival slipcase, ensuring both book and photo art prints are of lasting value for generations, even centuries, to come.
Creating this level of archival quality is not just an artistic striving. It grows from the necessity and a deeply held belief in the collective will of all people to heal the earth so that tomorrow’s children can continue to delight in the butterfly as a brilliant and mesmerizing aviator, a dream maker and a powerful symbol of health and love.
I Dreamt I Was a Butterfly was born on a dream, the images meditations on fragments of time.
*‘Truth in advertising’: There was a successful photo-art publication by Roger Camp, titled Butterflies Photographed in Flight but, as Camp explains, he used dead butterflies place on a black card with their wings rearranged to simulate various stages of flight. So factually it appears that our book is indeed the first book ever published of butterflies photographed in actual flight – and shot within nature’s chaos, not in a butterfly zoo or studio.
“Once upon a time, I, Zhuang Zhou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Zhou.
Soon I awakened, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.” 庄子 or 莊子 Zhūangzi c.369 BC – c.286 BC
Where Dream Meets Photographic Reality
Zhuang Zhou’s timeless twist on perception and reality inspired the title of the book. With razor sharp wit and linguistic nimbleness, his dream-paradox teases us to un-see the world in absolute physical terms. Put simply, do we dream the universe or does it dream us?
With dream-like clarity, Chuck’s images reframe our perceptions of the iconic butterfly. Rather than the butterfly captured on a flower or leaf, his camera arrives at improbable intersections within the butterfly’s turbo-charged, random flight labyrinth. And then equally improbably the shutter releases at the exact moment the butterfly graces the frame and crosses the focal plane … the flight now a single point in spacetime … a pristine unending now.
The Reason for a Handcrafted Book
At the heart of our search for a book format was one that could allow an uncompromising presentation of the museum quality, archival prints of these unique photographs of the butterfly in flight. Each print of the series is rendered with rich pigment inks applied to Hahnemuhle’s fine art paper. Retaining that quality was paramount. However, most book publishing formats involve a replication of the original prints rather than binding the actual museum archival prints designed for exhibition. This approach does keep the per-book cost down … but at what price?
We chose to keep the faith and find the format that would house the original prints. Significantly, we could continue working with Rupert Morley, whose passion for art and masterful photographic printing are reflected throughout Chuck’s work.
As if on cue, the age-old art of handcrafted books revealed itself as the right path. And we discovered the work of Rachel Ward-Sale, a professional designer bookbinder, who has run her own bindery for 35 years. Rachel’s work is stunning.
Once into designing the book, the ideas that stuck were ‘stone’, ‘architecture’ and ‘space’ … the book evolving into an architectural structure with an art exhibit waiting inside. Applying the simplest of strokes, Rachel created a book as simple and natural as a boulder resting in a meadow … a place where Zhuang Zhou might have had his butterfly dream.
Handcrafting the book – the very act of hand stitching and binding the thick signatures of Hahnemuhle art paper – completed our quest. The exhibition had found a home in I Dreamt I Was a Butterfly, the book we had dreamed about … Zhuang Zhou might say that it was the butterfly that dreamt the book … and us.
The book is limited to an edition of 250 and will be offered at £875 RRP. Kickstarter Backers will receive a 34% discount, the book offered at £575, throughout the entire project.
There is also a selection of images from the book, available as individual, or multiple prints.
Click here to Back the Kickstarter project: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1769218820/i-dreamt-i-was-a-butterfly-an-exquisite-handcrafte
The Story of the Images
24 May 2011 The sun was rising over the low hills when I walked out of our front door and into a field of wild grasses and flowers tangled between the roots of ancient grape vines and olive trees gone rogue. I had been drawn out by the flickering brilliance of a butterfly … and I had the vague notion of photographing it flying.
I had been thinking about this for a few days and, while I wanted to photograph a butterfly flying, I knew that I had no interest in controlling the butterfly’s surroundings (wind, sun, foliage) or influencing in any way its flight. What I imagined was a butterfly flying through the frame, on or near the focal plane, exactly when the shutter released.
The reality was a bit different. I realised fairly quickly that photographing a butterfly in flight might not be all that easy. I panned right and the butterfly went left. The butterfly flew down, camera flew up …focus near, butterfly far … random is a mild definition of the butterfly’s flight patterns. I’ve since learned that with 5 to 6 forms of lift at its disposal, the butterfly spins on a pin head, tumbles and somersaults within a few millimetres along with endless other mind-blowing manoeuvres … little wonder that this brilliant aviator is study religiously by aeronautics engineers.
Hours arrived, stayed a bit, flew on. I snapped away suspecting that the odds of the butterfly passing through the frame were nil-to-zilch … not important. I was dazzled, intrigued, mesmerized, the sun arching through its zenith, me blithely snapping away … then sitting among flowers in the twisted shade of an olive tree, sipping water … watching, breathing, thoughts fluttering around, passing … and, in a ‘down the rabbit hole’ manoeuvre, I dropped into the butterfly’s world … shards of light, shapeshifting shadows, intense colors, the smell of warm earth rising through wild herbs … it seemed like the right place …
15 June 2012 These moments spent with the butterfly delight and inspire … meditating on fragments of time set against backdrops of foliage swept by wind and sun … occasionally I pan the camera, spin the focal ring (I hand-hold and focus manually) and release the shutter and if the butterfly graces the frame it is a gift … Chaos, the Quantum universe’s micro perturbations and the butterfly’s random flight patterns all at play … predicting the moment of take-off, the direction of flight, the fall of light is quixotic at best.
About the Authors:
The photographer, Chuck East.
After a 35-year film career, directing and producing documentaries, TV specials and advertisements, Chuck has returned in recent years to his first love, photography, as a more personal way to explore the world in our own backyards.
His interest is in discovering the beauty of the ordinary aspects of life that are all around us – not just for the privileged few, but accessible to all. While photography is the initial medium, the final artwork is often more like a painting, which is simply the result of the way he exposes the image, the choice of papers to print it on and his own way of playing with light and dark and colours.
The editor, Oliver East.
The youngest son of Chuck and his wife Marita, Oliver is the one that inspired and encouraged his father to collect these unique images into a photo book and share them more widely. He graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in Spanish and Portuguese.