Responses by Cleon Grey, writer/designer/photographer
Background: The purpose of the book SHEREN is about sharing. It’s a visualization of a dream and a search for what’s real in life that is expressed through truth and art. SHEREN is about my life, and the things that I have had to reveal about myself in order to heal, live and love again. It’s a body of work intended for anyone seeking truth and purpose.
Reasoning: Create and capture emotion. Many books and publications often fail to do more than sell something or sell themselves. I wanted to create something different and more emotion-oriented. I wanted to present something of value that was worth the paper it was printed on. Something that was visceral, meaningful and moved people visually and emotionally—something that mattered.
Challenges: Not only did I have to find a balance between all the text, imagery and design in the book, but I also had to find a balance on a personal level as the book took over 2,000 hours to write, design, photograph and edit. Needless to say, juggling a demanding full-time career, this consuming personal project and a personal life became emotional and physically deleterious. The true cost of something is not its price.
Favorite details: I’m most proud of finishing the book, and how close the final product is to the dream I had in my mind. It’s one thing to finish something in a “done is better than perfect” approach, and it’s another to “get things done perfectly.” This project is a manifestation of that latter approach for me, even while understanding that nothing in life is ever perfect.
Visual influences: I was deeply inspired by the work of my muse and contributing artist Adrienne Raquel. She is an artist in every sense of the word and has a mastery of mood and color that is ethereal and difficult to articulate. Her work is simply visceral and creates an undeniable emotion that I have always been drawn to.
Time constraints: Our car got trapped in a ditch in Death Valley on our way to a second shoot location. We were literally stuck in the middle of nowhere and would have been there forever if a passing family in an RV didn’t help us out for two hours as nighttime was approaching. We had a flight back the next day, so those images were never realized. But our car would still be in that ditch if it wasn’t for that family helping us out.
Alternative approach: To be honest, there was a high-level of insecurity of execution that I held throughout this process. There was just so much that needed to get done, and so much that needed to be done right by me to meet my own expectations. It all drove me a bit crazy and I got insomnia, mania, irritability, obsession and loss of appetite. Looking back, however, I should have been more secure given past successes. I would have been better off for it. But I accept that for the book to now be what it is, that’s who I needed to be then.