Before You Grow Up is Ernesto's idea of a family album. It is a love note to Ernesto’s two families, his parents and brothers that he grew up with, and his wife and twin sons. It is an album of very personal images, many of which were taken in the course of other projects like the Cuba Trilogy. He started working on it around 2010. Over the years he collected images that meant something to him. Images from his contact sheets and from his childhood. He also kept small pieces of ephemera that gained new significance. Almost by accident he discovered one of his father's medical books in Veracruz before it was disposed of. In it he found a surprise inscription to his sons. All of these things made it into his handmade album.
I first met Ernesto back in 2003 and since then have developed an understanding of his editing style and personal photographic standards. We work collaboratively on book projects, mostly talking via Skype, but see each other once a year or so. Over the years our paths have crossed many times, sometimes planned, sometimes through serendipity: Santa Fe, Oaxaca, Havana, press check in Verona, exiting the subway in New York, dinner in Brooklyn, on the train from Charlottesville to New York, and on the Polycopies boat for PhotoParis.
Our challenge was to make a very personal book that would invite readers into the experience; a book that touches on the universal experience of being part of a family as both a child and an parent. We spent many hours discussing each grouping of images and the overall voice of the book to break down the barriers to the reader.
A unique aspect of this book is the combination of original drawings and journal writings, with Ernesto’s exquisitely printed fine art photographs. To make it feel handmade, almost every word and mark had to be done by hand. We reproduced original letters and passport photos alongside camera phone images and 35 mm silver gelatin prints. We left many of the imperfections of his handwriting and he personally added the finishing touch to each book. If you have a copy it is unique to some small degree.
This book was special because it connected with my own family experience. I hope you get a chance to sit with it and become part of Ernesto’s family.
You can read the full review here: A ‘Soulful Journey’ in a Family Photo Album by James Estrin, NY Times Lens Blog (Oct. 18, 2017)