Portraits chapbook, (c) 2003 by Peter Orozco
Portraits chapbook (2003)
During the time I was documenting the original poetry readings at Bill's Records & Tapes, I photographed a number of spoken word artists practicing their craft. Although on occasion these artists would perform works written by others, a performer typically reads or performs material he has written himself, gradually adding to the canon of self-penned poetry and monologues over time. If such an artist continues along the path long enough to amass a reasonable catalog of material, he or she will generally issue what's known as a chapbook - a self-published collection of his work.

Since poets and open mic artists in general do not have access to significant funds or to high quality printing equipment, and because public funding of the arts tends to be minimal at best, these chapbooks are usually homemade affairs, often done on Xerox machines, or, at times, printed at places like Kinko's or OfficeMax. Runs are generally very limited, with copies distributed almost exclusively among other poets and literary types through open mic readings or through arts-friendly places like Paperbacks Plus in East Dallas. Still, as a medium for self expression, the chapbook is one of the most viable means of getting one's work out there in the small and somewhat closely knit East Dallas literary community.

I am not and have never been a poet, but in 2003 I took it upon myself to create my own version of a chapbook, substituting photography and short biographies for the poetry. In the great DIY tradition, the book was a homemade affair, put together entirely in Photoshop, and printed, two copies at a time, using a computer printer. Pages were cut with a paper cutter and bound together with a heavy duty stapler. The dust jackets were cut from a large roll of black poster paper purchased at a local teachers' store, and the stencilled lettering cut by hand with an exacto knife and cardboard template. The book sold for $12.50, and, as is the norm with chapbooks, it was printed and sold at a loss. Twenty-three copies were printed of the "deluxe" version presented here, in addition to some 40-50 copies made of a much less expensive "chapbook" edition which lacked the higher quality paper, stenciled dust jacket, and separate pages for each photograph.

This book has been out of print since December 2003. Only one finished copy of the deluxe edition remains in my personal collection, along with two unsold copies of the cheaper edition and one "proof" copy of each version. After some consideration, I decided to pull the book out of mothballs and make it available online. The book features portraits and short biographical sketches of each subject, most of whom were current in the poetry / open mic scene at the time the book was printed. Many of the artists featured have since moved on to other things, and much of the information in the book is now outdated. This, and the limited commercial interest in the material (something common to all chapbooks) are the main reasons why the Portraits book has never been reprinted. Nevertheless, here it is, presented again after years of obscurity.