So it was a case of pulling all the boxes out, sorting the files in order, and starting the photo hunt right back at the beginning - starting with the first photos back in the file marked '1987', and then working my way forwards from there, looking through something like ten thousand photos, slides and negs.
How many days have you spent scanning images for the book?
Mark Noble: Months! I probably spent something like... five, maybe six months looking through files and scanning photos in between job hunting and a few random freelance gigs. I lost count of the days, but it was a really good process diving back through the years...
Once digitized, how did you proceed from there?
Mark Noble: So I scanned them, labelled the raw images, and saved them in organised Year folders on a hard drive, keeping everything in chronological or timeframe order - I had to keep it simple due to the sheer number of scans I did, something like 800 or more?
Did you get help from others?
Mark Noble: Absolutely, my brother Chris was key in all of this. He's a photoshop genius, a layout creative, has an amazing eye for detail and he totally nailed the look and feel of the whole book. We obviously worked together for years on the magazines during our 4130 days - with Dirt, Moto, Level, Document and of course RideBMX which he designed during the glory days of the magazine. And then, I had a few key people and good friends help write some great short stories and memories in there to add some context and good stories from back in the day. You'll see.
Is the book your story of how you lived BMX?
Mark Noble: Yep. You could say that - we just lived BMX through all those years, day in day out. We were super lucky to help make it happen, go to the places we did, travel, live the experiences, and meet so many people along the way.
How does it feel to have been part of BMX's history from the beginning to where it is now?
Mark Noble: To look back on it, it was an amazing time, an amazing feeling to have been a part of it all. BMX right now is very different, but it's still awesome and I love it. I'm no longer working in the industry any more, so I can just enjoy it on my own terms and love it for what it is now, which is kinda refreshing in a strange way. But back then, we were totally immersed in it, committed to it, and I bloody loved it. Still do, really.
Is the book a personal project or more a way to document BMX as it is/was?
Mark Noble: Yep. It's totally a personal photo album of BMX, during that amazing mid-school era between 1987 and 2004, when BMX was on its arse and the riders took over running everything - we had to take over, as big business dropped BMX like a bad smell. All the kids who left the BMX craze of the 80s were long gone, it was left to the riders remaining to make it happen – and to document all that through the magazines back then, and then again put it all into this Photobook... it was a privilege really, and we made the most of it.
Did you come across pics that you forgot about?
Mark Noble: Oh mate, so many! So many events or photo sessions that I forgot about, so going back through the files was a real trip down memory lane. I'd come across a sheet of negatives and have no immediate memory of the event, until it all came flooding back. I can live it all again just by picking up the book now... haha
Did you find pics that should never be printed in a book?
Mark Noble: Nope - I had total freedom making this book, so nothing was off the table. It was a great feeling, just to put my favourite photos in there... also, the photos kind of seem different. In the days of RideBMX back then, we chose the best photos from a magazine point of view, then cropped them, maybe put some text over the top etc. With the photobook, none of the photos are cropped and they are all full frame with no design over the top - so they look and feel quite different. Plus, there is a ton of photos in the book which have never been seen before now.
Who supported the book?
Mark Noble: Aside from the people who helped with their time and effort, like Chris who spent countless hours designing it and working on photoshop etc... My family was really patient with me, as I set everything up at home so I had files and negs all over the place, and our home office / lounge was scanning central... anyway, the kids made me do the book in the first place. I asked them during dinner one time, "shall I finally make this BMX photobook?" and before I even finished the sentence they said "yes dad" so that was that. I self-financed this project and just worked out how to make it work.
How hard was it to put a fair price on it?
Mark Noble: Setting the right price was a little difficult. I didn't want to make it too expensive at all, but the print cost per book was bonkers, so it had to be £49 plus shipping, which is about right for a heavyweight photobook these days. Speaking of heavyweight, I was shocked when the finished books came back from the printers and I weighed them... damn. That was a surprise - they came in at about 2.5kg each, around 5lbs. No wonder the international shipping rates are a little expensive - sorry about that.
How was the feedback on the book from your audience?
Mark Noble: I was shocked, stoked, and humbled by it to tell you the truth. The book was a personal project, my own photo album, so for other people to enjoy it as well... that made my day. When people come along with feedback about a particular photo, and they're in the background, or were at an event, or can remember some other details that were triggered by the photos in there... that's amazing to me. To everyone, I say thanks for the positive feedback...
Do you think you could do another one in the future?
Mark Noble: I very much doubt it - all the best photos are in the book already. Maybe we could do something different with just portraits, perhaps there's another book with just BMX products and bikes that I photographed during the mid-school era, maybe. I've still got all those product photos... But so much work and time went into Emulsion, I'm not really into doing another!... perhaps I could do some limited edition photo prints or something, if people are into that.
Have you run out of copies?
Mark Noble: Not quite - but very nearly. I only have a few boxes left of the Second Edition...
Where can people find more information on the book?
Mark Noble: No worries. Here's a link to the ordering page; https://emulsionbmx.bigcartel.com/product/emulsion-bmx-photobook-reprint