Category "Book Publishing"

Chris Buck Talks About His New Book: Presence

This is the first in a series of interviews I’m conducting to promote my seminar at the 2012 Photo Plus Expo titled “Making a Career in Editorial Photography”. I’ve got 3 editorial photographers at the top of their game who I’m going to interview on stage about their careers and marketing methods. If you’re going to PPE, join Chris Buck, Jake Chessum, Martin Schoeller and me on Friday, October 26th from 1:30 to 3:30 pm.

Chris is somewhat of a regular around here, I really enjoy checking in with him, because he’s always honest with his answers. He’s got a new book out called Presence (get yours here), so I asked him all about creating it and finding a publisher. I know you will enjoy his insight into the process.

Rob: I remember from our previous interview that you place a lot of importance on personal projects and the promotional value you get from them. Can you talk about that and how you go about finding those projects?

Chris Buck: First, I’m trying to think of something that will be original, that’s a big part of it.

Rob: I was going to ask, does originality trump everything for you?

Chris: When I think of something interesting, I automatically assume that it’s been done already. This is a struggle for a photographer at any stage in their career – you want things that feel fresh and new, and not something that’s just a rehashing of what’s been done before.

But, one has to realize, nothing is entirely new, everything has a predecessor to it.

Rob: I gave up even writing about who copied who, because everything can be traced back further than the photographer who thinks they are the original.

Chris: I’ve attended lectures where well-regarded photographers talked about other photographers stealing their ideas and the whole time I’m thinking, “Seriously? You’re a legend. Get over it.”

[laughter]

Rob: A lot of the promotional and personal work that I see is photographers trying to put their own stamp on an idea that exists. I think it’s interesting that you are searching for an original idea completely.

Chris: That’s one thing I’ve realized when doing this and thinking about what I want to do next. Most photographers will find something interesting in the world and then construct a body of work around that. That’s not what I want to be doing and it’s not where I’m likely to make a unique stamp.

I’m going to do better by in my own quiet way, constructing something, or maybe constructing my own curious connection between things. I think that’s where my strength is.

A lot of the ideas I come up with, I’ve not done, because they’re not visual enough. They might be clever and funny, but they’re not visual.

Rob: Interesting, I hadn’t thought about it that way before. Before we get into this current project, how much does the end product play into it? You don’t just do this to entertain yourself. This is a business. This is part of the marketing. This is part of the business of Chris Buck photography, right?

Chris: Absolutely, but It’s hard to think about that until after I do it. There’s a certain level of faith that if I do interesting work and I put it out there, then work will come back my way.

Rob: Ok, let’s talk about this project. I want to know the germination of the idea, where it came to you. When did you realize that it was going to work, and that you needed to pursue this, and that you needed to talk all these celebrities during shoots into participating in your project? What was the beginning?

Chris: I was brainstorming ideas with my agent at the time (Julian Richards), and I had an idea that was very theoretical. It was just the idea of phoning it in. I liked the idea of literally not being on the set and giving instructions to an assistant, or whoever, as to what to do, what to tell the subject, and then whatever we got was the picture.

[laughter]

I liked it in theory, but I realized that the actual work itself would be wildly different based on who actually was on-set and did the execution, and also then, in most cases, it probably wouldn’t be very interesting.

And, just on a personal, selfish level, too, I wanted to control it. I didn’t want it to be entirely random, like a scientific experiment where the visuals wouldn’t have been that important.

So, I switched it. Rather than having me not there I decided to have the subject not there.

Initially, it was going to be a set where I just shot someone and they left. This is the room where I just shot George Clooney, or something. Then I realized it was a bit too esoteric, so I put the subject back in, which anchored it nicely.

Rob: Is this all happening in your head, or is this happening…?

Chris: This is hashing it out with Julian. Then the decision becomes, how much of them do we see?

Do we see an elbow and a top of a head? Are we seeing them peeking or something, and how much? Maybe not enough to recognize them, but enough to indicate where they are. But, I actually realized that I liked the cleanness of not seeing them at all. I also thought it was both funnier and a bit of a playful “F You,” to the audience.

Rob: [laughs] Oh God. I love that. We’re getting back to that, keep going.

Chris: I initially thought of it as a promotional piece, just 15 images in a little booklet, each one would be titled with the person’s name. It would be funny and kind of throwaway, and that would be the end of it.

The first one I shot was William Shatner, with these bales of hay. It was so rich with color and texture that I was like, “wow, even if a fraction of them are this interesting, this could actually have legs and become a full book.”

Rob: Tell me about the first shoot, though. The first time you told William Shatner what you were doing, and what you needed to do.

Chris: I’m pretty fearless about stuff like this, so, I just asked. Let’s put it this way, in my previous shoot with Shatner, I had him being arrested by two LA cops. So, asking him to hide in a scene was peanuts in comparison.

Rob: I remember from our previous interview, didn’t you ask him some other crazy things to do?

Chris: Yeah, I asked him to do a lot of crazy stuff and he just said, “No, I will not do that.”

Rob: So in comparison to what you normally ask celebrities to do, this is tame.

Chris: Right. Well, for one thing, they’re not even going to be visible. So it doesn’t matter how they look or what they’re doing. They can be crouching or standing, or whatever it is. It doesn’t matter , as we don’t see them.

Rob: Were some of the people reluctant? Thought it was stupid?

Chris: Well, a few of them kind of felt like, “If I’m not going to be in there, why waste my time with this?” But if they bothered to put up an argument, they ended up doing it. Because it mattered to me, and they just went with it. Whoopi Goldberg looked through my entire mock-up and she spent a good 10, 15 minutes on it and then wouldn’t do it.

I don’t really know what she was thinking. But she didn’t want to be part of it. Maybe she felt like she had worked hard to be visible and was not into being portrayed without being visible.

Rob: Then did some people get really into it and understand the whole concept?

Chris: Oh, some people totally got into it, and got really excited. Rainn Wilson I shot for New York magazine, and then afterwards I had him pose for the series. When he walked out of his hiding spot, he said, “We do a little business, we do a little art.”

Rob: So you finished the project. Tell me about approaching a publisher.

Chris: Well, I shot it in five years, and about three-and-a-half years into it, I began to look for a publisher. Remember, I contacted you early on asking you for some help and you have that list of publishers on your blog, which was one of my resources.

Basically, I made a list and started going down it. At first, I was approaching just one at a time, but pretty soon I was approaching three, four at a time. I’d go through a stack of mock-ups, and then I would stop and think, OK, what’s working, what’s not working? Then I’d make a new version of the mock-up.

In the end I made three different mock-ups, and was always improving on it. The last one I made with a designer and I hired someone to be my representative just for approaching the publisher (Alan Rapp).

Rob: Wow.

Chris: Well, that’s because I had gone to seminars on how to do a photo book.

Rob: You went to seminars?

Chris: I’d gone to seminars over the years and it was made clear that one was expected to present the proposed book as a finished product – sequencing, layout, foreword or introduction, and cover design – everything.

One of the problems I think that I had with the publishers was it’s essentially an art book from someone who’s not an art photographer. They didn’t quite know where to put it. It’s a pop culture photographer making a fine art book, but they couldn’t sell it on my name as an art photographer.

Rob: Oh, I can see the pitch for sure. “A celebrity book?” “Yes.” “There’s no celebrities in it?” “Pass” [laughs]

Chris: Well, they’re in it. You just can’t see them.

Rob: Right. So, back to the process, because a lot of my readers will be interested in the book publishing part.

Chris: Basically, here’s the approach I took. I can put it very simply. I had never published a book before, so I didn’t really know that world. I knew editorial, and I knew advertising. I looked through my Facebook and through my general contacts, and I reached out to anyone I knew who had any connection to people who had been published

It was absolutely humbling and eye opening. It was such a good process for me. Not that I was arrogant, but I had a certain place in the editorial and advertising world and I had no place in the world of publishing.

Rob: Was that hard for you, to go back to square one after having your very successful career?

Chris: Well, the hard part is that while I’m well regarded in my field and have done well, a lot of people treated me really shabbily. Not responding at all or being rude.

Rob: Oh, my.

Chris: I found it surprising. You would expect people would at least think, “Maybe, I’ll cross paths with this person at some point in the future, I guess I should at least be polite.”

Rob: Absolutely. But, no that wasn’t the case?

Chris: Some people were, but many people weren’t. I found that amazing.

Rob: Right. Is that just publishing, they’re overwhelmed? They see so many projects that are horrible…

Chris: I don’t know. I think that these different areas are more separate from each other than we realize. Because my next step after that was trying to get a gallery, and that was the same thing just starting over from scratch. Again, contacting anyone I know who had ever had exhibitions in galleries at all. It’s contacting former assistants who are now as successful as me or more so.

[laughter]

Chris: Again, really humbling.

Rob: So back to the publishing. You had three mock-ups. You had an agent specifically for the book. You had gone through a series of publishers and then you finally found one who got the whole thing and was interested in you and the project. You just ran into them?

Chris: No, I did not run into them. What happened was I met with Darius Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson. They had just done a book called “Publish Your Photography Book”. I met with them as professional consultants and that’s what actually led to the introduction to Kehrer.

Rob: Can you tell me anything about the process of publishing the book? It’s a beautiful book.

Chris: Thank you. For people who are interested in doing a book, in terms of the actual execution of making it, I’d say the one thing that was a revelation to me in terms of the actual quality of the book itself, is that I made match prints for every visual for the book.

Now maybe that’s a norm, but when I was actually on press in Germany and the technician is working the machine he is standing there holding the match prints I made in New York. And, he did an amazing job of matching them. I went back and rescanned all the images from the original negatives and transparencies and worked on each file for hours at home. Then took them to Picturehouse.

B.J. DeLorenzo, who made the match prints there, would actually alter my files to make the match print look good he’d do what he had to do. Then those final files that made the match prints were the ones that went to the publisher.

Rob: Awesome.

Chris: The fact is I’m 99 percent happy with how the images look in the book because of the amount of care and time we put into making files I was happy with and then making match prints that matched those files.

Rob: So, how many did you print?

Chris: 1000 pieces.

Rob: Ok, that’s not very much.

Chris: It’s a small run. If people are serious about getting the book, they should get it sooner rather than later because it will sell out.

Rob: I want to go back to something that you said about the pictures being an “F-you” to the reader. How much of this project is in the outrageousness, the absurdity of taking pictures of celebrities where you can’t see them?

Chris: Well, it’s meant to be full on ridiculous and full on serious at the same time. I think that this ultimately comes across. I never even joke that the celebrity might not be in there. I take it very seriously. I spent five years shooting, two years looking for a publisher, and then a year and a half releasing the book.

Rob: Yeah, that’s no joke.

What about the fact that you’ve worked so hard and so long on a project that some people will think is the stupidest thing they’ve ever seen? [laughs]

Chris: I guess so. I like that.

Rob: Good, because I’m referencing the comments on article about the book on the “Huffington Post”.

Chris: Oh, God.

Rob: Do you enjoy that many people don’t get it?

Chris: Honestly, when I read through the comments, it actually is upsetting.

Rob: Really?

Chris: On a theoretical level, I like the idea that people think it’s a waste of their time or whatever. A lot of people obviously don’t understand what it is. One of the comments supporting me said something like, “This is a guy who’s been shooting celebrities for 20 years. You have to see the work in that context.”

I thought that was a nice way of framing it. But I don’t know. I mean, yes, at some level, it is fun that people dismiss it.

Rob: Well, it’s back to the “F-you.”

Chris: It’s never enjoyable to hear that people think you’re an idiot.

Rob: No. No. But there’s a little bit of “F-you” in the whole project, as you’ve said.

Chris: I suppose that I’m getting it back at me.

Rob: I think it’s an awesome project, and I do think it fits your personality so well. Obviously, as a promotional vehicle, it’s beyond the promo cards and the little booklets. It’s a full-on book that I assume you’ll be using it as a promotion as well as a part of your body of work.

Chris: Absolutely…but I do wonder. As I started Presence I was thinking, “OK, this is for creative directors and art directors in advertising who are top of the top, super creative, super imaginative, thinking outside the box. I want to show them I can really do work that’s outside the box.

[laughter]

Chris: Then I look at the finished thing. “What work on Earth would this ever lead to?”

[laughter]

Chris: In the long run I think it’s a really good thing only because I think it’s funny and it’s cool and it’s going to have a nice life to it.

Rob: Yeah, it’s memorable. It has great personality. It’s a standalone piece.

Chris: Even the relationship between the pictures and the names is actually relatively subtle. In a way people will complain and say, “I can see how the Jack Nicklaus one makes sense or the David Byrne one, but the rest of them…There’s no connection.”

I think that some people miss the point. When you look through the work you make your own connections. If you take it seriously and spend some time with it you can’t help but do that. That kind of subtlety will make the book interesting still in 10, 20 years.

Rob: After you launch this project is it just on to the next one? Have you already started the next one? You’ve got five years.

Chris: I’ve got other things going on, but I got a great piece of advice I got from someone who I reached out to in the book world who’s a curator and done a number of compilation books. She said, “One thing you have to do that a lot of artists don’t like is you need to stick with it. You worked hard to do this book. The book’s now done. Don’t just walk away because you’re bored with it”

I’ve taken that directive seriously. My New York book launch is going to be at the International Center of Photography, which took a lot of finagling and patience to pull off. I’m doing a book launch in Toronto in Canada, and doing a book signing in L.A., and I’m doing some workshops, and putting myself out there

I’ve seen friends do books where, the book comes out and does well, they get good buzz, but there are all kinds of other things they don’t do. They’re basically relying on inertia or word of mouth for their book to get played. I find that kind of shocking that someone is going to spend all that time and energy to make a book and then not put everything they can behind it.

Rob: Right. I mean, self-promotion is really difficult for artists and photographers.

Chris: It is. Maybe they feel like it’s below them to be doing that. I don’t know.

Rob: So, does anybody besides you and the assistant and obviously the celebrity know where they are on set and will you ever reveal that?

Chris: I will not reveal it. I don’t talk about where people are hiding. Obviously, my assistants and staff know where people were hiding. If they want to talk about it I don’t really care, but I’m not going to say.

I feel like the witness statement is enough. In fact, I purposely did not have the celebrities sign them. I wanted it to be someone who was observing. I felt like if the celebrities were signing for themselves then it’s almost too much proof.

Rob: So you’re taking it to the grave?

Chris: Absolutely.

Why Does Everyone Think They Need A Photo Book?

- - Book Publishing

A few weeks back I participated in Santa Fe Center’s Portfolio Bootcamp, a workshop they created to help photographers with their portfolio and portfolio presentation. The beauty of this event for me, was the diversity of the instructors: from editorial, to book publishing to curatorial. I always come away with a better understanding of how the other parts of the industry work. There was a great talk on the artist statement given by Katherine Ware Curator of Photography, New Mexico Museum of Art and Joanna Hurley President HurleyMedia, Co-Founder of Radius Books. You can read a summary on Joanna’s blog (here) which I recommend checking out if you need to write an artist statement.

As I was leaving the portfolio review session I overheard Joanna and Maggie Blanchard, Director of Twin Palms Publishers remark to each other how incredible it was that everyone wanted a photo book published. That stuck with me when I got home, so I decided to email Joanna and ask her “why does everyone think they need a photo book” and here’s her answer:

It’s interesting that in this digital age photographers still want a printed book of their work. They believe having a book will give them credibility as artists, and will open the door to opportunities and recognition with museums, curators and the general public.

That desire for recognition and acclaim is not new; what does seem new to me, looking at this from a perspective of 35 years in the publishing business, is that desire often overtakes perspective, and the sense of where one really is in one’s career as an artist, that is, where the work is, and whether or not it is truly ready for a book. While doing a book at the right time and in the right way can jump-start or revive a career, if you do a book too soon or at the wrong time, and without any kind of creative team behind you (such as a publishing company), then it can look like vanity because there has been no one objectively vetting the work and helping you shape its presentation into a coherent, well-designed narrative.

In our age of instant gratification and immediate communication, it is only natural for people to think that recognition of their talent should be accelerated as well, which can lead to the idea that projects may be ready to publish before they are. This rush to market––or bookmaking––can become detrimental to the development of an artist’s voice, and gravitas, and distract from thinking about and making the work itself. By the same token, the ease of communication and the many venues available to artists for sharing their work online can foster a wonderful dialogue that in the end can deepen and strengthen it.

In the end it boils down to the artist’s sense of himself and his creative process and when it is truly complete for a particular body of work. I do believe that a sense of self-awareness and perspective on one’s work are among the qualities that distinguish a truly great photographer or artist of any kind. I am mindful of a quote by Georgia O’Keeffe in talking about her work painting flowers, “to see a flower takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”

Photographers are definitely thinking of photo books in a different way than publishers. The large majority of photographers whom I talk with are relatively oblivious to the constraints under which publishers operate; they see it only from the vantage point of wanting a book and thinking they (and the world) are ready for it. They don’t understand that publishing is a business, so publishers are always looking for what will sell. For the large publishers, it’s generally either going to be a retrospective of a major artist, or a book on a well-known and perennially interesting subject.

The larger publishers operate much more like multi-national corporations (which most of them are), and thus have layers and layers of bureaucracy. It’s much harder for a single editor or even the publisher of a particular imprint such as Bulfinch, which is part of a larger company (Hachette), or even Abrams or Rizzoli (which are also owned by large, European conglomerates) to get permission to take a chance on a relatively unknown photographer or unusual project because of one simple fact: sales. Whereas those publishers need to sell upwards of 7,500 or 10,000 copies of a book to make it work financially for them, a smaller press can be quite happy with sales of 2-3,000––and often the decision to publish at a small press is made by one person.

That is definitely a big difference from the way the business operated when I first entered it. Now it’s the smaller presses who can be more nimble, and can take a chance on the work of an exciting, new talent who is presenting material and process in a new and very exciting way. The editors and publishers of these smaller presses basically act like curators. Their buyers are basically collectors of their books, and often so trusting of their taste, that these publishers can make someone’s career by their decision to publish them, in the same way that a curator can catapult someone to prominence by including their work in a show.

Christopher Anderson’s iPad Photography Book

- - Book Publishing

Speaking of photography books, Christopher Anderson has just released “Capitolio” which he claims is the first authored monograph photography book for the iPhone and iPad (here). I asked him a couple questions about it.

APE: I believe there are photobooks available as apps already so this is not the first is it?

CA: There are “photobooks” but they are all either collections of stock photography or something along the lines of a slide show that was put together for the ipad. The distinction I make is that it is the first authored monograph that was made for print and now has been translated to an “I” version. It may seem like a technicality outside the world of photo books, but it is a big difference for collectors, authors, and fans in general of photography books.

APE: Much of the value of a book comes from the printing, binding, paper and quantity that are made, essentially the cost to produce it. An app has none of this and in fact once you make one, the reproductions are free. Why would someone value the app over a book or in addition to the book?

CA: A book is the ultimate expression of the work, and obviously I count the original print version as the ideal original form of the book. But the technology got me thinking about how only a finite audience could see that end product where only 3,000 copies are printed and the price is out of reach for many people. By introducing the app version, I am democratizing the experience of the work by making it available to an infinite audience. And at 4.99 it is not a thing just for a certain elite. There are other implications as well such as the way that the book could now be used in an academic or educational setting. Perhaps the book could be used in a curriculum for photo students or, in the case of this book in particular, political science students for example. Yes, the print form is the consummate form, but now a wider audience can see it and understand the work how it was intended rather than just as a slide show on the web. Also, the app allows for added features such as a video interview that gives a deeper understanding of the work and a director’s cut of extra pictures.

APE: How does an app fit into the future of photobooks?

CA: As far as the future of photo books, I don’t really know, this is an experiment. But I imagine that the app version could ultimately drive sales of the print version…making it more valuable. It also might change the path of bringing a print version into existence. I could imagine a time where the existence of an ipad book might create a market for the print version. In other words, the app might become a successful self publishing model that could lead to a publisher making it into an actual printed book.

andersoncapitolo

There’s another interview with Chris (here).

Publishing Your Photography Book

- - Book Publishing

Jonathan Blaustein speaks with Darius Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson about their new book.

In my experience, every photographer would like a book of his or her work. It’s a given, like the misery of next month’s tax deadline. Whether we’re talking about an artist monograph proffered by an established publisher, or a 21st Century-style photo album of the family trip to Puerto Rico, everyone wants a book. Yet the process is complicated, and often opaque for the average photographer.

Mary Virginia Swanson, who’s had a long and illustrious career in the photography industry, and Darius Himes, a writer and co-founder of Radius Books, have just published Publish Your Photography Book, (Princeton Architectural Press) which I mentioned in my article about the PDN Photo Plus Expo this past fall. They allowed me to preview a pdf of the entire book earlier this winter, and agreed to answer some questions.

Suffice it to say, I think it’s a terrific resource, and well worth purchasing. The book is accessible, and laid out in an elegant manner that is easy to read.  It’s a well-written, comprehensive look at the entire publishing process, from the conception of an idea through the marketing of a finished product. It also endeavors to push photographers to be honest about their desires and goals before embarking on what is obviously an arduous process. The authors have solicited expert opinions across a broad spectrum of the publishing industry, and include those other voices throughout the book. They also have a workbook section at the back, and an impressive trove of resources that will help a photographer realize their vision.

JB: The book mentions, and I would certainly agree, that all photographers would like to have their work printed in book form at some point.  But I feel that many photographers, myself included, view a book as an abstraction. Publish Your Photography Book gives photographers the information necessary to move from idea to physical form. Was that one of your primary goals?

MVS: Yes, PYPB charts the path from concept through production to physical book to sales and marketing, and helps artists plan for extending the life of their title beyond its launch.

JB:  Do you think that the rise in the market for photo books is actually a function of the power of the Internet?  As images have become dematerialized, is it possible that photographers, long obsessed with the aging of paper, have become more invested in maintaining a connection to the history of the medium?

DH: While photobooks have had a growing collector’s market for decades, yes, I think that the Internet has played a huge role in the rise in the market. And it has played a correlative role in the interest in photography books. The publication of books like Andrew Roth’s Book of 101 Books, and the two Martin Parr and Gerry Badger volumes were extremely important in creating that interest. Market and interest are different things. The content of those books was created just ahead of the curve of the Internet marketplace.

Your suggested link between the “dematerialization” of images and the “history of the medium” as represented by photobooks is interesting, but not the full story in my opinion. What digital has done, and by digital I mean digital images and our being able to place them on, and send them around, the Internet, is to open up more possibilities for the medium. There are actually now more material ways to make a photograph, not less (as suggested by the word dematerialized). And while there is a heightened interest in some of the great photobooks of the past, there is more of a frenzy around everyone making books now, thanks to digital. So I don’t think book-making today is about a connection to the past so much as a flourishing of something very current. In many ways, the possibilities of digital print-on-demand have fed that.

JB: “Who do you want to reach, and what type of book will best access that audience?” is a direct question that you pose to your readers in the book.  It’s a great point of entry to the process, and one that I think underpins the message of this book.  The theme of asking difficult questions of oneself recurs throughout.  So, allow me to turn it back to you. Your audience is very clear here. (Photographers.) I’m more curious about the why.  Why did you want to publish this book, and why now?

DH & MVS: We wanted to publish a book that would be useful to photographers of all backgrounds and aspirations. Our column, which was written for the photo-eye Booklist (2004-2007) was successful and got people thinking about and talking about bringing their work to publication. Some of the updates include increased options for print on demand, the growing market for limited-edition books and e-marketing.  We wanted to extend that conversation and expand the audience.

JB:  You address your reader directly in this book.  Why did you choose to adopt that format?

DH:  It seemed the best way. It’s a book, essentially, about how to do something, so we addressed the people who want to do that something (ie the photographers).

MVS: And the “Industry Voices” featured in our book speak directly to our readers, sharing their area(s) of expertise and advice in a clear, direct way.

JB:  I worked in the restaurant industry for many years, and it was obvious why so many restaurants don’t succeed. The balance of people management, food quality, service principles, attention to detail, graphic design, interior design, marketing, and business savvy are so rarely seen in one person.  So when I read the following quote,  “(Books) are also multifaceted objects requiring a range of skill sets to produce that you alone probably don’t possess,” it resonated.  Do you think that photographers who go the POD route ought to consider bringing in some design or marketing experts to help ensure that the end result is worth the time and effort?

MVS: I admit to seeing many POD books by artists where the design is so bad it actually hurts the work, making a really poor first impression.  I say seek professional help!  A fine example is “My Brother’s War” with photographs by Jessica Hines, book design by Elizabeth Avedon (Blurb 2010)

DH:  The quick answer to your question is yes.. But it’s a yes that is dependent on, again, what type of book do you want to produce, and what are your goals with that particular POD book? The bigger point you bring up is recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and learning how to build a team that can help you accomplish your goals.

JB:  How big do you envision your potential audience?

MVS: All those who wish to produce an illustrated book featuring their artwork.

JB:   How did the two of you divvy up the workload?  Did you write collaboratively, or did each of you take responsibility for different sections of text?

DH & MVS:  It was definitely a collaboration. At the beginning, before we had a clear sense of the final structure of the book, we created sections and each of us took lead on the sections that made sense. For instance, Section 4, The Marketing of Your Book was a natural for Mary Virginia. The First Section, The Photography Book Phenomenon, is an adaptation of a lecture and essay I had given over the past couple years, and therefore is mostly my words. But the whole book is written with a singular voice, which emerged in the authoring and editing process and there are not sections that can be called one or the others.

JB:   Some ideas in this book do seem to transcend the subject matter.  Like “Organization, organization, organization is the only way to stay on track…”  Are each of you genetically pre-disposed to be organized, or is it a skill you have learned and cultivated? And if the latter, do you have any advice on how to improve one’s organizational capacity?

MVS: In my view, being organized speaks to the side of pursuing an art career—and wanting to create work such as a book—that requires you to think like a business. It’s like any business—being efficient, hard working and organized will help you achieve what you want to achieve. That is all.

DH:  If you’re young, beg your parents to impose more discipline and a strong work ethic on you. You’ll thank them later. Advice on being more organized? Ask others to identify how you’re disorganized and then reflect on that, work to change it, and repeat that process. We all need help.

JB:  Given that this book instructs photographers on all the aspects of the physical production, and stresses good typography and design, did you feel additional pressure to perfect the design of this book?

DH:  Additional pressure? No. A natural self-imposed pressure because design is so important? Yes!

MVS: Designers David Chickey and Masumi Shibata brought an extraordinary elegance to our book, for which we are forever grateful.  The fact that readers won’t be able to put it down is due in great part to their design sensibilities.

JB:  This book began as a collaborative column between the two of you that was published in photo-eye Booklist. I haven’t had the opportunity to review that publication, so I was wondering if you might provide a bit of back-story about how the you came to work together?

DH:  When Mary Virginia and I sat down for a break during the Society for Photographic Education (SPE) conference in Newport, Rhode Island, in 2003 to draft an outline for a series of articles titled “Publishing the Photobook” that would run in photo-eye Booklist, we knew that we had the makings of a book. We are first and foremost grateful to Rixon Reed, the owner and director of photo-eye, for encouraging the column from the very beginning. The column ran for a total of twelve installments over three years (2004–07) and was a recurring topic of conversation among photographers wherever we went.

MVS: Like the book, the column began with the concept for your book, and continued in a logical learning path towards the final “Case Studies” from those who had brought their work to publication.  It was timely then, and even more so now.

JB:   Did you consider releasing this information in non-book format, like a password protected website or Ipad application?  Do you have any intention to supplement the printed book with web-based materials?

DH:  We’ve launched a website devoted to our book (www.publishyourphotographybook.com), which will continue to grow with some of the resources from the book as well as interviews and articles about photography books not found in the published book.  There is a blog within our website, too, where we will inform our readers of upcoming events, book festivals, competitions and more.  We want people to come to the website for lots of reasons.

MVS: We wanted to partner with a traditional publisher for a variety of reasons. Princeton Architectural Press (our first choice!)  has a great brand, particularly for the type of book this is. They also have an amazing distribution arrangement with Chronicle Books and we felt like they would be able to get this book out into the world in a big way! The content of our book draws heavily on visuals, and we haven’t yet seen many good e-books that work for illustrated books. An iPad-specific book would be interesting, but the audience for this book is pretty specific, and again, we’re not sure enough people would purchase the book just for the iPad. (A Kindle version would do a disservice to the book, design- and content-wise. Kindles are great for text-only books.)

JB:   The book makes a regular distinction between books on subject matters with wide appeal versus artist monographs based upon the reputation of the artist.  Given the larger sales potential of the former, would you encourage photographers to consider ways to tailor their work to appeal to larger markets?

DH:  Maybe. I would primarily encourage photographers to simply be aware of that distinction and set out to make the work and a book that best satisfies their own personal goals, whatever those may be. If you find there are subject-specific audiences likely to be interested in your book, market to them, as you would naturally want to draw them to your exhibition, your website, your public lectures and more. In my opinion, it is just as hard to make a successful subject-matter driven book as it is to make a successful artist driven book. Both have their own distinct path.  In the end, if you know your audience, and how to reach them, you will stand a better chance of putting your books in their hands.

JB:  How has the nascent cultural shift from paper books to ebooks influenced the process of having this book published?

DH:  There is no ebook version of this book, but we welcome the e-possibilities down the road. Right now, ebooks are more or less restricted to the realm of literature, not illustrated books. If I were to be an oracle, I’d say we’ll see more and more e-book versions of illustrated books. Obviously, Phaidon and a few others are dabbling in this already. Whether they impact a broader population or are limited to the art world is yet to be seen.

JB:   Given the current popularity of Print-on-Demand services, I found the following statement to be an incredibly concise piece of advice to photographers.  “Successful self-publishers are those who are organized and entrepreneurial at heart, who know their audience, can effectively reach that audience, and have the financial and labor resources available to take on numerous roles.”

It seems like most photographers are using POD services to make books to market themselves and their careers, rather than making a book that might sell vigorously.  Do you think, under the above circumstances, that a self-published project can produce a product with viable income stream?

DH:  Quick distinction here: self-published does not strictly equate with print-on-demand (POD). Self-published only implies taking on the role of “publisher” of your project, regardless of the technical means you employ to manifest that project (which could still be offset lithography, POD, Xerox, what-have-you).

MVS: Essential elements (whether published or self-published): clarity of concept, design and production that enhances the work, and a plan to get the books to your audience.  Can a self-published project produce a product with a viable income stream? Absolutely.

JB:  It seems as if the advice in this book could apply to artists working in media beyond photography. Did you consider calling it Publish Your Art Book, and expanding the potential audience?

DH:   That’s the title of our next book.

MVS: And the one after that:  Publish Your Illustrated Book(.com).  But seriously, what we offer the reader in this book could apply to creating a book featuring work created in any medium, to your point.

JB:   Place and time are so crucial to the nature of photography.  This book feels like a snapshot of the Publishing industry as the 21st Century begins to take shape.  Did you feel like you were time-stamping a period of change?

DH:  Perhaps. But the information in this book is written in a way to be useful for years to come. It is not simply an aggregate of information gathered off the Internet. What we make clear in this book is hinted at in the sub-chapter heading, Behind the Editorial Door: Understanding How Publishers Work. The fundamental issues at hand in publishing a book are the same for small and large publishing houses, they are the same whether you’re making an illustrated book or an ebook of a novel.

MVS: While it is true that production techniques and marketing tools will evolve, this book is timeless.  We open a door to the industry that will help you understand how to make decisions in relation to your book.

JB:   Eileen Gittins, the founder of Blurb, is quoted in the book as saying, as a result of the emerging POD market “…I think we are talking about an expansion in the book industry the likes of which we have never seen before.”   Do you agree?

DH:   Totally. All of these new technologies are transforming, once again, the landscape and creating new opportunities. The smart and the creative will find doors opening up to them.

JB:   Again and again, the industry voices included in the book mention the value of teamwork and collaboration, as a book project is almost always a group endeavor.  Would you encourage photographers to burnish their communication skills before embarking on a publishing project?

MVS: You will need to effectively pitch your project in short (soundbite), medium (one page) and long forms (publication proposal), and who better to talk and write about it than you? Our book will help you “speak” the language of publishing, from the front cover to the very last page.

DH:  I’m always for “burnishing communication skills.”

JB:  Rixon Reed, the founder and owner of photo-eye in Santa Fe, is quoted as saying, “…I’d recommend that photographers think realistically about how big their market is before deciding on edition numbers or print runs for their books.  Too many photographers have too many of their self-published books stored in boxes gathering dust in their garages.” One message that pervades your book is that photographers should think clearly about what they want and what they can realistically expect. Do you think it’s hard for photographers to hear the truth about their prospects for a successful book project?

MVS:  If you look at the monographs that stand the test of time, in nearly every case the artist had established their value in the collectible print markets or editorial market prior to the release of those titles, thus building their audience for their forthcoming book(s). You should be networking, attending portfolio reviews and submitting your work to competitions NOW. Today you can build a presence for yourself and your work on the Internet, and those interested in the subject(s) you are exploring are likely to find you as well. If you know your audience (clue to realistic press run), and how to reach them (path to distribution), AND your book falls within their price range, you have a far better chance of getting your books out of storage and into their hands of buyers.

DH: And it’s not just hard for photographers. All publishers are engaged in a gambling game. There is never a way to know precisely how many people will buy any particular book.

MVS:  In summary: no matter if you are published or choose to self-publish, plan on being an active participant in the marketing and distribution of your book.

JB:  Alec Soth is quoted in your book as saying, “A problem I see with print-on-demand is that it can be too easy to reach a sense of accomplishment.  It’s too easy to make a book with that technology, but it doesn’t guarantee that the work is any good.” Your book makes a point of encouraging photographers who are interested in the POD route to consider hiring professionals to help them with different aspects of the process.  Would you agree with Alec that the ease of the process leads to less than stellar productions?

DH:  Certainly. The point to remember, in my opinion, is that a book is not just a group of photographs. It’s a very specific group of photographs that have been edited (often from hundreds of others), have been sequenced in a very particular order, and then surrounded by a design and text and typography and bindings and all of that!

With book making tools so easily accessible (in the form of POD, for instance), ALL of the aspects of making a book still need to be considered. There is a whole industry that has traditionally watched over those aspects. When you take all of that onto your shoulders without having been part of that industry, it’s natural that you’ll unwittingly overlook some of those aspects.

MVS: We do feel that POD is a great way to begin to experience the editing/sequencing of your book-to-be. “Case Study” Lisa M. Robinson speaks to the value of creating unique book dummies periodically as she continued to grow her body of work SNOWBOUND, ultimately allowing her to be more critical of her body of work and better preparing her for the bookmaking process itself.

JB:  Paula McCartney and Alec Soth both mention meeting with publishers at Review Santa Fe.  Among the many options for making initial contact with publishers, do you feel that Portfolio Review events give photographers a better opportunity to jumpstart the publishing process?

DH:  Definitely.

MVS: A 20-minute meeting is a great way to introduce yourself and your work to publishing professionals.  The experience of showing your work at a Portfolio Review event is often referred to as “speed dating”   It is, of course, up to you to follow up and grow those relationships; this year publishers were also at the review tables of PhotoLucida, Palm Springs Photo Festival, FotoFest, PhotoNOLA and more.

DH: At Radius Books, we’ve published at least 5 books with photographers we met at review events (Michael Lundgren, Transfigurations, Renate Aller, Oceanscapes, David Taylor, Working the Line, Janelle Lynch, Los Jardines De Mexico, Colleen Plumb, Animals Are Outside Today.

Mary Virginia Swanson and Darius Himes will be offering an all-day seminar in Santa Fe, NM, on April 9, 2011.  For more information, visit www.publishyourphotographybook.com.

Unconventional Photo Books – Meier und Mueller

- - Book Publishing

Meier und Mueller is a new photo book publisher founded by Andrés Marroquín Winkelmann and Jörg M. Colberg. They aim to publish high quality books that are a bit different than the norm. This book trailer gives you a good idea where their head is on this. I’m guessing the German electro music is not included like one of those new Hallmark cards.

Seems to be a new trend of people wanting more control over the book publishing process or wanting to publish books that the big publishers have not interest in (see: LBM). Either way it sounds like progress to me.

“Conditions”, Andrés Marroquín Winkelmann from Meier und Müller on Vimeo.

According to Jörg “Pre-sales start the week after Labor Day, the official sales start in early October.” The book is priced at $49 with special editions that include a print for $90 and a box edition with a large print and nice box to store it for $350. The book will be sold online only except for specialty shops like Dashwood.

Edition One Studios Makes Books For Photographers

edition-logoBen Zlotkin is the founder of Edition One Studios, a company that makes books for photographers (here). I wanted to ask him a few questions about publishing short-run photography books, because I feel like there’s not a lot of good information available on the subject. Also, I was curious if it really is that hard to satisfy a photographers needs when it comes to DIY books.

APE: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your business?

I completed an MFA in Photography at the San Francisco Art Institute a number of years back. I wanted to put my final project into book form as I thought the sequential presentation worked best and the intimate proximity of a book vs. a large print on the wall seemed to articulate what I wanted to say best. I looked at some online options and ended up with a local vendor. In the end, the books were a hit, but very expensive and the printing was poor at best. I shoot black and white medium format film and anyone who prints digitally can tell you that B&W is tougher than color. A year later I was teaching photography off and on and decided I could make a better book, that felt more like those I was buying from established publishers. So I did.

APE: You’ve probably read online that many photographers are not happy with the quality and consistency of the cheaper print on demand companies?

The big complaints in the digital book world come from ‘serious’ photographers. Many of the online options make excellent consumer products, and we often send clients looking for one-off family photo books, or travel books etc. to Blurb, Apple or Lulu. We think all of these companies are perfect for that.

The mistake made by these vendors is that they market to professionals whose demands are greater than the average consumer and in the end more than they can handle.

We think professionals and serious amateur photographers want the following:

e1coverAccurate and consistent color- we own our own printers and calibrate hourly. Plus, we’re photographers.
Better built books- stronger bindings, more decoration options such as true foil stamping and dust jackets.
Custom books- no preset formats, page counts and cloth color options.
Control- we need a PDF and that’s it. Most people use InDesign or something similar to get that done. We don’t offer template software, and have learned that people really like that. If they do not have the tools to layout their book, often they know someone who does.
Service – making a book is an expensive, and sometimes confusing process. We answer the phone, we know good editors, and even allow visitors.

APE: How is it possible to maintain high standards for color and printing while keeping the costs low and still make a profit?

e1inside1Costs aren’t really that low for anyone involved. Our books are more expensive than some in smaller quantities and cheaper than most in larger quantities. We have spent money on a proprietary RIP for our presses and have top end calibration tools – we calibrate 6 or more times per day. More importantly, we are old-school wet lab printers, and my rule is that you cannot play with the presses unless you have worked in a wet lab with both color and silver gelatin prints. Nothing teaches you color better than burning though what little money you have wasting photo paper in the lab. We look at everything that comes off the press. If a job is 10% too magenta, we stop it and contact the client to sort things out. No one else in our industry does this that I know of.

We’re a new company, and marginally profitable with our current levels of efficiency. We think we offer solid pricing and really solid service. Most of the value we add is not ‘digital’ – the foil stamping is done by hand with a 300 degree metal plate, the custom book covers are glued by hand. There is no easy way to make nice books – perhaps this is our advantage. No everyone is as excited as we are about color, glue, and paper cuts

APE: Can you tell me on the printers side what do you do to ensure high quality?

e1inside2The key thing to know is that all of the digital book makers are using the same basic tools. The printer run down is HP Indigo, Xerox Digital Presses, and Kodak’s Nexpress. All of these are really glorified laser printers with 600 dpi per color channel. What matters is the software you put in front of them, and the materials you put in them.

We use really high quality very smooth uncoated paper, and pretty cool software with lots of color control. As noted above, we look at the prints and are constantly making adjustments on our clients behalf. We make hard proofs – in fact, we offer complimentary proof prints to everyone who asks. When the book is ordered we add of a proof cost and that gets the client a complete printed unbound book for a nominal fee. We print two of them and keep one, because if changes are needed, we can then sit on the phone with the client, look at the proofs at the same time and talk about the image needs. There is no other way to do this.

APE: Can you tell me from the photographers side what do they need to do to ensure the book comes out the way they want?

e1cover2Most important is to plan their book out and edit until they have a solid project. Then they should ask someone they trust to edit it again. This is the hardest part of making a book. People usually underestimate how long this will take by months, not days.

On the technical side, if you want consistent prints, make consistent files. Your target is 300 dpi, 8 bit, flattened images. Max quality jpegs work fine as do tiffs. There is no point in using 600 dpi file. All that will do is slow you down when processing the data. Once a client has a file with all of the images in the book, they need to be sure that the color profile for each image is the same. If they are from a digital camera, and all sRGB – they can leave them as is. If some are digital, some are scanned, and some are unknown, then convert (not assign) them the Adobe 1998 RGB profile in PhotoShop.

Once a potential client is this far, they should contact us and request some complimentary prints. We’ll take 5-10 images and print them out, then mail them for free.

After the images are prepared and sized as desired, then they should bring them into InDesign, Quark, Aperture or the application of their choice, and start to layout the book. In the end, they’ll make a PDF and send that to use. We’ll send them a helper file for this final and easy step.

APE: It seems like niche photography books can really serve a purpose in the market but can the photographer ever make a profit or is this entirely just a vanity project?

Making a profit is hard, but many of our clients do. I am constantly talking people into cheaper softcover books when they order a more expensive limited edition of hardcover books. The reason is that you inevitably want to give some books away, and this cuts your profits down badly. You also want to offer a product that is at a lower price point for those who cannot afford a $75+ book. If a client is a fine art photographer, then there is nothing better than releasing the book when a gallery show is up. People will buy the book who cannot afford an expensive original print, and people who can afford an original print will buy the book just to have a sampling of the wider body of work. Lastly, we encourage people to make portfolio sets. Perhaps they buy 50 books from us, and print out 25 original prints for an image that is in the book. They should sign and number those prints, then sign and number 25 of the books. Package those sets and sell them at a premium. Perhaps this set sells for $400, and the print cost them $5 , the book $45, and their time to package it al up $15. So they are out of pocket $65-70 for a $400 sale. I see this work everyday.

For the commercial photographers, and galleries, the books are really marketing tools. I’m happy to make a package price with a commercial photographer for a book set where the same contents is bound two ways, perhaps 5 cloth bound hardcover portfolio books and 45 cheaper softcover leave-behinds. The contents is the same, and we only set up for the job once. The savings can be passed on to the client easily.

APE: Now for the real test. If anyone has a book project and they’re willing to test out Edition One email Ben at: info@editiononestudios.com and put APE as the subject of the email. Ben will pick one person out and give them a $300 credit or 25% off. After you’ve printed your book you can report back and tell us all how it went.

Video Trailers For Photo Books

I saw this piece several months back (here) about how authors and publishers have taken to creating movie trailers for their book in hopes or reaching the web-addicted demographics and thought it seemed like a cool idea. I think the key is to have content available that can travel around the internet and snag potential readers. That means commissioning videos, author pictures and making excerpts available.

Will a trailer like this actually sell more books?

I’m not so sure, but if someone is a fan of the book and they want to write something online, it gives them more content to use and overall I think that’s a powerful thing.

So, when Andrew posted this video (here) of Dan Winters new book I immediately thought of the book trailer story and how this kind of thing really could sell more photo books. I think magazines could benefit from this kind of preview as well. Flipping through the book or magazine is exactly what you would do if you were standing in a bookstore or at a newsstand contemplating a purchase, so if you’re going to buy something online why not recreate the experience for the consumer. The added benefit is that it’s portable and can be passed along to reach even more people. I think ideally the book publishers are serving up these videos so when you click on them you’re taken some place where you have a buying opportunity. I think we will see more of this in the near future because I didn’t even know Dan had a new book coming out until I saw the video and now he sold one more book.

Bonus: Here’s an interview with Dan about the new book and a slideshow with high quality pictures (here) that someone left in the comments of Andrew’s post.

Photographer Banned by Blurb Books

Photographer Jonathan Saunders found out like most people (I know we’ve covered this ground before) that Blurb Books are completely hit-or-miss in the quality of the final product. Much of this can be chalked up to blurb trying to find the point where acceptable cost meets acceptable quality. I had an interesting conversation last week with the Modern Postcard dudes where they said that the business started because they couldn’t find any reliable printers for their high end photo heavy real estate brochures, so they built their own printing facility and suddenly discovered the immense challenge of gang printing photographs and working with photographers who have an eye for detail and color. They told me the majority of their employees work in customer service.

So apparently after he saw some extremely high quality books at the Photography Book Now party in the fall of 2008 Jonathan decided to give Blurb another shot even though he had tried their service previously and been disappointed with the results. Then “Blurb banned me when I pointed out to Blurb the books at the Photography Book Now party in the fall of 2008 are of a higher quality then I was able to receive when placing an actual order with Blurb. So instead of helping me achieve that quality, Blurb “disabled” my account for me without my permission since Blurb could not achieve the quality Blurb advertises or actually support the B3 system I paid for.”

You can read the full story (here), but it looks like Jonathan did everything within his power to get a book that matched his expectations including paying for a higher quality product, contacting customer service and complaining and submitting frequent lengthy emails. I was thinking that I might say to him “too bad buddy” you got advertised to. It happens all the time where the marketing pushes your expectations beyond what the product can deliver but I think in this case it’s blurb that’s making the mistake by pushing very hard to be a print on demand book company for professional photographers and failing to meet the bare minimum of consistency and quality. A photo book that’s printed right is only as good as the photography on the pages and if Blurb would like to use professional photographers as their marketing vehicle they need to step up to the plate and meet their expectations. Banning someone from ever using your service again is headed the wrong direction.

Elizabeth Avedon – Book and Exhibition Designer

I was corresponding with Elizabeth Avedon after I posted several pages from Rolling Stone Magazine’s seminal political photo essay “The Family” shot by Richard Avedon, because as it turns out Elizabeth was working in the photographer’s studio at the time designing the cover of the book “Portraits.” She was telling me some fascinating stories about working with Richard Avedon along with revealing the fact that she designed that issue of RS and so I asked her a few question. The first obviously was if she’s related to Richard to which she replied that at one time she was married to his son.

APE: Tell me how you ended up working with Richard Avedon for 20 years?

pileofdummiesMarvin Isreal was Dick’s best friend and together they created Avedon’s Minneapolis exhibition, Nothing Personal book, and Marlborough exhibition. Marvin Israel was a Painter, Book Designer, Art Director of “The Bazaar” and Diane Arbus protege. He created, along with Doon Arbus, the first retrospective of Diane’s photographs at the Museum of Modern Art, as well as designed and edited her famous Aperture Monograph, now in it’s umpteenth printing.

I was his student at Parsons and he was always trying to convince me to leave school and just start working. Marvin was one of my favorite teachers and I began working as his assistant on several books. He would invariably have a falling out with who ever we were working for half way through and then I would end up completing the project. For example, while working with Peter Beard on “Kamante’s Tales,” Peter and Marvin had a falling out early into it. Marvin insisted Peter hire me to finish designing the book which is how I began my path as a book designer.

Marvin introduced me to Richard Avedon beaming I was “the best student he’d ever had.” Dick wanted me to start work for him that very day. We were on the same page right away when it came to his work. At that time Marvin and Dick (RA) were working on editing all of the fashion photographs RA had ever taken. They had special printers come over from Japan to work around the clock in the darkroom making contact sheets of the thousands and thousands of negatives for them to edit from. There were huge stacks of cartons filled with contact sheets all over Marvin’s studio. It was a several year project just to edit them so they would work on it on and off. During an off period, I was a magazine designer under the fabulous A.D. Bea Feitler (Bea was later Annie Leibovitz’s lover/partner).

During the period just after the Marlborough show, RA offered me a full time position to quit the magazine and work as designer/art director for him at the Studio. Some of my first projects were the cover for the Rolling Stone issue “The Family” and the book Portraits from the work that was in the Marlborough exhibit.

The work itself was phenomenally inspiring. The most elegant, beautiful images anyone could ever wish to work with and I thought it was my job to just make them look as great as they are, to not get in their way with a lot of strange type faces or layout ideas. It was my theory to keep everything simple so the work shined through, not my “design” showing off.

image_1

APE: Tell me about designing the Fashion book cover?

RA wanted “Dovima and The Elephants” on the cover and didn’t like my idea of using his signature. While he was away for a month shooting the Paris Collections for Vogue, I designed many covers along the lines of what he’d asked for – including the one I was sure would be distinctive and beautiful.

APE: How did you convince Richard Avedon to not go with “Dovima and The Elephants” on the cover?

He knew it was the right choice immediately. All of us have an idea in our mind how we want something to look and can’t let go of it until we see something better. When he looked at the two covers side by side, there was no discussion. Marella Agnelli embodied everything his fashion photographs were about and the simplicity of his signature curved around the crook of her neck was extraordinary.

We never lost anything by putting “Dovima and the Elephants” on the back cover. It was fabulous that book stores displayed both front and back, side by side.

I also featured Dovima in each and every museum poster in Avedon’s retrospective exhibition I designed for The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I redesigned the typography for all the additional museums it traveled to, including reshaping the space in each to accommodate the images I had divided into decades.

The lighting, framing, size of the prints and finally wall colors all changed and expanded – beginning with faintly lit, dark grey walls and the Paris photographs framed in small gold leaf frames. They were spot lit and as each decade unfolded the lighting would become brighter in each room as the frames slowly became more modern, until the last room of “Icons” – June Leaf, Renata Adler, Priscilla Rattazzi etc. were displayed as huge 9 foot prints mounted on canvas lit in blazing white light. Strong women – with an inner beauty that seemed to radiate out in these particular images.

APE: Do you think he appreciated the drive and instinct you had for the book design and exhibitions the same way that he used those qualities in his photography?

Can you imagine that Richard Avedon, who was at the top of his profession, would let someone whose opinion he didn’t completely trust and respect edit his work or design his exhibitions, books, catalogs, or collaborate on advertising campaigns?

APE: Do you have any anecdotes from working in his studio that you could share with young photographers?

He was driven to be who he became – it was not an accident. He practiced and demanded excellence everyday.

americanwest_03

APE: Tell me about working on “The American West” book?

Every last detail in the design down to the color selection of the hard cover linen cloth was meticulously considered and symbiotic to the work. I chose a color I associated with the desert landscape of the Four Corners area of the West. The typeface was influenced by an antique western frontispiece I found printed in the late 1890′s.

The images he made for this was a multiple year project and he rented a loft space just to work on it. After laying out all of the photographs on the floor, we spent months remixing them over and over until we finally edited them down to a manageable number. I then posted them up on a very long wall of cork board we had painted white. After mixing and remixing the wall images, they were reduced to almost the amount in the final book and inserted into acetate sleeves in a big black portfolio notebook. We would then go over whatever changes each would make day to day and re-sequence, just moving the acetate pages within the notebook until the images would seem to find their own home.

Collector’s want to buy the “book dummy”, but the dummy they want to buy never existed. They imagine a book of master prints perfectly bound, it wasn’t created that way.

Everyone asks that I explain my homage to Marvin Israel in the design credit as he died before I began working on the project. Marvin had traveled to Montana and then Texas with Dick while he was photographing for the book. Two diehard New Yorkers traveling around the American West together. It was a great moment for their friendship. Marvin died in Texas while on that trip. As my long time friend and mentor, I wanted to honor him in the book.

The book was a complement to the original exhibition I designed for the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, specifically for this work. I had a model built to scale (one inch = one foot) and had the images made into 5 different sizes to scale and rework within the space. An additional space was created within to house the coal miners. It was a breath taking exhibition – the entrance to the Museum is entirely glass and you can see two floors at once lit up from outside the Museum. I placed 8 of the huge iconic images within their 8 large entranceways/doorways. It was a very glamorous entrance. I redesigned the spaces of the other eight Museums it traveled to over several years and recreated somewhat the original show for each of them. Only the Amon Carter had the full effect of his work being seen as it was originally intended.

APE: Where did you go from there?

I spent several years going through the archives and having prints made for many of the books that were published later. I moved on to co-publish, in conjunction with Random House, Elizabeth Avedon Editions/Vintage Contemporary Artists series, working with distinguished art critics such as Donald Kuspit and Peter Schjeldahl, and contemporary artists Francesco Clemente, Louise Bourgeois, Robert Rauschenberg, and many others. I was Art Director for Ralph Lauren’s National Advertising and a co-founder of Tibet House, NYC. Later, as Creative Director for The Gere Foundation, I initiated a wide range of photography exhibitions and projects to raise money for Richard Gere’s non-profit organization. I then worked for Ralph Lauren Media as photo editor for their online magazine (here). I recently returned to New York from New Mexico where I worked as Director of Photo-Eye Gallery in Santa Fe.

APE: What are you doing now and what kinds of projects you are looking to work on?

I’m happy to be back in NYC and designing. In early June I’ll be at Review Santa Fe and look forward to meeting all of the photographers there. I like working on projects that have multidisciplinary design possibilities in that I can play with two and three dimensional space. Books, exhibitions, ad-work – I always welcome the opportunity to work closely with photographers.

You can visit Elizabeth Avedon’s website (here) and see more photographs from Richard Avedon (here).

Joerg Investigates Self Published Books

- - Book Publishing

Joerg Colberg has an good post on his experience and comments from readers on their experience with, on demand printing of photography books (here).

“…the images inside the book look like crap. They look like something printed on an extremely cheap printer…”

“What I do want to point out is that while printing books on demand might sound like a great idea, it is ultimately up to the photographer to perform quality control. And getting books printed on demand might in fact lower the threshold of the quality of photography books to a noticeable extent…”

“…I find it slightly surprising that while many photographers – especially those who grew up before the so-called digital revolution – know the names of expert analog printers, there does not appear to be a corresponding pool of expert digital printers.”

If anyone knows of any high quality on demand photography book publishers it would be good to hear about it (or email Joerg so he can add to his post). The very first books I started seeing with portfolios came from .mac and I remember the photographer telling me she tried them all and .mac was the only one where the color was consistent. Not sure what happened to them but now I only hear about blurb, although I’ve only actually seen a couple and they seemed fine but then again, I’m used to magazine printing; )

Darius Himes, Publisher- Radius Books

I first met Darius at Review Santa Fe many years ago when he was the editor of Photo-Eye Booklist, the quarterly, highly collectible catalog of books for the renowned local photography bookstore. When I heard several months ago that he’d founded a photography book publishing company called Radius Books (website here) I was curious to find out more on how the book publishing side of this industry works.

Tell me a little bit of your background.

My education history and work history are basically interrelated and flow one into the other. I received a BFA in Photography at ASU, Tempe back in the early 90s and then went overseas where I worked for an organization that had a large, permanent collection of historical photographs, which dated back to the 1870s. While there, I pursued my own photography and got called upon to do everything from photograph visiting prime ministers to documenting deteriorating historical buildings.

I came to Santa Fe in 1998 to pursue a Master’s degree at St. John’s College, which, as you know, has a Great Books program. On the surface, it may seem to have nothing to do with a career in the arts, but to me it brought intellectual balance to an undergraduate fine arts degree. At the heart of the program are a couple concepts that I gravitated to. One is the idea of books serving a centuries-old dialogue about core ideas that affect humanity, regardless of race, culture, language, or class. Another was a cluster of ideas about the role of the arts in society and where image-making, artists, language, communication, and what it means to be human all figure in.

During my time in graduate school, I began working at photo-eye part-time, in the bookstore. I stayed on after graduation to launch the magazine, which was a quarterly devoted to photography books. It was here that my love of photography and a latent but deep-seated love for books–as art objects as well as conveyors of ideas and images–merged.

So, I guess you spent so much time looking at photography books working on booklist for Photo Eye you decided it looked pretty easy and you’d start your own imprint. Isn’t the photography book business notoriously unprofitable? Doesn’t that frighten you?

There was always a paradox floating around out there that didn’t make sense to me. The illustrated art book business was notorious for being unprofitable, true, but each year as editor at photo-eye, I was dealing with more and more publishers coming onto the scene that were producing great books. The two didn’t jive for me. There was a great article written by Christopher Lyon in Art in America in September, 2006 which gave a key to understanding this bigger picture. The large, illustrated book publishers (think Prestel, Rizzoli, Harry N. Abrams, Bulfinch) simply weren’t able to sell tens of thousands of copies of fine art books to the masses the way they used to. So their world was changing drastically, and Lyon detailed how and why in that article. But similar to the music industry, where genres were reproducing and splitting and creating sub-categories faster than bunnies, the art and photography book scene had become filled with lots of nimble, savvy, smaller publishers who had very smart, sophisticated collectors buying their books. If you don’t have to maintain office space on Madison Ave and you’ve got a staff of 1 to 3, you don’t need to sell 25,000 copies of each title. As people like Jack Woody of Twin Palms Publishers or Chris Pichler of Nazraeli Press proved, you can sell 1000 or 2000 copies of a book, watch it go out of print in a couple years, recouping your costs in the meantime and move on to the next list of projects.

It’s definitely not easy. But loving what you do helps (and being small and nimble is an asset).

Seems like portfolio reviews like the one in Santa Fe where you live are a great place to find projects to publish. Alec Soth was discovered there and I’m sure there were many others that got started that way. Is that your primary source for finding a book project?

Actually, they’re not the primary source for finding a book project, but they are a piece of the bigger picture. Portfolio review events are a primary way of staying in touch with the photography community overall. We, meaning publishers, editors, gallerists, dealers, collectors, curators and writers like to see and know what photographers are up to, what they’re working on, where their traveling, who they’re shooting for, and where they’re showing their work. Signing up a photographer on the spot at a portfolio review event happens more with galleries than it does with publishers, but things happen afterwards, and seeing people at these portfolio events is important.

What are the big considerations when looking at a photographer for a book? How much of a factor is potential commercial success?

First and foremost on the list is that we are deeply moved by the work and think that it is important in some lasting way. We’ve got two photography books on our Fall 2008 list. One is a book of brilliant photographs made in New Mexico by Lee Friedlander. The other is a lyrical group of photographs by Phoenix-based photographer Michael Lundgren. In terms of their careers, they couldn’t be further apart from each other. Friedlander is, well, Friedlander. How do you even summarize his influence on photography as a medium? Lundgren is a couple years out of grad school and passionate about his work and makes stunning prints based on an intelligent and soulful approach to the landscape but virtually no one has heard of him. No one, apart from the lovely Rebecca Solnit, who is contributing a wonderful essay, which will help bring attention to the work. If we looked at Mike’s book purely from a commercial standpoint, we probably wouldn’t publish it. But we love the work and are publishing a modest number of copies, which will be supported by a limited edition book which comes with a print. And we’re extremely proud to be one of the first to commit to this relatively young artist with a strong vision.

Defining “commercial success” is different for each publisher. Again, it’s tied in to how many mouths you have to feed. Being a small publisher brings certain advantages and nimbleness that are inherently different than the advantages of being a really big publishing house.

Do you think that books will continue to be a hot ticket for collectors and photography lovers? Are there any cool innovations coming that can keep this market growing?

I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think books were important, and therefore worth saving and cherishing and collecting. The market for the book-as-object is getting more firmly established every passing auction season. And more and more artists, not just photographers, are seeing the book as a central means of expression. Concurrently, more and more curators and galleries are seeing books as a central means of expression, and are collecting accordingly. For instance Charlotte Cotton, curator and head of the photography department at LACMA recently purchased an entire set of prints by Paul Graham that make up one of his twelve volumes in A Shimmer of Possibility, which was published by Steidl last Fall.

What will keep the market growing are artists engaging with the book in this manner, where the book is seen as more than just a repository for images, but rather the seat of artistic expression. And then persuading collectors to buy them. Honestly, this is where I see the role of curators, critics/writers, and publishers. We have the chance to guide others–the public, the collectors, the institutions–to work that will have lasting importance, explaining why along the way. At least, that’s how I see my role as writer and publisher (and I know that my partners at Radius Books feel the same way). I get excited about work and I want to show others and elucidate how I see this work fitting into a broad and rich cultural dialogue. That’s the St. John’s influence speaking! One thing we’re excited about at Radius is the implementation of our library donation program–over 200 copies of every book we publish is being donated to libraries across North America in an effort to further the dialogue surrounding great art. We’ve got a strong group of donors that are helping this happen (though we’re looking for more to assist) and they are very excited about the role the book can play in stimulating dialogue.

What do you think of these self published solutions like Blurb? Will they ever compete with the traditional book publishers for market share?

I love them. I think they demystify the process of publishing a book, on a certain level. Print-on-demand won’t replace traditional publishers, but it can supplement them in important ways. It’s like having another tool in the toolbox for artists and photographers. Not sure what your current edit looks like in book form or want to try two or three sequences? Do a Blurb book (or two or three)! Not sure what the ideal trim size is for the book that’s in your mind’s eye, or not sure how long that essay will be on the page? Do a Blurb book! Going to a portfolio review event and want something really well done to give to your five favorite galleries? Do a Blurb book!

Blurb is hosting Photography Book Now, an open competition that ends in mid-July, and I’m involved with both the judging process (which I’m very excited about) as well as the traveling symposium that will take place in San Francisco, London and New York this Fall. One of things that we’re aiming to do with the symposium is to crack the door to what happens at publishing houses. Doing a Blurb book is a little like DIY publishing, right? We want the symposium to give you insight on the role of a good editor, how designers approach text and image combinations, how other book artists are using the book as object, etc.

Through the contest, we’re hopeful that the cream of the crop will rise to the top. We know there are photographers out there who think in terms of book-length projects and who simply haven’t had a chance to get that work in front of people in the photography industry. This is their chance.

Photo Book Publishers

A good source for standalone photo essays to publish in a magazine is the upcoming books lists from photo book publishers. A few of the big publishers like Chronicle or W.W. Norton will do photography books but generally the good stuff is with the specialty publishers. It’s interesting to note that the literary publishers are extremely proactive about shopping the first serial rights around to magazines for publicity but it’s rare for a photography book publisher to do that so you’ve got to go look at the upcoming lists yourself and see if there’s something worth pitching to the editor. I’m working on a project now that needs a couple photo essays so I thought I’d share my list:

21ST Editions
Aperture
Arena Editions
Chris Boot
D.A.P.
Dewi Lewis
Farewell
Foil Web
Hassla
J and L
Kehrer Verlag
Lodima
Loosestrife Editions
Monacelli
Nazraeli
Phaidon
Pond Press
Power House pH
Prestel
Quantuck Lane
Radius
Sasquatch
Scalo
Steidl
Taschen
teNeues
Trolley
TV Books
Twin Palms
Umbrage Editions
Watson-Guptill

Photo Eye publishes a newsletter with upcoming releases. Always a good resource.

More in Europe:
Apeiron
Edition Braus
Hatje Catz
Lunwerg
Mets & Schlit
Peliti Associati

Australia
T&G Publishing