Future of photography books : food for thought

THe Future of Photobook ? When few days ago, Andy Adams, the indefatigable producer behind the online magazine Flakphoto and Miki Johnson the editor of Livebooks Resolve blog raise the idea of a collaborative projects within the photo blogosphere to create an online and prospective debate over photography books, I did an immediate booking ! The list of bloggers who are replying positively to the Call initiated by Andy and Miki is impressive and their thoughts are quite inspirational.

Actually I couldn’t dream about a better way to make this blog alive again, discussing a topic I’m closely concerned with : photography book.

During the week of Paris Photo , last november, I’ve spent most of the time ( a daily routine)  to meet and talk with photographers having a photography book projects or a book freshly published , reviewing dummies, discussing collaboration and ideas with european photobook publishers and even receiving a photo book I’ve purchased online delivered in person by his author. Needless to say, that the entrance of the fair where photobook publishers and book sellers had their booths was animated with a sparkling atmosphere… And last but not least, during the previous weeks, I was collaborating with an american female photographer as we did the editing and sequencing for her forthcoming book, after a work she produced during a residency in South France.

I can not predict what will be the medium in 10 years, but based on observations, trends and that photobooks gained in popularity….we could be confident that Photography Book has a future !

Nowadays, and because of the shift within the photo industry, documentary photographers who are doing long term projects or “slow journalism” are more and more inclined to think about a project in a book form, and less and less about a photo essay published in a magazine…

But let’s face a reality, to meet the right publisher and signing a deal with  is not only being at the right place at the right moment or having an awesome photo story, it is also a long way, that could take years before seeing the object printed and distributed.

A publisher has to find a “sale potential”, that’s why one or several exhibtions scheduled could be a driving force….But now, within the photo book publishing community, independant publishers and self-publishing are a part of the “zeitgest”.

Kodoji Press, based in Zurich is one of them. Winfried Heininger, the publisher of Kodoji Press who is also a designer creates each book as an object, with a limited edition print run and selects the paper, the book format, the printing witih care., with a constant search for the right form for the content of the books. Each book he publishes is unique and make them object of desire . I’m looking for the upcoming “Dark Rooms” inspired by children books printed on a thick paper or Esther Levine’s book which previously existed as a self published artist book in a limited edition of 5 only (sold out).

As a result of both the difficulty to get a book published and a self-entrepeneurial temperament of photographers with a DIY attitude, the option to self-published has been a choice, for the dutch documentary photographer Rob Hornstra or for the british photographer Stephen Gill, …..Gill has been running his own publishing company Nobody Books since 2005 in order to supervise first hand the materials, sequencing and production of his books. While Rob Hornstra took the subscription model as a business model since his first book , “Communism and Cowgirls”in 2004 as he was still a student. He has also developed a collaboration with a team of designers. His book 101 Billionaires was sold out just after few months and he has been “forced” to publish a second printing called the “crisis edition”” in 2009.

I would like to see more and more photographers jumping into the band waggon of self-publishing, looking for exploring innovative and alternative way to fund their projects, getting inspiration by the funding platform KickStarter…..

The Printing On Demand service like Blurb is another option, enhanced with the PhotographyBook-Now competition. Printing quality and lack of creativity are the main critics we could hear. Distribution and price are maybe the main problems….

Recently, I’ve discovered, ABC Artists’ Books Cooperative an online network for Print-On-Demand Artists books. This platform seems to answer the problem of distribution for self-published books produced via the P-O-D technoiogies, we can  imagine with ease, a similar network for self-published photography books only…

It’s interesting to see also the way some photographers use a service like  Blurb .:

Robin Maddock couldn’t wait to find a publisher for his book ” Our Kids Are Going To Hell” and so he did a “Blurb Book”, as a dummy and to make a test. Few months later the book was redesigned and came out with the help of a brick-and- mortar publisher.

Olivier Cablat had first published a very limited and expensive version of his hilarious artist book of typology study “Tribute to Panini Sticker Album Champions League”. Few years later he did a new design for a “more democratic” version of his Typology Study with Blurb. The book is also distribute via the online bookseller Schaden as a limited-edition printed on demand

Online self- distribution and word of mouth are the best marketing tools for the small company like Farewell books in Sweden or Morel Books in UK. They are both independant publishers specializing in affordable limited edition photography books, and many more small company like those ones  exist… We can hunt their books in specialized art books stores, or buying them online as well. Though they could be on display in some trendy boutiques besides the latest fashion designer products….or in cutting edge indie bookstore in your city…..

During the past 5-10 years , Festivals of Photography around the world and Portfolio Review meeting became a major phenomenon attracting an ever expanding photography community. Photography Books Prize at major event like Rencontres Internationales de le Photo in Arles and PhotoEspana show the dynamism of the photography book production…

And now, a new festival offer is emerging : International Foto Book Festival will take place in Kassel in May 2010 for the third year, while PhotoBook Days 2010 in Hamburg will be opened in June 2010 for the first time,. Both in Germany , this two apparently similar festivals will celebrate the photography book medium, with book presentation and signing, lectures, reviews and photobook dummy prize, and schmoozing….

Proof that the photobook publishing industry is taking the developpement of the photography book seriously for 2010 and beyond !….Promising future ?!

One thought on “Future of photography books : food for thought

  1. Qsymia Diet Pill

    Great article! I can’t say the last time I read so much valuable information all in one place. You make strong points that I agree with and comprehend. You’ve done a great job on this.

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