Tag Archives: Independent Publishers

Louis Porter

Louis Porter is a little like a novelist who looks at the urban landscape for clues to weave together into stories. He has been photographing those clues and categorizing them into an collection titled The Small Conflict Archive.  They are humorous in their simplicity and telling in the small narratives that they create. Louis a British born photographer who currently lives and works in Melbourne.  His work has been exhibited widely throughout Australia and internationally. He has published books with independent publishers in Australia, France and England and been included in the photographic compendiums Hijacked II (Big City Press) and The Collector’s Guide to Emerging Fine Art Photography (Humble Arts). He recently established his own publishing imprint, Twenty Shelves.

The
Small
Conflict
Archive 
The Small Conflict Archive is a collection of fragments, markers and traces of a minor
conflict, which can be easily found on the surface of any modern town or city. These
are not the conflicts that make the evening news: the protracted wars, acts of
terrorism, murders and kidnappings. Instead, The Small Conflict Archive contains
evidence of perforations, in what might be considered a typical day. What constitutes
a perforation is diverse and subjective: it might be a broken key, some discriminatory
graffiti or even a spilt carton of milk. What unifies the objects and photographs in the
archive is their ubiquity; the archive is first and foremost a collection of familiar
things. 
What the Small Conflict Archive proposes, is that the material aspects of urban space,
should not be considered as merely functional, aesthetic or unwanted, but also as
symbolic and potentially empathetic devices. The objects and photographs collected
for the archive, have been sifted from the soil of the everyday and although some of
them standout more than others, they have all sat undisturbed, waiting to be
collected or photographed. It is from the prosaic remnants of daily life that
archeologists build our understanding of the past. But for the Small Conflict Archive, it
is these very remnants that we can also construct our understanding of the present.



Bad Driving

On any given day, countless pieces of street furniture have their utilitarian roles
abruptly brought into question by careless driving, and it is the results of these
minor mishaps that are the subject of Bad Driving. As a foot passenger in life I have
always been acutely aware of the impact of cars on the urban environment.
Sometimes I wonder for whose benefit many cities have been built, its citizens or its
cars. These points of impact, the twisted poles and buckled signs, become selfreferencing
historical markers, that sink into the surface of the city, becoming almost
invisible.

Crap Paint Jobs

The series of photographs depicting Crap Paint Jobs, like the majority of the sections
in the archive, portrays the remnants of an event, the protagonist of which is no
longer present. In its practical manifestation, painting an object, particularly one in a
public space, is by its very nature an act engaged in aesthetic harmony. The object is
painted to either fit in with its environment, or (especially in commercial settings)
stand out.  

Two extremes of environment come to mind, the historic centre of a European city, where the way a thing is painted might be legislated in order to maintain a sense of cultural authenticity and an outer suburban shopping complex, where almost identical prefabricated concrete boxes, are painted wildly different colours, in order to differentiate themselves from one another. In either example, if the paintjob is done rather badly, the overall tone of the surrounding area is called into question. 

Crap things tend to multiply and travel in packs. If the previous painter has done a terrible job, the standard required by the next painter to do a reasonable job lowers. Although the suggestion is not that a poorly painted lamp post can set in motion a chain of events, that lead to the collapse of a civilization, its contribution to a sense of urban decline is a subject of great interest to The Small Conflict Archive.

Signs of a Struggle

Like many of the sets in the Small Conflict Archive, Signs of a Struggle began with a
single visual encounter that set in motion a series of thoughts. Seeing a spilt paint can
at the base of a small hill in suburbia, I wondered what events had led up to the
incident and what had resulted from it. This paint can was, I decided, evidence of a
moment of a minor conflict in life. Perhaps it was the “straw that broke the camels
back”, perhaps later that day the owner decided not to paint the fence after all,
perhaps that was for the best. 

I decided to search out more of these tell tale signs. Signs of a Struggle, therefore searches out and collects the traces of accidents, mishaps, disagreements and other deviations in the smooth running of life. There is naturally a large amount of conjecture in any such exercise, as it is impossible to know the exact circumstances of how a spade was broken or a pot of paint spilt. This series and the archive as a whole, should therefore be considered more a musing on the symbolic nature of objects, than a series of confirmed and catalogued facts.

Interview: Yannick Bouillis, Founder of Offprint Paris

Offprint Paris 2010 (© Gallery Fotohof Salzburg)

Yannick Bouillis, a former journalist and bookseller from France, is the founder of Offprint Paris, “a project space for contemporary photography and a book fair for independent publishers.” He also recently organised the Amsterdam Art/Book Fair 2011 in collaboration with De Brakke Grond Amsterdam. I interviewed him over the summer to find out more about the second edition of Offprint Paris coming up in November, his thoughts on photobooks today and why the Dutch are so damn good at making photobooks.

You used to be a political journalist, how did you first become interested in photobooks?

I am not so much interested in photobooks per se. I am drawn to photobooks because the experimentation and innovation of the avant garde in photography has always taken place through publications. I came to photobooks because I realized that the place to find the most cutting edge work was not in a museum or a gallery but in the form of a publication. If tomorrow the space for formal innovation in photography becomes the exhibition then I will turn my attention to exhibitions. Today, if you want to be aware of the most interesting new trends in photography you need to be looking at photobooks or magazines, rarely at exhibitions.

Do you think the book has always played a crucial role in photography as a venue for the avant garde?

With contemporary art, there are a large number of spaces open to young or emerging artists in which to experiment. This is not the case in the photo world. With photography, from the beginning there have been a restricted number of spaces for photographers to exhibit their work and the book quickly became the primary venue for photography. As a result of this lack of spaces and the restrictions of commercial assignments, many photographers came to perceive the book as the most important output for their work. I would say this is still true today: specialists and experts who want to know what’s going on in photography still have to buy photobooks.

The focus on the so-called ‘collectible’ aspect of photobooks, which is reinforced by the endless “best photobook” awards (are there not enough competitions in daily life already?) masks the importance of the photobook within photography.

Most academics try to understand photography by importing concepts from contemporary art, where books do not play a key role, but failed obviously to understand that photography has a specific way of organising itself, generating its own validation process. The “school – gallery  – museum – art fair” sequence does not operate in photography. Even the oppositions between the ‘art’, ‘commercial’ and ‘amateur’ fields don’t operate like they do in art.

Bart Julius Peters, Hunt

Although you are French you have been based in Holland for many years. Holland seems to be punching above its weight in the photobook world in terms of inventiveness and experimentation. What do you think makes the Dutch so good at making photobooks?

I think there are two things that need to be separated out: there is the question of photography in Holland, which is very avant-gardist, daring to explore new fields and new practices like videos, installations, performances… and then there are photobooks in Holland. If there is one field where the Dutch are the best in the world, it is graphic design. While Dutch photography is generally strong, their graphic design is even stronger and this is what really makes Dutch photobooks stand out.

A photographer in Holland knows that when they start making a book, they are no longer on their own terrain, they are on the terrain of designers. Graphic design is strong and photographers also know their limits: there is a general recognition among photographers here that the standard of graphic design is so high that it makes no sense to go about trying to design a book themselves.

Uta Eisenreich, A not B

What recent photobooks have stood out for you in Holland?

I just saw the 2011 catalogue of the Arnhem Mode Biennale by Laurenz Brunner and his artistic direction is amazing. It illustrates all of the strengths of Dutch graphic design. Hunt by Bart Julius Peters is another recent discovery. The editing for this book, in collaboration with Mevis and Van Deursen, is great. Also Fake Flowers in Full Colour by Jaap Scheeren and Hans Gremmen. I also look at a lot of magazines, for example the artistic direction of Fantastic Man is pretty impressive. What interests me in these magazines is the way that they make use of photography, their irreverence for it.

Last year I would say the best book for me was A not B by Uta Eisenreich. The thing that is symbolic for me about this book is that it is representative of the transition from the artist as photographer to the artist as image-maker. This is the direction that photography has taken in Holland in the last couple of years. This is interesting for photography as art: it challenges the historical link between ‘photography’ and the ‘document’ towards non-documentary practices by people that consider themselves to be ‘photographers’. And from a commercial point of view, these image-makers is what the internet needs: more specific online esthetics that image-makers are able to provide.

 

“If there is one field where the Dutch are the best in the world, it is graphic design… this is what really makes Dutch photobooks stand out.”

 

The role of design seems to be more important in Dutch photobooks in general than in other countries. It seems to be accepted that design is essential to the success of a photobook, regardless of whether a book is published by a major publisher or self-published.

In France for example, the book designer is thought of as a “maquettiste” (ed. layout guy) rather than as an artist. In Holland there are genuine ‘stars’ in the field of graphic design, the way that you get stars in fashion design or architecture. In Holland, and also in Switzerland, book design is considered to be part of the creative process rather than the production process, which is not the case in France. You can see the importance of design in Holland in the fact that some major museum directors here have been designers like Willem Sandberg at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam or Wim Crouwel at the Boijmans Van Beunigen. In France no graphic designer will ever become the director of the Pompidou Center.

It seems like there aren’t just one or two “super-designers” doing all the photobooks, but that there are many talented designers in Holland. What is the graphic design landscape like?

In Holland there are probably more graphic designers than photographers, there are so many of them that you trip over them in the street if you’re not careful. The country is renowned for having some of the best design schools in the world and a relatively cheap education system, which attracts a lot of foreign talent. It’s not just “Dutch” designers, but there are also a lot of foreigners who have been educated in Holland: the schools here are very international.

Jaap Scheeren and Hans Gremmen, Fake Flowers in Full Colour

Is there such a thing as a Dutch design style? It strikes me that the image in Holland is less ‘sacred’ than elsewhere, there is less of a need to place a photograph in the centre of a page, framed by white space. Designers seem to have the freedom to use the images as ‘raw materials’ when making a photobook.

Dutch culture has a specific “distrust” towards images because of Protestantism and the iconoclasm (ed. destruction of religious images) of the reformation in the sixteenth century. Strangely, although portrait photography is very strong in Holland, most of the photobooks don’t feature images on the cover. This is very striking: when you buy a Dutch photobook, either there is no image on the cover, or it is a portrait from the back, or the text hides the image, etc… Basically, the cover tries to counter the “seduction” of the image… it seems like the image is an impure thing for graphic designers. The love/hate relationship to the image probably gives a special twist to Dutch photobooks in general.

But it’s also true that, in Holland, designers have a lot more control than in other countries: the cover is their cover, their moment. They are given the freedom to digest the photographs as they see fit. This can lead to the question of who the author of a photobook actually is, the photographer or the designer. For some photobooks, the translation of the works in book form is sometimes so strange and so far from the photographer’s work that the book seems to reflect the graphic designer’s creativity more than anything else.

But of course the strength of contemporary Dutch photography must also have a major role to play in the effervescence of the Dutch photobook world?

Sure. Holland has a great photographic tradition. I think the fact that the image is less sacred here gives them the freedom to be more inventive and experimental. Also there are many excellent photography schools in Holland for such a small country. And there is a pluridisciplinarity in art schools: you learn photography next to designers, graphic designers, fashion designers, videos makers etc… Many artists don’t want to stick to one medium, some would even be ashamed to be considered “only” as a photographer. Also, the definition of a ‘photographer’ is a lot more flexible and malleable than elsewhere.  That will keep them on the cutting edge for the next decade. Even in the context of a very conservative political situation, Dutch photography should remain creative for a while.

Amber, the Arnhem Mode Biennale 2011 catalogue

A few years ago, it seemed like we had come to the end of the world with photobooks and now in the last couple of years there has been a huge revival, not only in terms of the number of books being published, but also in terms of the different models of publishing (cheap limited editions, deluxe boxsets, lo-fi self-publishing, etc.)? Do you have a view on why this explosion has come about?

I think there is a reorganisation of the economic model of photobooks. Booksellers are becoming publishers. Designers are becoming booksellers. It’s a bit chaotic at the moment. Book fairs have become the new bookshop. I think this isn’t a passing trend but a fundamental business shift. Just as with galleries, most of their sales happen at art fairs, not by people walking into a gallery on their way home to pick up a photograph.

And so you have launched Offprint, the artist book fair? The first edition fair took place in Paris last year. How did you first come up with the idea?  

Initially I wanted to sell books at Paris Photo but when I saw the prices of booths I gave up on that idea pretty quickly. And then I heard about people selling books in the carpark underneath the Carrousel du Louvre… I thought about selling books from a hotel suite near the fair… In the end I got a few publishers together to sell books and that grew and grew into what ended up being Offprint.

 

“Today, if you want to be aware of the most interesting new trends in photography you need to be looking at photobooks or magazines, rarely at exhibitions.”

 

So you started out by selling photobooks?

I started out collecting, after reading Martin Parr and Gerry Badger’s The Photobook: A History, Vol. 1, like a lot of people. But more so than the collecting that this book has generated (against its will), I was very interested in the way that it placed the photobook back at the center of the history of photography.

Then I become a rare book dealer, to make a living out of a passion. But I got tired of that pretty quickly because you never come across new publications, you end up selling the same few books, and get totally irritated to see every discussion starting about “architecture” but ending up about “real estate investment”. Then I came to the contemporary photobook and the artist book. And now I’m launching a publishing house and stopping my bookselling activities.

What are you going to publish?

It’s going to be focused on visual culture—design and photography books—but I also plan to publish theory and philosophy.

Self Publish, Be Happy

Self-publishing has been the big trend of the last year. Do you think it is here to stay or that it is a passing fad?

I think it is here to stay, but I’d say that it is not something people will do consistently throughout their careers. It’s something that is more appropriate when you’re launching your artistic career. Self-publishing is all about getting rid of intermediaries e.g. the publisher, the designer, the distributor.

But designing, printing, publishing, distributing, marketing, selling, shipping… having to do all of this yourself is extremely tiring. Once you have self-published a couple of books you tend to want to get other people to take some of the work off your hands. It’s like moving house… you might do it yourself once or twice, but if you have to do it regularly, after a while you get a company to do it for you. There is some space left for publishers.

There is a balance to be struck with self-publishing. Every time you cut a link out of the chain you are losing expertise and experience—and you are adding work for yourself. When you cut out the publisher for example, you are losing distribution networks, press contacts, marketing, etc. It all depends at the end on what you are willing to do and for how long.

 

“I am not so much afraid of the disappearance of publications, but of photographers to produce them.”

 

To finish with an eye on the future, you’ve spoken about a shift from ‘photography’ to image-making and to specific internet-based imagery? How do you think this is going to affect the photobook?

For Offprint, the rise of the internet in both esthetic and commercial terms, raises the question of how to show emerging practices in photography, if online practices are taking over from printed ones? How can you show web activity at a fair? And if innovation is done by photographers, but not only (graphic designers, image makers, video artists), what does it mean to be a ‘photographer’? What is an ‘art book fair for photo publications,’ if there are no ‘photographers’ or ‘publications’ anymore?

On the other hand, the photobook itself has definitively gained an ‘art’ status over the last few decades, alongside artist books. But art-photographers will be swallowed by the art world, by art book fairs, art museums and galleries. I am not so much afraid of the disappearance of publications, but of photographers to produce them. Or the specificity of anything called ‘photography’.

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Printer Resources for Independent Art Publishers

If you want to get your own photobook printed, one of the biggest questions usually is who can/will/might print it for you. This is where this huge list of printer resources might come in handy (via).

Go here! Do this!


1. Check out Dan McCarthy’s Calvary at Journal Gallery in Brooklyn 6-9pm.

2. TRESSPASS opens this Saturday at Pandemic Gallery at 7:00pm and features work by Korakrit Arunanondchai, Joshua Citarella, Julian Duron, Jack Greer, Sandy Kim, Leah Meltzer, Edouard Nardon, Grear Patterson, Victor Payares and Evan Robarts. This should be a nice show.


Joshua Citarella

3.  Linda Salerno’s show, A Selection of Experimental Photographs from the BLACK MIRROR SERIES opens this Friday from 6-8pm at  the Camera Club of New York curated by Allen Frame & Martin Kunz.

4. Winter weather got you down? Don’t miss Hotter Than July: A Sexploration curated by Savannah Spirit and featuring work by Constance & Eric, Mark Freedman, Matthew Goldman, Jacob Pander & Marne Lucas, Reuben Negron, Paul Richmond, Ned & Aya Rosen, P Elaine Sharpe, Gavin Wilson. The show opens this Friday from 7-9pm  at NY Studio Gallery and runs through February 12th.


Constance and Eric

5. Submissions are now being accepted for SuperMassiveBlackHole Issue#7. The Theme for this issue is “Colour Theory”. Please read the submission guidelines before submitting…

6. F.L.O.A.T. Gallery is accepting submissions to their next group show and the deadline is TOMORROW (my bad)! The theme of the show is “confinement”. Please send max 10 low res jpegs to: [email protected] **If you have work that is already framed please consider sending and make a note that it’s ready to hang**.

7. Also, join at F.L.O.A.T for a discussion/q+a this Saturday Jan 15th from 6-9 pm with independent publishers, JSBJ, Hassla, Seems and Lay Flat.

8. Don’t forget! This Thursday from 6-8 pm. Mixed Greens presents Tuesday, curated by Amani Olu and featuring work by Conor Backman, Joy Drury Cox, Jon Feinstein, Van Hanos, Heather Rasmussen, Peter Segerstrom, Breanne Trammell, and Jennifer Marman & Daniel Borins.


Jon Feinstein

9. This is your last chance to submit to Human+Being at the Center for Fine Art Photography! Submissions due by midnight MST tonight!

10. The Center for Photography at Woodstock’s annual Photography Now exhibit is now accepting submissions!!

Notes on 2010

Some self- or independently published photobooks from 2010

Some self- or independently published photobooks from 2010

As the year draws to an end and more top10 lists (and non-lists) than you can wave a stick at make their annual appearance, I thought I would take a broader look back at the past year in photography. This time last year I focused on the chronic over-use of the word curating, a trend which shows no signs of abating. As for 2010, the major development in the world of photography has to be the exponential rise of the self-published and independent photobook.

This year has seen the launch of Alec Soth’s Little Brown Mushroom (LBM actually launched in December 2009, Soth once again proving that he is ahead of the curve), the online listings database The Independent Photobook, the Indie Photobook Library, the Off Print photobook festival in Paris, a big online discussion on the future of photobooks and (perhaps another sign of Soth’s prescience) the growth of countless independent publishers like so many little brown mushrooms. This frenzy of activity wasn’t only limited to the periphery either: the (deserving) winner of this year’s book prize at the Rencontres d’Arles was an independent publisher from Berlin, Only Photography, for Yutaka Takanashi: Photography 1965-74. If there were any doubts remaining as to the importance of this trend in 2010, while writing this paragraph I received an email from yet another freshly-launched website devoted to the self- and independently-published photobook. I think this explosion in ‘indie’ publishing is a great thing, particularly given what was being said about the future of photobook publishing a couple of years ago. However, although we have learned that publishing it yourself can make you happy, it can also make you very confused, even overwhelmed. It is truly amazing how many photobooks are being made now, far too many for one poor blogger to even begin to get his head around and (surely?) far too many to sell to a very limited pool of buyers. The problem is that only a very small percentage of them are any good. By good I don’t mean “containing good photography” but rather good as a stand-alone artwork where the design and production matches, or even enhances the content rather than a brochure for a series of photographs. Not every series of photographs deserves (or is suited) to becoming a book. Hopefully the publishing effervescence of 2010 will give way to a ‘more quality less quantity’ scenario in 2011.

Another phenomenon that has accompanied this rise in self- or indie publishing is the rise in luxury, super exclusive, VIP, signed, numbered and sealed-with-a-kiss editions. Despite the rise in the number of photobooks being published, only an infinitesimal number of these make any money and publishers are still searching for the winning formula. Rather than the ‘limited’ print runs of the past (700 to 1,000) it seems that a number of publishers are moving towards deluxe extra-limited editions (100 to 500). To mention just a few examples Germany’s Only Photography and White Press are both producing books which will generally set you back at least 80 euros ($100), and in the US Nazraeli Press has completed ten years of its One Picture Book series where (for $150) you get a small original print thrown in with the eight or nine plates in the book itself. One final publishing trend worth noting is the growing number of re-editions of classic photobooks. In addition to Errata Editions‘ full series of books on books, this year we were treated to a range of re-editions from Takuma Nakahira’s A Language To Come to John Gossage’s The Pond. Given how much the originals are sell for at auction these days, I’m grateful to be able to get my hands on some classics without having to sell all the other books I own in the process.

Press opening of the Larry Clark's Kiss the Past Hello exhibition

Press opening of the Larry Clark's Kiss the Past Hello exhibition

And what of photography itself in 2010? Looking beyond the book, this year feels far less exciting. As with the rest of the art world, photography galleries are still gently and nervously probing the market with little space given to new or ‘difficult’ work, while museums are staying well away from anything risky with big-name blockbuster retrospectives, shows assembled from their own collections (which is not necessarily a bad thing), or shows lasting from 4-5 months instead of 2 or 3. Just as with books we’re also seeing the reedition of landmark exhibitions, with the New Topographics show touring the US this year. In terms of museum shows a special mention has to go to two examples of ludicrous censorship: the recent removal of a video by the artist David Wojnarowicz from the exhibition “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture“ at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington after the Catholic League and members of Congress complained that the piece was sacrilegious due to a sequence showing ants crawling on a crucifix, and the Paris Museum of Modern Art’s Larry Clark exhibition which got itself an X-rating from the government and therefore a shed-load of media attention.

On a positive note, a more interesting trend has been the use of Google Street View by several artists as a new photographic tool. Michael Wolf (see the grid below), Doug Rickard and Jon Rafman have produced exhibitionsbooks and tumblrs of images taken from Google Street View’s online tool. This is clearly not everyone‘s cup of tea and, particularly in street photography circles, there tends to be a “that is not photography” response to this kind of work. Whether you like it or not, it raises a number of interesting and important questions about the way the practice of photography and the hypocritical rules governing it are evolving .

Michael Wolf, FY (forthcoming 2011)

Michael Wolf, FY (forthcoming 2011)

Another technology-related trend has to be the massive growth of online social networking in the photo community. Of course this is a phenomenon that is by no means limited to photography, but it is astounding how quickly Facebook has gone from an interactive high-school yearbook to a major marketing tool (alongside its younger cousin Twitter). Some have even used it as a tool through which to publish a series of photographs steadily over time. I’m not sure how this is going to affect photography (if at all) and others have thought about this harder than I have, but it will be interesting to see where this goes in 2011.

Finally, I get the feeling that there is a bit of a reemergence of street photography going on. With in-public’s 10 (review here) and Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLaren’s Street Photography Now. This may be because we’re all photographers now and the most obvious place to start is the street, or perhaps because people are growing tired of the cold, detached formalism that has dominated recent contemporary photography, or maybe even the fact that the abuse of anti-terrorism and privacy laws is making it more and more difficult to photograph in many of our cities and that street photographer’s tend to like a challenge.

To wrap up this look back at 2010 (despite last year’s rant) seeing as we all love lists (because we don’t want to die), here are a few highlights from the past year in no particular order:

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