Tag Archives: Own Publishing

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.

A Brief, Photographic History of Republished Books

As we increase our understanding of the history of photography as defined by its great accomplishments in bookmaking, the question of the availability of that printed history becomes central. The coveted first edition of a classic photo book can at times demand a higher price tag than even original photographic prints. The art of “the book,” in some circles, has overshadowed the offerings of the gallery world.

Reprints of older photobooks, commonly known as second editions, have been one way for newer generations of photographers and students of photography to become familiar with and learn from artists who came before them. Books have served me by informing and inspiring me throughout my own photographic practice for more than two decades.

But where multiple printings are common with books of literature or non-fiction, reprints are not as common for many visual books after they are considered out of print. This usually rests on two main factors: First, in the world of art book publishing, there is rarely financial gain for the publisher involved, let alone the artist. The second factor is that artists tend to be resistant to repetition, thinking that reprinting the same exact book, edition after edition, seems to be an unnecessary act.

The result is that the books tend to become rare and increasingly valuable to collectors, leaving them sought-after but difficult to see firsthand. In a medium where the book plays such an important role in its progression, it is an unfortunate fact that so many examples of some of the greatest photobooks have been essentially lost to history. That notion fueled my own publishing project, Errata Editions, which offers studies of rare photobooks that won’t see a traditional reprint because of the aforementioned reasons.

In the Errata series of “books on books,” each volume is dedicated to the study of one photobook that has been recognized as important to the history of the genre. They present images of all of the page spreads contained in the original books, along with contemporary essays about the book. Within three years, we have published twelve volumes that include studies of books by Eugene Atget, Walker Evans, Chris Killip, William Klein, Paul Graham, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, David Goldblatt and others.

Artists open to reprinting their books often tinker with their creations by reediting. However, a complete reenvisioning of the book in its entirety was apparent with Josef Koudelka’s book Gypsies. That book represented a kind of revisioning in reverse, as the 2011 edition is actually closer to Koudelka’s original vision for the book, whereas the 1975 edition was a construction of Robert Delpire, the editor and publisher.

For many other artists, what might be seen as the flaws of youthful instinct give way, over time, to a desire to clean up the editing or design in any given book, or to revisit contact sheets and give new life to many images that were left out of the original book. The Magnum photographer Bruce Davidson has republished some of his classic books, such as East 100th Street and his recent new edition of Subway, both of which present newly edited material. Davidson has also taken the advances in printing technology to heart as additional attention has been made to color-correct the images to Davidson’s current slightly colder palette.

An interesting case in point is William Klein’s masterwork Life is Good & Good for You in New York, first published in 1956. When Klein revisited those same photographs in the mid-1990s, he completely redesigned and reedited the work—removing much of the original’s energetic and experimental design—until there was little, if any, similarity to the original book. “The first book was about graphic design. The second was about the photography,” he says of the two editions. Whether you agree or not, that resistance to repeat is apparent.

Over the years a resurgence of reprints has hit bookstores, and a few have come from the German publisher Steidl. Last December saw a set of facsimile reprints of several important, if somewhat obscure, political photobooks with The Protest Box, edited by the British photographer and photobook historian Martin Parr. Elsewhere, Dewi Lewis has released another printing of the Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken’s exquisite 1954 Love on the Left Bank, which is faithful to the original. And a new edition of one of the top-selling photobooks of all time, the 1972 Diane Arbus monograph from Aperture, is now available.

While not all photobooks considered great or groundbreaking will see a reprint, one can hope that enough will exist to maintain a full sense of photobook history.

Jeffrey Ladd is a photographer, writer, editor and founder of Errata Editions. Visit his blog here.