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PUMPING-UP the VOLUME on PHOTOBOOKS

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Screen dump on Volume site

Screen dump on Volume site

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I attended Volume: Another Art Book Fair in Sydney on the weekend of September 11+13, 2015. The event was a collaboration between Artspace, Perimeter Books and the American artists’ book not-for-profit book shop Printed Matter. Packed into the Artspace building in Woolloomooloo were around 100 ‘Art Book’ makers, publishers and sellers all vying for the attention of potential purchasers. The table holders had spread before them all things book – let’s not try and get into discussions around what an ‘art book’ is, but rather celebrate the range of published products from thin stapled zines and comics, to self-pub photobooks, artists’ books and gallery catalogues, and further to trade-styled ‘fine art’ books and livre d’artiste productions.

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Some of the Volume Art Book Fair table participants included:

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Shannon Michael Cane from Printed Matter

Shannon Michael Cane from Printed Matter

Printed Matter

 

Cameron Cope

Cameron Cope

Cameron Cope

 

The Perimeter Books table

The Perimeter Books table

Perimeter Books

 

Bloom Publishing Lloyd Stubbers + Jay Dymock

Bloom Publishing Lloyd Stubbers + Jay Dymock

Bloom Publishing: Lloyd Stubbers + Jay Dymock

 

Richard Tipping and Max Ernst (David Dellafiora)

Richard Tipping and Max Ernst (David Dellafiora)

Thorny Devil Press: Richard Tipping

 

George Voulgaropoulos

George Voulgaropoulos

Pneuma Publishing: George Voulgaropoulos

 

Deanna Hitti

Deanna Hitti

Deanna Hitti

 

Libby Jefferies MomentoPro after a long day on Sunday

Libby Jefferies MomentoPro after a long day on Sunday

MomentoPro: Libby Jefferies

 

Anita Totha Remote Photobooks NZ

Anita Totha Remote Photobooks NZ

Anita Totha: Remote Books

 

Kate Golding

Kate Golding

Kate Golding

 

Stephen Dupont

 

John Ogden Cyclops Press

John Ogden Cyclops Press

John Ogden Cyclops Press

 

Helen Frajman - m.33

Helen Frajman – m.33

M.33: Helen Frajman

 

Chloe Ferres

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Selling books to interested collectors and lovers of books is one thing but as is the case with the emergent trend in self-pub everyone wants to have their own book. To cater to this growing group of keen makers the program included many free forums, workshops and lectures by a variety of key makers and commentators on various aspects of the disciplines of writing and self-publishing (self-pub).

 

Why Publish panel

Why Publish panel

 

As my interest is in topics related to photobooks I attended two sessions: Why Publish and Designing Photobooks. The why-pub panel consisted of Helen Frajman (m.33), Daniel Boetker-Smith (Asia-Pacific Photobook Library), Brad Haylock, Jack Harries and Geordie Cargill and Shannon Michael Cane from Printed Matter. Attendees, of which there were around 30, heard discussions relating to the usual issues of publishing, getting a designer, edition numbers, marketing, selling and getting your work into the right hands including the international market. Brad Haylock suggested the key themes for photobooks were:

  • Technologies and organizational forms
  • Social relations
  • Institutional and administrative arrangements
  • Production and labor processes
  • Relations to nature
  • The reproduction of daily life and the species
  • Mental conceptions of the world

Ultimately the overall message seemed to be ‘Give it a go’!

 

Designing for Photo Books panel

The Designing for Photo Books panel

 

Associate Professor Christopher Stewart from University of Technology Sydney chaired the Designing for Photobook panel. Each speaker showed examples of their work and discussed design concerns associated with their books. Heidi Romano from Unlessyouwill spoke of her history in design, her passion for the photobook and her experience of the international world of book design. She cited her interest in advancing Australian photobook design as being a driver for her establishment of Photobook Melbourne. Esther Teichmann, and artist from the UK discussed her exhibition work and the challenge of bringing wall-work into the space of the book as well as her experiences, not always pleasant ones, with book designers. Tom Evangeledis, Black Eye Gallery  described his interest in encouraging exhibitors at his gallery to consider a book to support the exhibition but also to enhance the opportunity for the artist’s work to be extended beyond the exhibition dates. Chloe Ferres, probably kept the most on track with the topic of book design by presenting a range of works that in some ways subvert the idea of the book being a vessel to hold photographs that express a narrative – she considers the book structure as also important to the narrative and uses a range of design interventions to disrupt the preciousness that many photographers seem to consider important when they make books.

Christopher Stewart posed questions to the panelists to draw out aspects of the topic but when asked if there were questions from the floor Daniel Boetker-Smith asked about how we can make photobooks that are more about the ‘fetish’ of the book – ‘some books all look the same – I’m interested in all kinds of books. A young photographer in Myanmar stapling a bunch of photographs together to make a book is just as important to me as some “coffee table tome”!’ An attendee agreed and responded that books often look the same as they as designed from a dummy where all decisions about the book are considered at the beginning and immutable – whereas another less formal method is the development of a book in a process where opportunities for review and discovery are made along the way allowing the book to be like a collaborator with the artist…

 

Bella Capezio making Insta Photobooks for APPA

Bella Capezio making Insta Photobooks for APPA

Make your own Photobook with Garry Trinh

Make your own Photobook with Garry Trinh

 

While some attendees attended these lecture sessions others were busy making books. The print-on-demand company BLURB offered bookmaking workshops over the weekend led by photobook self-publisher Garry Trinh. Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive presented a selection of their books at the event and founder Daniel Boetker-Smith and Bella Capezio led photobook-making sessions as well.

 

Victoria Cooper and Ruyin Yang

Victoria Cooper and Ruyin Yang

 

The biggest book-making venture over the weekend was a special project coordinated by Onestar Press who, with Artspace and other supporters including Surry Hills Print & Design Konica-Minolta, design students from University of New South Wales – Art &Design. The project, entitled ‘Book Machine’, brought together a designer with a ‘content provider’ (artist or photographer), and over the course of 3.5 hours the two work together to design a book. Overnight the book was printed and made available to its collaborative participants.

 

Alexie Glass-Kantor – introduces the Book Machine commentators

Alexie Glass-Kantor – introduces the Book Machine commentators

 

Late on Sunday afternoon the Artspace coordinators drew together a distinguished panel of erudite book critics and commentators including Brianna Munting – NAVA, Simon Barney Artist, Alexie Glass-Kantor – Executive Director Artspace, Maddalena Quarta – One Star Press, Bella Capezio – Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive, Philip Keir – publisher and artists’ book collector and Nicholas Tsoutas – Curator and Art management executive. A crowd gathered to hear this discussion and celebrate this unusual project.

 

Book Machine

Book Machine

 

Towards the end of the day on Sunday I rushed around to catch up with people that I still hadn’t spoken with and books not yet seen. I felt something of the heightened energy levels with which these table holders had been operating in the preceding days. Did they sell enough books…? Did they make contacts with people who will do future business with them or provide content for future books…? Did they get a chance to check out what everyone else was doing…? Did they get to do a Book Machine project…? Buy a pie at Harry’s Cafe de Wheels or take-in the harbor, the Finger Wharf and the view of naval ships at Garden Island.

 

Harry's Cafe de Wheels

Harry’s Cafe de Wheels

 

Volume: Another Art Book Fair was a major undertaking for the visionaries who conceived it and then brought it into fruition. There were so many activities, add-on events, presentations and booksellers and books available for artbookophiles in which to luxuriate. There was a real sense of community created in this art book fair that can only advance the disciplines associated with it. One thing is for certain, at least for me, is that I know I have just attended one of the most significant art book fairs to be held in this country to date. When, and where the next one will be is something we’ll await with much anticipation…

 

Doug Spowart

14 September 2015

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hEADoN into THE FUTURE OF PHOTOBOOK PUBLISHING

with 2 comments

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Invite and MOS

The Future of the Photo Book Forum Photo: Victoria Cooper

The Future of the Photo Book Forum ……Photo: Victoria Cooper

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RUNSHEET & OVERVIEW:

Momento Pro/HEADON Event: The Future of Photo Book Publishing

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6.00 pm    Panellists arrive on stage                                                             

6.10 pm    Doug Spowart: Welcome and good evening.

Photographers and those who make photobooks are storytellers – and – with this in mind – I would like to acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners and story-tellers of this land on which we meet; the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.

This evening we will discuss the photobook and consider the opportunities for its future in Australia.

My name is Doug Spowart, I make artists books, photobooks and I have a research interest in photography and the form of the photobook.

This evening I’m joined by an eminent panel of book people with a wide range of knowledge and expertise on the topic.

The order of this evening will begin with an overview by me about the photobook. Then each of the panellists will discuss their involvement within the book and photobook world. Following that the panel will be presented with a range of questions – some sent in from attendees. Towards the end of the forum we have set aside time for your questions and comments to the panel. The forum will close and be followed by refreshments and networking opportunities …

At this juncture I would like to thank our Sponsor Momento Pro and the Organizers of the HeadOn Photo Festival, and the Museum of Sydney for this opportunity to engage in dialogue about this growing and evolving medium …

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AN OVERVIEW OF THE PHOTOBOOK

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Photobook luminary Martin Parr states:

 … that photography and the book were just meant for each other; they always have been. It’s the perfect medium for photography: it’s printed, it’s reproducible and it travels well. (Parr in Lane 2006:15)

The photobook is indeed the ‘perfect medium’ for photography and its history, the history of photography are inextricably linked with that of publishing. In fact some of the earliest experiments in photography made by Hércules Florence (1804 -1879), Nicéphore Niépce (1765 -1833) and Henry Fox Talbot (1800 -1877) were to discover methods and processes that would enable the copying and printing of texts or designs by capturing and fixing camera obscura images.

William Henry Fox Talbot, by John Moffat, 1864 By Michael Maggs [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

William Henry Fox Talbot, by John Moffat, 1864
By Michael Maggs [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In March 21, 1839, Talbot, the inventor of the negative-positive photographic process wrote to fellow researcher Sir John Herschel, about the potential of his calotype research work. In this letter he predicted that photography would make  ‘Every man his own printer and publisher’(Talbot 1839). Talbot within four years set up a printing works at Reading where he printed the images for The Pencil of Nature, his treatise on the photographic process. This was published as a serialised form of text with tipped-in calotype images.

Books illustrated by photographs as a genre of the publishing industry flourished. The photographic image could operate as a storyteller, a precise document of truth, a device to entertain and, at times, a carrier of propaganda. Early photography book works consisted of travel, geographical and military expeditions, trade catalogues, scientific and ethnographic documentation.

Although some photographers, like Talbot, may have established their own publishing ventures, usually the photographer was a supplier of images for a publication that was commissioned by someone else – a publisher, benefactor or government agency. The publishing of a book was, and still is, a task requiring the specialized skills, the entrepreneurship and financial acumen found in the worlds of publishing, marketing and bookselling. Books are created for a purchasing audience: it is a mercantile process where return on the investment in a publishing project is a necessary outcome.

What is it about photographers and their need for photobooks?

Martin Parr describes the influence that photobooks had on his own practice by stating that:

I’m a photographer and I need to inform myself about what’s going on in the world photographically. Books have taught me more about photography and photographers than anything else I can think of. (Parr in Badger 2003:54)

Parr is not alone. The publishing house Aperture – a well established international publisher of contemporary and historical photographic essays and monographs – acknowledges in their organization’s credo that:

Every photographer who is a master of his [sic] medium has evolved a philosophy from such experiences; and whether we agree or not, his thoughts act like a catalyst upon our own — he has contributed to dynamic ideas of our time. Only rarely do such concepts get written down clearly and in a form where photographers scattered all over the earth may see and look at the photographs that are the ultimate expression. (in Craven 2002:13)

Photo Bookshelf

Library

So photographers seek inspiration for their work by building their own reference libraries: have you ever visited a photographer and not had discussions about books or been invited to see their library? It then makes sense that photographers will want a book of their own. Photobook publisher Dewi Lewis exclaims: ‘I have yet to meet a photographer who doesn’t want to see their work in book form.’ (Lewis and Ward 1992:7).

Photobook commentators and publishers of the book Publish Your Photography Book, Darius Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson claim that this need is universal and emotive:

It almost goes without saying that every photographer wants a book of his or her work. It’s a major milestone, an indicator of success and recognition, and a chance to place a selection of one’s work in the hands of hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Plus it is just plain exciting to hold a book of your photographs! (Himes and Swanson 2011:26)

It seems that this ‘rite of passage’ is an important step of professional recognition as photographer, photobook maker and writer – Robert Adams – makes the following statement in his book Why people photograph:

 I know of no first-rate photographer who has come of age in the past twenty-five years who has found the audience that he or she deserves without publishing such a book. (Adams 1994:44-5)

Does it then follow that every photographer of note or the creator of a significant body of work deserves a book?

It is not that easy. Amongst others the photobook publisher Dewi Lewis argues that the market for photobooks is limited – where he identifies that: ‘photographers themselves are the largest purchasers of photobooks’ (Lewis and Ward 1992).

Ultimately unsold books are remaindered – something even Magnum photographer Martin Parr experienced. His first book Bad Weather (1982) sold poorly and was remaindered at 40p. In an essay on photobook publishing Peter Metelerkamp reports that:

Parr himself bought in as many copies as he could at that price (very much below the cost of production) (Metelerkamp circa 2004:7).

But while remaindered books can be a great way to acquire a low priced library they represent a loss to the publisher, who may then be wary of undertaking future photobook ventures.

The photographers who are successfully trade-published are usually either well known and/or are those who produce work that is of interest to a broad audience. Most notably in Australia this has included celebrated photographers such as Harold Cazneaux (1878-1953), Frank Hurley (1885 -1962), Max Dupain (1911-1992), Jeff Carter (1928-2010), David Moore (1927-2003), Peter Dombrovskis (1945 -1996), Rennie Ellis (1940-2003).

In contemporary times other avenues of photobook publishing as a documentary/art project have emerged and include photobooks by Tracey Moffatt (1960-  ), Max Pam (1949-  ), Matthew Sleeth (1972-  ), Stephen Dupont (1967-  ), Trent Parke (1971- ) Michael Coyne (1945-  ) and Wesley Stacey (1941- ) and many others. The field of contemporary pictorial photobook books could be represented by the likes of Ken Duncan (1954 – ), Peter Lik (1959 – ) and Steve Parish (1945 – ).  Then there are so many more …

So what about the photographer doing it for themselves?

Historically, the self-publishing of photobooks was a huge investment of time and money – an individual photographer’s access to the required production and printing facilities was a major barrier. Also those who have financed their own publishing exploits generally lacked the distribution and marketing connections that were attached to the major publishing houses.

Access to printing facilities were overcome by the photographer having contacts in or working in the printing industry such as American photobook-maker Ed Ruscha did with books like Twenty-six Gasoline Stations (1963). In Australia Peter Lyssiotis was able to produce:  Journey of a Wise Electron (1981) and other books by participating in a co-operative that accessed a commercial printing press during down time or on weekends. But these access points were not available for everyone who wanted to publish a book.

Bill Owen’s book

Nearly 35 years ago American photographer Bill Owens, publisher of Suburbia (1972) and other books made the following introductory statement to his info-guide – Publish Your Photo Book (1979) – a statement that may resonate with the experience of today’s photobook publishers:

Had my photographic books made lots of money I would not have written this book. I wouldn’t need to because I would be part of the establishment and enjoying its privileges. (Owens 1979:3)

It has been a long time coming, but 175 years later with digital technologies including DIY book design software, print-on-demand presses like HP Indigo, the self-published photobook is fulfilling Talbot’s prediction. It’s never been easier for anyone to make a photobooks.

Seminal  photobook texts

Some seminal photobook texts

The photobook discipline now has commentators and critics, there are awards, linkages with the artists book, supporting independent groups like Self Publish Be Happy, The Photo Book Club and the Indie Photo Book Library.

However just making a book, even your own, does not guarantee success – whatever that might be. But at this time, what are the barriers and opportunities that we in Australia need to consider and respond to as this boom in photobooks continues?

What ideas, social and political mechanisms and appropriate structures do we need to create to nurture and support this emerging publishing paradigm?

Let us now pose some questions to the panel …

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INTRODUCTION OF THE PANELISTS

See invitation blog post for bios http://wp.me/p1tT11-MT

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A SELECTION OF THE QUESTIONS POSED TO THE PANEL

  1. What is the recipe for the perfect commercially viable photo book?
  1. Are Awards/Fairs/Festivals/Exhibitions important to or essential for photo book sales and marketing?
  1. It’s often stated that the basic market for the photo book is photographers themselves – how can this market be expanded so that the photo book can become more popular for a broader audience?
  1. Is the Australian photo book consumer more interested in Euro/USA content than homegrown books?
  1. Is there a market for Australian photo books overseas? Are there mechanisms in pace to support photo books as export? Are our photo books internationally competitive?
  1. If, as a publisher, you were approached by a photographer with a photo book idea – What would you expect them to bring to your meeting with them.
  1. What kinds of books/themes or content would an independent or niche publisher take on that a mainstream publisher wouldn’t?
  1. In the photo book genre, as with other special interest low volume publication sales, will print on demand publishing become a viable option – thereby doing away with the practice of remaindering?
  1.  How can we nurture, inspire and develop the Australian photo book market?

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A SYNOPSIS OF THE DISCUSSION WILL BE POSTED SEPARATELY:

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In conclusion …  I’d like to see, and I guess you would as well, that the photobook break from the publishing paradigm that Bill Owens spoke of before.

Let’s hope that as a result of, or perhaps more modestly, that this forum will contribute to a future where photographers and their photobooks will be recognized, revered and financially rewarded for their contribution to telling their stories, our stories and the stories of humanity and of life on this planet and beyond.

Once again thank you to our panelists …

Our sponsor – Momento Pro

The HeadOn Photo Festival

And to you all —–

You are now most welcome to join us for some refreshments and networking

8.15 pm    Close…..

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Bibliography for Doug’s Overview

Adams, R. (1994). Why People Photograph. New York, USA, Aperture Foundation.

Badger, G. (2003). Collecting Photography. London, Mitchell Beazley Ltd.

Craven, R. H. (2002). Photography past forward: Aperture at 50. New York, Aperture Foundation Inc.

Himes, D. D. and M. V. Swanson (2011). Publish Your Photography Book. New York, Princetown Architectural Press.

Lane, G. (2006). “Interview: Photography from the Photographer’s Viewpoint. Guy Lane interviews Martin Parr.” The Art Book 13(4): 15-16.

Lewis, D. and A. Ward (1992). Publishing Photography. Manchester, Conerhouse Publishing.

Metelerkamp, P. (2004). “The Photographer, the Publisher, and the Photographer’s Book.”   Retrieved 12 March 2009, from http://www.petermet.com/writing/photobook.html.

Owens, B. (1979). Publish your Photo Book (A Guide to Self-Publishing). Livermore, California, USA, Bill Owens.

Talbot, W. H. F. (1839). Letter to Sir John Herschel, HS/17/289. The Royal Society. S. J. Herschel. London, UK, The Royal Society: HS/17/289.

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FUTURE-Publishing-NEW-invite

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All  photographs  © 2013 Victoria Cooper & Doug Spowart

Texts an Overview (except references as cited) © 2013 Doug Spowart

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Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.eu

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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