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RUNSHEET:  Momento  Pro/HEADON       Event:  The  Future  of  Photobook  Publishing  

    6.00        Panellists  arrive  on  stage                 6.10   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…         AN  OVERVIEW       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.   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)     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  (1942-­‐    )  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.   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.     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?         A  SELECTION  OF  THE  QUESTIONS  POSED  TO  THE  PANEL         1. What is the recipe for the perfect commercially viable photo book?

2. Are Awards/Fairs/Festivals/Exhibitions important to or essential for photo book sales and marketing?

3. 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?

4. Is the Australian photo book consumer more interested in Euro/USA content than homegrown books?

5. 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?

6. 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.

7. What kinds of books/themes or content would an independent or niche publisher take on that a mainstream publisher wouldn't?


8. 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?

9. 10. How can we nurture, inspire and develop the Australian photo book market?     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       8.25  pm   Close…..           Bibliography  for  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.  (circa  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.      


The future of photobook