The publication of a photobook appeals to many photographers. But is it necessary?
During the Fotorubrica I often recommend publications.
One of the questions I was asked is “How can i publish a photobook?”.
A photobook is something important that goes to represent the work of an artist in an incisive way and the pleasure of paper goes to emphasize everything.
In some cases it can also be intended as the end of a creative process that, through various steps, leads you to materialization on paper.
But it is right to distinguish first of all what is published and what is the desire to have your work on paper.
We must recognize the value of an editorial publication.
Behind a book produced by a publishing house there are many professionals who are dedicated to optimizing its use. The photographer is therefore part of a team that, through various experiences, makes this publication a product of significant artistic value. Where texts also have their importance and where the succession of photographs is designed to best represent the artist’s work on paper.
Sometimes a photographic project is born to become a photobook.
Aspiring to see one’s own work published at editorial level is very ambitious, so much that more often is a point of arrival, after that the work received merits and acknowledgments.
But the printed paper is tempting. The web is full of realities that promise you low-cost photobooks that will “make your work shine”.
Who hasn’t jumped into mind to make a book of those photos so appreciated by friends and relatives?
It’s wrong? NO.
It is necessary? Neither.
If you want to expose yourself as an author, self-producing your own book just to collect the photographs taken is totally accessory.
I myself, in the past, made a photographic book that accompanied an exhibition, “Sri Lanka”.
The goal was to collect the large selection of photographs from that trip.
I totally took care of it and, in all honesty, that’s clear. It was a way of completing the exhibition experience with something sellable and tangible.
Now i can’t help but criticize the choice by calling it accessory.
Without editorial care (which also includes marketing) the printed version ended up almost exclusively in the hands of people close to me who, knowing me, wanted to have that product.
A bit like the “likes and followers” of friends and relatives. They are nice, but they are people who in almost all cases are disinterested in photography and your artistic growth.
When and how can self-publishing a photo book be useful?
There are some cases in which doing it is not wrong, precisely because it is part of the creative process that was born from the realization of a project.
Just to underline how the value of the project is decisive in deciding to undertake this type of choice. My advice is to let be judged by people in the sector first, and not rely solely on the favor of the public. The judgment of even just an expert is worth much more than countless random evaluations.
If the job is appreciated is right to raise the bar and not be satisfied with poor quality products.
A publication must support a theme, a vision, an atmosphere. Elements that are then found in the photographs contained.
I immediately think of “The Last Testament” by Jonas Bendiksen (I will tell you about it in one of the next Photorubric). The publication presents graphics consistent with the theme and the book itself recalls the sacred editions of the Old and New Testaments. There are also some 30gr Bible paper pages. The texts decorate and enrich the reading experience. In short, nothing is casual and the photographs are only part of a work that explodes in your hands.
So, if you want to aspire to self-production you must first of all go to professional printing laboratories that allow you to customize the product.
You don’t need 100 copies, you just need 2/5 well done.
Why so few?
Because there are photographic contests designed specifically for this type of self-publication.
Sometimes they are realities affirmed in this type of awards, other times they are prizes inserted in expos contexts such as at PhotoLux in Lucca.
Submit your publication to be judged by experts and win a prize which sometimes also consists of publication and distribution on a wider level.
Of course, it is not easy, but you will still be seen and judged by relevant people in the photographic panorama who will therefore be able to give you useful and concrete advices.
This reflection leads me to reiterate how important it is to take time. From the formulation of an idea to its realization.
Understanding your project is the first step in assessing whether it can be transported on paper effectively and not with triviality and superficiality.
Until now I have spoken of “paper” referring only to publications.
But I feel like saying that it is essential to print your photos. Therefore simply consider making beautiful single prints as an alternative to the more ambitious photo book.
Presented to an editor in this form places them in a different context than presenting them in a photobook. And they will likely be more effective.