Last weekend I spent the day in London, including an excellent couple of hours in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall where the first ever ‘Offprint London’ was taking place. This was a photobook fair with around 150 participant organisations, mainly independent publishers of ‘photobooks’. I’ve introduced the inverted commas because it was actually a wider range than that word might suggest – books, zines, posters, prints, even vinyls – and wasn’t entirely focused on photo-based work either. However, coinciding with Photo London at Somerset House, the emphasis was on photobooks, and it was an opportunity for some informal research for the eventual outcome of my Body of Work, particularly the Textbook project. The chief value, for me, was, I think, the casual browsing rather than any specific ideas or information. This post will just record some general impressions.
There are clearly a lot of independent publishers out there, many of them artists who have, I guess, published their own work and then taken on collaborations with others. Perhaps the biggest ‘name’ present would be Aperture, and other well-known names would include MACK, Self-Publish-Be-Happy and Morel Books, but the vast majority were small organisations, chiefly and understandably, European. I would have to say that I didn’t come away with any strong feeling of innovation in the form of publications. There were a lot of zines – low cost, low ‘aesthetic’ publications, sometimes produced in limited editions – that didn’t greatly impress me. I can understand this as a simple and inexpensive form to publish creative work, but it doesn’t appeal to me personally (though I have been doing some work on a ‘red-top’ tabloid for my Portraits). I was interested to see whether there were examples of people doing something different in the actual ‘form’ of the book, but I didn’t come across many – best of all being a book where the pages were screwed directly into a broken piece of a skateboard, with two wheels still attached. For some reason – not sure why – it did prompt the thought that I could bind a self-printed, one-off version of my Textbook work into the original board cover; definitely worth thinking about, though I wouldn’t then be able to burn it!
On the ‘The Everyday Press’ stall, I got an opportunity to open up some consideration of the copyright issue that will, inevitably, need to form part of my thinking for any publication of the Textbook project. There were some examples of what one might term ‘re-publications’ – 1976 Argos Catalogue by Sara MacKillop; The Fox. The Everyday Press is artist Arnaud Desjardin and I took the opportunity to sound him out about copyright. He thinks (and I will need to research this properly, of course) that the Textbook of Photographic Chemistry will still be in copyright. His approach (with The Fox magazine, for example) has been to ask the question but to go ahead and publish if no specific objections occur. He encouraged that I could publish the project without much issue, if I choose – more of this in Sustaining Your Practice when I get there.
Other than that, there was the chance to pick up and browse some books that I’ve not been able to get my hands on – notably Lucas Blalock’s Mirrors, Windows, Tabletops. The book was a 1000-off limited edition that is now ‘sold out’, but they had two copies on the Morel Books stall – one for browsing and one still wrapped. Useful to have a look through the former, but the latter was only available at three times its original price, so I didn’t purchase!
A very useful piece of research which I thoroughly enjoyed and which has certainly triggered a few thoughts for my own work.
An opportune opportunity then Stan.
Yes, a worthwhile visit, John, if only for a ‘toe-dip’ into the photobook publishing world.