Publish and be damned












I asked six photographers to share their experience in publishing. Instead of a repetitive Q&A I sent them a series of questions and they did the rest.  

The questions  were: 

  • At what point in your photographic career did you decide to publish a book? 
  • What was it that prompted your decision? What was your motivation?  
  • Did you take advice before doing so and if so from whom?  
  • What publishing route did you take – self publishing site(blurb) etc. /Kickstarter campaign (if via a publishers, please explain how you came to their attention and the process involved – did you and mock ups/links to portfolios etc etc?  
  • Why did you take that route?  
  • How did you deal with design aspects? Did you go to design specialists? 
  • What about selecting a printer?  
  • How many images did you have in your initial “pool”? Did you go back to basics and look through your  life’s work or had you already cut the number of images  down to a manageable quantity ?  
  • How long did it take you to select and sequence images? 
  • Again, what help or advice did you have in creating the final edit?  
  • How did you decide on how many copies were to be printed and how were you able to finance the print run? 
  • I imagine that publishing  is a big risk -in terms of  financial implications and also a  possible dent to the ego in the event of poor reviews/sales  etc. Were you prepared for the consequences of potentially poor sales?  
  • How did you/do you plan to market your book(s)? 
  • How important is social media in the publishing world today? 
  • Do you regularly post images to  social media and if so did social media popularity play a part in the decision? How else did you get feedback on your work in general? 
  • If you had to write a brief blurb for your dust jacket here, what would you write in order to  summarise your book?  
  • My special thanks to those who took the time to share their experiences with me. Peter Dench, Christian Nilson, Charlie Kirk, Siegfried Hansen, Kramer O’Neil and Don Hudson. A special thanks also to Don’s Publisher Maxime Milanesi for giving some insight from the publishers perspective.


    PETER DENCH


    In 1990, aged 18, while studying for a National Diploma at the then Bournemouth & Poole College of Art, Design & Communication, I decided that photography was the career for me and that the publication of a book was essential to a successful one. The motivation came from looking at the limited number of photo-books in the college library, and here, I’m thinking of Two Blue Buckets by Peter Fraser, Martin Parr’s, The Last Resort and I Can Help by Paul Reas. These books alerted me to the fact that you didn’t have to get on a plane and fly to the front line of a foreign war, you could just get on the bus and pop down to the shop to make pictures, or to the pub . 

    For publication of my first book, England Uncensored, like many opportunities in photography, it came about with a bit of luck, a bit of talent and a bit of ‘who you know’. I was exhibiting at the Visa pour L’Image Festival of Photojournalism, so was staff photographer at the Los Angeles Times, Barbara Davidson. She introduced me to Walter Tjantele, who was working for the crowd funding platform, Emphasis. Emphasis were looking to develop their model of funding projects, into book publishing and they liked the idea of publishing England Uncensored as a book. I supplied Walter with a pool of around 250 images and he designed the 144 image book. The crowd funding target was $12,000, which was breached in 15 days and allowed 1000 books to be printed. With the Emphasis model, all their books were to produced at the high end printers, EBS in Verona, Italy. 

    I spent thirty years plotting a book but when it came to the actual process, it wasn’t as exact and meticulous as I thought it would be in terms of the design and editing process, before I really knew what was happening, the sheets were signed off and rolling of the printer. This has also been the case for with the subsequent three books! 

    I’ve never had to put any of my own personal savings into any of my four books, which is fortunate as I don’t have any personal savings. Two books were crowd funded, one was funded by my publisher, Bluecoat Press, and one was funded by the camera manufacturer, Olympus. Potentially poor sales, or reviews, is never too much of a concern, as long as my Mum likes it. Bluecoat Press, that have published three of my books, are well respected and have a marketing strategy. I also proactively channel marketing through my own social networks which I consider an essential part of the publishing world today.  

    I would say around 60% of the crowd funding I’ve achieved has been driven through Twitter. While aware that persistently posting on social networks encouraging people to fund and buy my books, I do think it’s important to keep followers up to date with progress and try to deliver the information in an entertaining way. Generally feedback is positive, after all, if someone’s ‘following’ me, it’s generally because they like what I do. If it does start to irritate, there is of course the ‘unfollow’ button that can be depressed and deployed at any time. 

    I write all the forewords, afterwords and bits-in-between-wards for my books, the dust jacket blurb for England Uncensored describes the photographs as: “A laugh-out-loud visual romp through this often badly behaved nation, England Uncensored is not an idealised brochure of a green and pleasant land; it is the truth, warts and all.” I’ll drink to that. 

    A link to books:  

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Peter-Dench/e/B00JAF4NPY/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1 


    CHRISTIAN NILSON

    First off a short introduction; I’m Christian Nilson, a 38 year old Swedish photographer living in Switzerland with my wife and daughter. I’m currently in the process of getting my first photo book published. The decision to make a photo book out of my Switzerland project was taken almost 2 years ago now, it was around the time that I started the Atelier Smedsby workshop with JH Engström and Margot Wallard, Both JH and Margot have stood by me through the whole process and they have been very helpful with tips and sharing their own experiences. My Switzerland project is my first major body of work, I have been busy photographing for the project for the past 3 years and it felt natural that the finished product would be a book.  

    I love photo books myself and since I’m unknown in the photography world I also saw it as a marketing tool for my photography. For me a photo book is not only about the photographs in them, but also very much about design and layout. I have done a couple of dummies on my own over the past 12 months, but they have all been pretty crappy. Doing these dummies though helped me realise two things; 1) I’m not a designer and 2) I’m not good at sequencing. I therefore decided to ask for help. I started looking at my favourite books and checked who the designer was and a pattern started to appear. Most of my favourite books had been designed by the same guy; Greger Ulf Nilson so I decided to contact him on the off-chance that he would work with me. Much to my surprise he said yes. Now I’m new to the world of photo book publishing and making, so I’m not sure if this is the right way to do things, but to me it was very important to be able to show potential publishers an almost finished book, both in terms of content and in terms of design. This is the reason why I approached Greger before having approached any publisher.  

    Concerning the editing, this is something I have done based on my personal preference, for the book I did edit about 5’000 photographs down to 180, the final book will have something like 60 to 100 photographs in it. Editing down to 300 was easy based in flaws or just bad photos, but getting it down from 300 was a task I could not have done without the support of others. I’m lucky in that I have some photography friends that I can count on for honest and direct feedback and thanks to these friends I was able to narrow it down to around 160 photographs. I also wanted to mention that this is not something I did in a week or so, it has been an ongoing process basically since I started the project in 2013. Shoot, edit, shoot some more, edit, repeat, repeat, repeat, until you get to a point where you feel extremely frustrated and fed-up with the project, take a break and then get on it again, until you feel that you are done.  

    So for one of the hundreds of decisions that you have to make; publisher or self-publish? I’m not sure there is a universally right answer, but for me I prefer to go through a publisher, the reasons for this being their production experience and their distribution net. Now I’m currently in the process of finding a publisher that fits to my work, which is not an easy process. There are hundreds of publishers out there and most of them are specialised in one way or another, may it be conceptual photography books or documentary etc. etc. so I took a couple of months and again went back to my favourite photo books to see who had published them. Once I had this list and the book design and the dummy I started to approach these publishers. This is where I’m at now. Some have said no, and some I’m meeting between now and Christmas so these are exciting times for me. If worse comes to worse though and I’m unsuccessful in finding a publisher, I will go down the road of self-publishing, I’m just a bit worried about the workload of the distribution. Just because self-publishing is my personal last resort, this does not mean I think it’s not a valid choice. For me personally though it is the more scary and uncertain choice in terms of workload, budget and potential success. I do admire people who go this way though, a prime example being Rob Honstra and Arnold van Bruggen. 

    I can’t give very much insight to the production related topics since I’m just not there yet, I just know that there will be a lot of decisions that need to be made in terms of number of copies, paper stock, etc, etc, etc. Concerning the financial aspects, from my understanding it is very unlikely nowadays that a publisher will take the financial risk of a photo book project. So therefore I think that the question; publisher or self publish? in terms of financial burden is very similar. So unless you have €12’000 plus to spare I think it’s safe to say that you have to look at creative ways of funding your book. I think you just have to find the way that works best for you, if that is crowd funding or pre-selling copies or grants or  a rich uncle or a combination of that, I think the end justifies the means. Do what ever works for you. For me personally it will probably be a mix of raiding my savings, pre-selling copies and applying for grants. 

    On living with potential bad reviews and critique, I think one can manage to live by the motto expect the worst, hope for the best. I thought to myself: what is the worst that can happen and then I asked myself if I can live with that, for me the answer is yes, so there is nothing in the way of realising my project in terms of ego.  

    Last but not least, social media. I have a love/hate relationship will all types of social media, but nothing from social media have influenced my decision of pursuing my photo book project. If you have a following, I believe it could be a valid sales/marketing/financing channel but I don’t think its an easy one. There is so much chatter you have to get through to get your message out there so time is probably better spent writing emails or calling people. But again what do I know, this is my first book and it’s a roller coaster ride. Some days are great and I feel really motivated other days I question all of my decisions. One just has to get through it and hope to come out with a good book at the end of the photo book publishing tunnel. Supportive family and friends is a real plus though! Good luck to anyone getting on this roller coaster! 

    If anyone should be interested in signing up for the book newsletter, you can do so using this link: http://eepurl.com/bEfQbH 

    And a picture of the book design: 

    CHARLIE KIRK

    I first decided to publish a book when I came back from my first trip to turkey.   

    My reasoning behind the decision was that I realised that single images have no narrative ability.  and that a book represents a better expression of intent and authorship.  that it is a far greater challenge.  motivation was this really. 

    I didn’t take advice, I just studied a lot of photo books and thought a lot about what i wanted to say and how i could say it. 

    To get the process moving I just contacted a couple of publishers.  both were keen to work with me. just sent them a dropbox file of 50 images and an artist statement. I decided on that route because it’s easier, more collaborative, better for marketing and distribution. 

    I am using a designer that is well known and has worked with some important photographers.  and I like his previous work a lot. The question of the printer will be based on cost and location.  It’s yet to be decided.  

    My initial  pool was 200 images  with 60 “must have” images.I continuously look through my older stuff so i am familiar with my work.  very occasionally will an overlooked image come back and interest me.  and yes.  i flag the best images and the ones i am unsure about so i have something to work with. 

    The final edit was formed through showing  pictures to friends.  I also shared some on social media.  One picture I thought was just ok got a lot of attention so I reconsidered it. 

    The print run numbers hasn’t been decided  yet.  My publisher probably wants about 500 max - because they take risk.  But the more you print the cheaper it gets per book.  There’s not much difference in cost between printing 500 and 1000.  The process is being financed by publisher and they will give me 10-15% of books.  I may get more as i pay for the designer. 

    I’m not bothered about sales or reviews really as  long as the book is something I am proud of. 

    The publisher will take care of the marketing and I will send a few copies to various websites etc 

    Social media is very important.  There needs  to be  a buzz about the book. 

    I regularly post to social media. Popularity means sales, so it helps.   


    KRAMER O’NEILL

    I self-published too early I guess, but better that than never. I don’t really have a photographic career, so that’s not a concern. My first effort was prompted by somebody in a position to sell a lot of books who was interested in a dummy I had made. [It didn’t really work out, but by then it was too late.] I emailed a lot of people and set up a pre-orders page on my website. But the book I did that for actually ended up being my second one, because I didn’t understand how complicated thread-sewn hardcover printing would be. 

    One of my books was very specifically a project that had a finite number of shots, others were much looser, wherein basically any of thousands of shots could have gone in. But it’s very hard to say what the “initial” pool for any of them would have been; the whittling-down process begins at the moment of exposure, really. Especially when you’re doing it all yourself. 

    Everything I’ve made has been with industrial printing presses, wherein I did all the prep work; things like Blurb are massively more expensive when printing multiple copies, because they are designed for a different purpose. For a thread-bound hardcover, one must print a lot of books, because the initial investment basically pays for the setting up of the machine – printing under 500 wouldn’t save any money, it would just raise the per-book price. My other books, perfect-bound and saddle-stitched, have been shorter runs, because volume has much less effect on the per-book price. The hardcover was funded by pre-orders and money from other work, the softcovers have just been from other jobs I had. I’ve found I can eventually sell around 100 copies of whatever, so that’s my number at the moment. 

    Nobody knows who I am, so nobody reviews my stuff, and other than the hardcover, which did cost a lot and is difficult to distribute just because of practical things – like how much it weighs – it’s really quite easy. None of it costs enough that I’ve lost money, but I certainly don’t make much either. It’s mostly just planting the flagpole, “this is where my photography is at this moment.” I’m not sure there’s any point other than that, but it is nice to make a physical object. Being relatively permanent, the books stay the same but my impression of their meaning changes over time, and that’s what’s interesting. 

    I distribute via my website, and in some bookstores and galleries where I have contacts. Marketing and distribution is a drag, relative to all the other aspects. It’s the thing I wish I had a publisher for. With a lot of this depending on the internet, social media is somewhat important, but it’s all minor-league stuff. For really established people, it doesn’t count much. It’s just a playground for us kids.


    SIEGFRIED HANSEN

    At what point in your photographic career did you decide to publish a book? 

    I guess I wanted to see my work on a different format than digital support. A book is a great medium. 

    What was it that prompted your decision? What was your motivation? 

    Time. It was the right moment to go one step further and present my work in a book. 

    It does also change the perception on how you look at a picture. 

    Did you take advice before doing so and if so from whom? 

    What publishing route did you take – self publishing site (blurb) etc. /Kickstarter campaign (if via a publishers, please explain how you came to their attention and the process involved – did you and mock ups/links to portfolios etc. etc.? 

    Why did you take that route? 

    I thought it might help me to participate in a photobook-workshop first to understand the procedure of making a book.  The started with workshop at the Lichtblick-school (at the photobook-museum) in Cologne. I can highly recommend this. The teacher are Wolfgang Zurborn and Markus Schaden among many others. This was a long workshop and it took 5 days. At the end everyone had finished their first dummy book. 

    How did you deal with design aspects? Did you go to design specialists? 

    Okay Karadayilar, a graphic designer helped us during the workshop. He had the great idea to make the blank pages turn into color filled in my book. 

    What about selecting a printer? 

    The printer was also there at this workshop, he saw the dummy and wanted to publish it. 

    How many images did you have in your initial “pool”? Did you go back to basics and look through your life’s work or had you already cut the number of images down to a manageable quantity? 

    Yes, I had to cut it down, but the first step was to find a subject. In my case I decided to make a graphic book, this means the main part was a lot of graphic pictures. In the first meeting I had selected around 60 photos. It was also complicated because, the book had the size of 28x21cm portrait format, and a lot of double pages did not fit because of the middle page of the book. 

    How long did it take you to select and sequence images? 

    At the beginning it was difficult, but after we had found the solution with the coloured pages it got quite easy and didn’t take us not that long. 

    Again, what help or advice did you have in creating the final edit? 

    I got a lot of help from Wolfgang Zurborn for the final editing and some great advice for the printing from the editor (Kettler Verlag) in particular Mr Richard Reisen. 

    How did you decide on how many copies were to be printed and how were you able to finance the print run? 

    I heard from some other photographers how much books they are printing, they mostly started with a thousand copies. I was a little bit more careful, because I did not know how many real fans I would have to buy my book. So I decided to go for 800 copies including some marketing examples for the printer. I had to pay everything by myself. 

    I imagine that publishing is a big risk - in terms of financial implications and also a possible dent to the ego in the event of poor reviews/sales etc. Were you prepared for the consequences of potentially poor sales? 

    Yes, I was prepared for this mentally, but I also tried to keep the risk low. 

    Out of the 800 books, I designed a special edition of issue one to 75, a signed copy with a serial number. This special edition was proposed for a higher price. 

    I am not sure but either the book is really good J or I was just lucky, but after 2 months the special edition was sold out and after 6 months the stock at the printer was sold out. Now, I have only some copies left and maybe you can find some books at Amazon. 

    How did you/do you plan to market your book(s)? 

    How important is social media in the publishing world today? 

    I use Facebook & Flickr for publishing the book and I visited two photobook festivals, Kassel (Germany) and Vienna (Austria), just to see how these festivals were organized and to do some networking. I send my book to the aperture contest for Paris Photo , and I was nominated for the first book category and also nominated for the „German Photo-book Award 2016“ . 

    Do you regularly post images to social media and if so did social media popularity play a part in the decision? How else did you get feedback on your work in general? 

    Judging from my experience on social media, I might not be as popular as other photographers.  

    Nevertheless I think people are interested about my pictures, not about me entertaining or my marketing. 

    My book got a lot of good reviews. It is nice to see that critics like the published work because of the quality of the content rather than the fact of me being known. 

    If you had to write a brief blurb for your dust jacket here, what would you write in order to summarise your book? 

    Well, since the book is all about colours and graphics, words wouldn’t maybe the best way to try to explain what the reader is about to discover. Words should in this case be used for writing about it – later. 

    Awards: 

    .       German Photobookaward – Nomination 2016 “ 

    .       2015   Hold the Line –Siegfried Hansen  shortlisted at Aperture for Paris Photo 2015  Categorie : First Book 

    Book order ! 

    There are only few copies left from my  Book „Hold the Line“  signed 49 €  incl. shipping ( International). You can pay Siegried via PayPal using at email-name = paypal-name :   mailto:hnsn1961@aol.com if you’re interested. 

    my website  

    http://www.siegfried-hansen.de/ 

    DON HUDSON

    At what point in your photographic career did you decide to publish a book? 

    What was it that prompted your decision? What was your motivation? 

    Did you take advice before doing so and if so from whom? 

    What publishing route did you take – self publishing site (blurb) etc /Kickstarter campaign (if via a publishers, please explain how you came to their attention and the process involved – did you and mock ups/links to portfolios etc etc? 

    Actually, I didn’t decide to publish a book until I was asked, and it was sort of a long story that led up to the making of the book. And I imagine that the story is a bit different from most book projects. 

    It began back in early 2009. After being laid off from my day job, I joined the online photo community Flickr, and began uploading photographs I was making with a digital camera the previous couple years.  For most of the nineties and into the early aughts I hadn’t been very photographically engaged, for many reasons.  I was shooting, but it was sporadic, and without much intensity.  Around 2005 I decided to sell my film gear, cameras and darkroom stuff, and go completely digital.  After 30 plus years of working in a darkroom I didn’t have the desire to continue with that, not that there is anything wrong with it I hasten to add, but not for me anymore.  So after a couple of years with the digital camera I wanted to start putting some work out there and Flickr seemed like an interesting way to do it.  I really didn’t think my early digital stuff was all that good, but, with no job at that point, I had both an opportunity of time, and a need to engage with whomever like-minded photographers I might find out there.  And I did, and it was reinvigorating for me.  And among other things I found out there were some others like me who photographed obsessively in the seventies and early eighties, went through some sort of slack period, and reemerged in the internet era.  So, later in 2009 I began to post some of my early stuff, interspersed with my current work.  It started to get some nice reaction in the online community, but the big bonus for me personally was that I was getting a huge kick out of looking through these old images.  The bulk of the work was made when I was in my twenties and early thirties so I was now almost two generations removed from them, and looking at them with a much different eye.  Hard to describe the feeling, but it was at once detached, as if looking at another person’s stuff, and connected, via some kind of time portal.  In fact, the whole notion of the internet’s ability to obliterate time started to become very personal for me, and I dug that experience I was having through the second life of these pictures.  Some of the images I was posting were shown publically in a few venues around Detroit back in ’79-’81, but really, aside from my friends and a few others in the photo community in Detroit, not many eyeballs saw them back then.  Winogrand famously talked about allowing a certain amount of time to pass in order to separate one’s emotions in the act of photographing from evaluating the resulting photograph.  Well, even though I was re-connecting at a general level with my younger being, I had almost no recollection of the specific circumstances of most of the images!  It was fascinating to see the markings on the contact sheets from my 20th century self, but I was re-evaluating these pictures with a 21st century accumulation of cultural information.  A little more than a year passed from the time I started posting these images online when, out of the blue near the end of 2010, I got an email from Maxime and Claire at FP&CF.  They wanted to know if I’d like to do a book on my ‘70s –‘80s stuff, and attached a picture showing small prints of my Flickr images spread out on a table.  I was blown away actually.  Here were these two young French publishers (Maxime and Claire), born and raised in the digital era, interested in a body of work made by someone in the last century.  I never signed a contract.  We executed the project with mutual trust and collaboration. You ask about the motivation. The collaborative experience of the project itself, and honoring the initial reaction to the images by Maxime and Claire, was as important to me as having the book out there.  And I can say wholeheartedly that Maxime and Claire were a delight to work with. 

    Why did you take that route? 

    How did you deal with design aspects? Did you go to design specialists? 

    What about selecting a printer? 

    How many images did you have in your initial “pool”? Did you go back to basics and look through your  life’s work or had you already cut the number of images  down to a manageable quantity ? 

    How long did it take you to select and sequence images? 

    Again, what help or advice did you have in creating the final edit? 

    As I said, this project quickly established itself as a collaboration. Not only among the three of us, but I would also say that the internet played a significant role in the collaboration. When Maxime and Claire first approached me they did not know anything about me personally. They were reacting to the images posted to the internet, and perhaps, a curiosity of the cultural photographic milieu of the time period. We spent a significant amount of time up front discussing my relationship to photography at that time, and what influenced me. The archive images that I had posted up to that point were already “edited” to some extent by me. Some were images that I had shown publicly back then, but I would say more than half were images that were “newly discovered” by me as I looked through my contact sheets. Nearly eighteen months passed between the initial proposal for doing a book until the edit and writing were finalized and ready for the printer. During this time I was continuing to go through my archives and presenting more images. Maxime and Claire had firm ideas about sequencing and overall presentation, and I essentially deferred to them about that. What I did do was offer my thoughts and opinions about the strength or weakness of individual images, and giving historical background on their making. During that time period the final edit went through at least five iterations. I would add that we did all of this over the internet. And the collaboration continued right through the production. They chose the printer, who they had worked with before, and I made all the scans for the book. 

    How did you decide on how many copies were to be printed and how were you able to finance the print run? 

    I imagine that publishing is a big risk -in terms of financial implications and also a possible dent to the ego in the event of poor reviews/sales etc. Were you prepared for the consequences of potentially poor sales? 

    How did you/do you plan to market your book(s)? 

    As I mentioned before, there wasn’t any kind of contract between myself and the publisher. This project was based entirely on trust among the three of us. I can’t speak to the financial exposure of FP&CF, but they did tell me later, after the book had been out for a while, that they considered the project a success. 700 copies were printed, of which I received 50 for my own use. The book was/is sold at a very few independent book stores in the world, but basically it is only available directly from the publisher online. They shared with me that the direct online selling model made it less risky financially for them. Also, although I didn’t contribute money to the project, I did provide the print ready scans, which helped reduce the costs for them. When the book came out the publisher sent some copies to various reviewers and we got some favourable reviews on sites like American Suburb X and Vice. And I did my own, rather low key, promotion on Flickr and Facebook. 

    How important is social media in the publishing world today? 

    Do you regularly post images to social media and if so did social media popularity play a part in the decision? How else did you get feedback on your work in general? 

    I would have to say that social media is very important in the publishing world today, especially if, as a previously “unknown” photographer, you want your project to have a better chance at being financially viable. It’s a low cost way of making your book known, at least to your network of “friends”. Who knows where it might take off (or not) from there. In my case at least I didn’t try to overthink it. It was first of all a labor of love, and thoroughly enjoyable for that reason alone. Everything after has been a plus. I have regularly posted images to social media, though not in any carpet bomb fashion, since 2009. It is what led to the book project so I don’t knock it. As far as the archive images, I have received feedback from new friends I respect through social media, but the foundation was established back when they were made, pre internet, associating with a small circle of photographers in the Detroit area. 

    If you had to write a brief blurb for your dust jacket here, what would you write in order to summarise your book? 

    If I could paraphrase what I wrote in the introduction to my book…In the early 1970’s, after surrendering to the camera’s power to transform, I soon found a small group of like-minded souls similarly engaged, and what transpired was an education in the use and practice of the tribal language of photography. The photographs we made and shared amounted to our own mostly private and arcane “conversations” with photographic tradition, our mentors, and each other, as we sought to understand and put our own accent on the vocabulary. In a sense then, this book represents a de-classified dossier of evidence of one photographer’s relationship with a camera in his culture. For me, the photographs are my own humble offerings to the visual generosity of that culture. 

    Don’s book can be found here.  

    http://www.editionsfpcf.com/index.php/books-zines/from-the-archives/ 

    Or if you would rather have the a  signed copy of the book (with or without a signed print) you can email Don direct at :  donhudson1229@gmail.com 


    MAXIME MILANESI

    At what point in your photographic
    career did you decide to publish a book?

    As Don said
    before, we discovered his work through Flickr and it was a big surprise for us.
    We were on this website to animate a group about a collaborative magazine named
    Tell mum everything is ok. I don’t
    remember how I first found Don on this website but I clearly remember that it
    was a very great moment. This man shows this very great body of work for the
    first time and I found it immediately interesting.

    What was it that prompted your decision?
    What was your motivation?

    It appears immediately
    clear that Don has a great talent and must show his work outside of the
    internet. Making a book was obvious for us and we asked Don directly.

    Did you take advice before doing so and
    if so from whom?

    We are
    working as a real duo at FP&CF, so I talked about Don’s work to Claire and
    we decided together that it would be a really nice project to make with him.

    What publishing route did you take –
    self publishing site(blurb) etc /Kickstarter campaign (if via a publishers,
    please explain how you came to their attention and the process involved – did
    you and mock ups/links to portfolios etc. etc.?

    Maybe this
    question is not really appropriate for us but it allows me to speak about the way
    we work. We are a non-profit organization, which means that Claire and I and
    all the people involved in our actions are not financially compensated for
    their efforts. We do all our actions in the mean to meet and work with new
    people. All the money we make goes to new projects.

    Why did you take that route?

    We talked to
    Don about our way of working and I think he immediately agreed with that. He
    trusted us and knew that we weren’t bad people J

    How did you deal with design aspects? Did
    you go to design specialists?

    In FP&CF,
    it is Claire who runs the design process. We deal with it before with the two
    of us and the artist but Claire brings the final and professional touch.

    What about selecting a printer?

    We wanted to
    print the book in France. We choose to work with Escourbiac, which was known
    for their ability to print in two tones.

    How many images did you have in your
    initial “pool”? Did you go back to basics and look through your life’s
    work or had you already cut the number of images down to a manageable quantity?

    How long did it take you to select and
    sequence images?

    Again, what help or advice did you have
    in creating the final edit?

    The selection
    and editing took more than a year and it was a large amount of work for us. Don
    has produced a huge body of work and it was not easy to make a good and fine
    selection within it. We didn’t see all his production and I hope we would work
    on a second volume soon.

    How did you decide on how many copies
    were to be printed and how were you able to finance the print run?

    700 copies
    was a good number to print in offset and we believed in the success of the
    book. To be honest it was also a real bet for us because we financed the book
    only with our own money.

    I imagine that publishing is a big risk
    -in terms of financial implications and also a possible dent to the ego in
    the event of poor reviews/sales etc. Were you prepared for the
    consequences of potentially poor sales?

    This dark
    side is part of every project and yes, sometimes a book doesn’t find its
    audience. But it doesn’t mean it is a bad project. You need to convince people
    about the interest of the project, which is also a big part of the job of the editor!
    A lot of people forgot it… making a book is a very nice adventure, but it is
    only a small part of the whole process and selling it is also a key element.

    How did you/do you plan to market your
    book(s)?

    How important is social media in the
    publishing world today?

    Do you regularly post images to social
    media and if so did social media popularity play a part in the decision? How
    else did you get feedback on your work in general?

    Marketing and
    social media are something very important for the publishers by now.

    Even if you
    print a very small run of books, you can’t do without Facebook, blogs and other
    specialized websites.

    It is not
    always easy to have reviews of your book. There are too many books every year
    and it is a very small world of “courtesans”. So if you want to make great
    projects, but from out of the small world of photobooks, it is not always fun
    and easy to spread the word around.

    If you had to write a brief blurb for
    your dust jacket here, what would you write in order to summarise your
    book?

    Don Hudson is
    an amateur photographer born in 1950 in Michigan, USA.



    From The Archives shows nearly fifteen years of personal archives and
    presents for the first time these photographs as an edited collection. A native
    of Detroit, Motown (Motor Town), Don Hudson grew up during the heyday of Michigan’s
    dominance in automobile production. Three major U.S. automakers, General
    Motors, Ford and Chrysler had their headquarters in the Detroit area. From the
    early 70s, Don Hudson has documented his personal relationship with the streets
    of Motown and small towns of Michigan. Over the years, he has compiled a unique
    visual archive of American daily life. These photographs, made at political
    rallies, parades, fairs, and high school football games, tell of a common social
    landscape of the American Midwest. However, each scenario becomes a personal
    excuse to allow the camera to suggest alternate meanings to the literal visual
    world described. Each scene is an excuse to catch a fugitive and incongruous
    situation. However, if the book describes a certain surface vision of an
    American daily lifestyle in an era of recklessness and full employment, the
    collection begins in 1973, date of the first oil shock, and also reveals deep
    tensions that irreversibly mark the lives of Americans and dent the
    “American Dream.”



    “Haters” and the internecine wars

    I’ve been prompted to sit down before a day of lesson planning for the pending school term to vent a little bit. A silent war has been raging between two factions in the SP online community. I admit to being part of one faction. My first entry in this blog was about the four grades of the photographic self publicist. The war is between camps 1,2 and 4 on the one hand and camp 3 on the other - sorry but you’ll have to scroll down to my first entry back in April see what they are. I woke up this morning to the realisation that, no matter what my views are on those who show a degree of arrogance and a heavy leaning towards commercialising their work \(none of which appeals to me\), they are entitled to do what they want. I don’t like it, I don’t respect it and I am deeply frustrated when I see it happening, BUT it’s their life and their work - so be it.

    Do they actually make a difference? Probably not. I need to practice more tolerance towards those trying so desperately to have an impact in the photographic world, but when I see repeated tweets by a “working photographer” openly instructing his followers to “like” his Facebook page, my blood boils just a little. I am lucky that I have other interests in my life such as my new career and my family. SP is not something that I must do to make a living. That makes it no less important to me than it is to them mind you. But I am free from the tyranny of it being the means by which I feed and clothe myself. Maybe that’s a clue to the puzzle. They are too invested. I shoot for pleasure. If an image is published, sold or exhibited that is wonderful but it isn’t next month’s rent. I suppose that I could start giving workshops and it may be that the local rural photography clubs might be interested in ways to shake up their pastoral photography \(a la Kate Kirkwood\), but I won’t and can’t because I dont need the money enough to give second rate tutorials on something that I still know so little about. There are a lot of people out there offering workshops and portfolio reviews, some are reputedly excellent and some are dire. I’ve seen some on youtube by Alex Coghe, a self proclaimed photojournalist \(I’ve yet to find anything published anywhere in print media or any outlets other than his own \) and one of those who refer to me as a “hater” because I dare to challenge his motives and approach. I don’t care for his work and I’m not alone. He, in turn pours scorn on the sort of images I produce \(not the specific images -but the genre and style\) . Seems about fair you say?. BUT the difference is that I don’t claim to be special. I don’t couch what I post in self aggrandising and often obscenity riddled and vitriolic blogs. I don’t take part in an interview conducted by a member of my own collective in which my interviewer/colleague aligns my work \(and his own\) to a handful of the greats. Cynics might say that such an interview may have been manufactured as a promotional exercise. Others might say that it was a two man circle jerk.

    People seem to lap it up. But perhaps those are people who either genuinely like the sort of images that these guys produce \(which is fine\) or don’t know any different because they haven’t been exposed to the incredible wealth of photographic imagery out there and are too caught up in the cult of personality to think for themselves.

    A month or so ago I dared to question the commercialism of this guy’s collective on his own blog.

    http://www.alexcoghe.com/a-collective-focused-on-a-project-noise/\#comment-31476

    I was polite and at no point attacked him or his colleagues personally and yet in one of the last comments he seeks to discredit my views on the basis that I am associated with five “trolls”. For “trolls” read “critics”. In any event does my association with them make my views any less valid and unanswerable? He has yet to explain the donate button on his site - donate to what exactly? I’m not unearthing some hidden guilty skeleton in his internet closet here, its openly displayed on his site without any indication of what our money will be going towards.

    He on the other hand openly attacks anyone who doesn’t share his vision, couching his bile in grandiose and quasi religious language with a liberal sprinkling of f\*\*ks for good measure.

    I wonder where this battle of keystroked words will go? Nowhere I suspect. They will never persuade me to like their work or methods and I, in turn, will not be able to change \(as if I have a right to!\) their ethos. If they read this:

    “Hater”? I don’t know you so I can’t hate you. I don’t like your work very much but that’s my right and shouldn’t bother you much given your disdain for mine. I do, however, hate the way you promote and portray yourselves. Great photographers are capable of humility and still succeed - provided that they have talent. Bloggers are capable of contributing to the community at large and celebrating the broad church that is \[street\] photography without foaming at the mouth and spouting dogma - you just have to look at Eric Kim’s tireless efforts to see humour and grace \(even in the face of open and hostile criticism\) in action on a daily basis. You have a right to behave as you choose, but don’t expect everyone to remain silent in their disdain when you use the internet as the vehicle for your publicity.

    Slow and steady wins the race.

    PS Don’t forget to click the “like” tab below. I need more Portra. ;-\)


    Acceptance and neophytes

    Realising that I’m pleasantly stuck with my immediate surroundings has completely altered my attitude to how and what I shoot. What flows from that is realising why I make photographs.

    As some may know, I moved out of London nearly 3 years ago and now live in a small village in Buckinghamshire. Even the nearby towns present little opportunity to find the variety of people and slices of life that are readily on offer in the city. As a result I have been forced to accept that I have limited options. Either spend a fortune going back time and again to the city or deal with it.

    And deal with it I think I have.

    Quotidian is a term I have come to love. Tiny moments of everyday life are now as interesting to me as dramatic scenes or overtly unusual confluences of circumstances. I’ve never been a fan of shooting people as they walk down pavements for the sake of capturing their expressions. People’s expressions are generally dull and normal. Additionally, using a flash only serves to make them grotesque and unnatural. So I have found myself beginning to embrace the everyday and see it as an opportunity to chronicle the gentle lives of the gentle folk of my nearby hamlets and am finally happy to be able to do that. I’m currently engaged in an ongoing conversation with Charlie Kirk about the message behind street photography and it’s given me much cause for pause to evaluate where I am photographically and consider why I’m doing this.

    The birth of my interest in SP is largely irrelevant and it’s where I am now that’s important. I gravitate towards gentle humour and whimsy. I don’t think that’s trivial and, self-serving though that statement may be, I align myself in terms of outlook to the likes of Tony Ray- Jones and many others in the Brit tradition of SP. before anyone accuses me of false grandiosity, let me be clear that I’m not in any way suggesting that I’m even within the same galaxy as those shooters skill wise, simply that I see in their work the photographer that I want to be.

    Linked to this is the end of my need for frequent online validation. I still use Flickr, primarily because the comments made by those whose opinion I trust is invaluable by way of a barometer for my progress. A pink star or comment from one of the members of my collective or \(say\) Todd Gross means more to me than an avalanche of stars from every one of my contacts. My membership in a collective is also the best thing I could have done to ensure that I stay honest in my shooting. Frank advice from experienced and gifted photographers is essential. I actually feel a little sorry for those who think that stars or likes from sycophantic followers is a real indication of ability. The upshot is that the internet is possibly the greatest source of hindrance to progress that anything else that has happened in the last 50 years.

    Books are springing up left and right. People whose egos have been inflated by hollow words from a few have decided that they are entitled to join the ranks of the genuine “greats” whose books are causing my Ikea bookshelf to sag under the weight their brilliance, patience and commitment. If I ever make a book in the future, it will be because I have been urged to by people whose opinions and judgment I consider to be iron clad, not because I want money or earn kudos. If you want people to see your work makes a collection on Flickr or any of the other image oriented sites out there. And, unlike a certain Mr Keenan, don’t label yourself as a master. Even if someone has misguidedly referred to you as such, it’s the height of arrogance and deeply off putting. It’ll be decades before that ever happens and even if it does \(which is statistically utterly improbable\) that’s for others to decide.

    Linked to the above is the question of workshops. Some are being offered by photographers who have been shooting for a relatively short time and many of whom obviously believe that they have sage advice that they can offer to newbies who know no better. That said, good luck to them all I say. I have nothing against these guys and girls personally, far from it. Many of them are affable characters who mean well. Indeed, it may be that one or two morsels of their experience could help their students. No more though than could be obtained for free by asking someone online. On the other hand all this does is perpetuate the cult of personality myth that the internet has infused into them and which can only be detrimental to their own development. The other result is that we are doomed to see mediocre images thrown up online by their students, who now continue to perpetuate the same style of shots and practices as their former sensei. By way of example, I saw a pic the other day on Flickr of a student making a portrait of a homeless man with his tutor standing 2 feet away grinning like a loon. The workshop promised “tips on how to overcome the fear of shooting strangers” \(don’t they all?\). So asking for a portrait of a homeless man is something that new SPers should have in their toolbox? That’s for you to decide but I don’t think so. How can you teach someone not to be nervous? The only way to really overcome a fear of candidly shooting strangers is to go out and shoot them. You don’t need a workshop for that. Just working legs, a little time to spare and a camera.

    I’ve digressed slightly. The message in my work? I don’t have one. I’m not trying to educate anyone or preach. It’s a record of what I see and what interested me at the moment I pushed the button. At that moment I have nothing in mind except for making the best quality image that I could.


    Event photography - the great teacher

    The main lesson is that it gets very samey very quickly, but more of that later.

    Last weekend I was lucky enough to receive accreditation for The Henley Royal Regatta. How? I hear you gasp. Well that question leads on to Lesson two, which is - if you don’t ask, you don’t get. I simply called up the event press office and, after 10 minutes of explaining why I wanted to be there, I was told that I would receive accreditation for the Saturday.

    Lesson 3 - turn up ridiculously early. Always a sound idea because I discovered very quickly that there’s a lot to be seen in the setting up of an event. Ordinarily you might think that the event itself is the real focus, I don’t think that it will come as a galloping surprise that it’s the people at the event and what goes on in the background that can yield some of the best images.

    As I sauntered around grinning stupidly, bona fide, affiliated press photographers were setting up for the day; tripods and telephoto lenses - all trained on the water. They stood there sipping coffee and waiting for the rowing to start. Dear god they must have been bored that day \(some had been there for the three preceding days as well\). Occasionally I saw one or two venture into the enclosures and approach the odd person asking for a portrait. Usually they were refused. In a conversation with one of the press officers I struggled to help her understand why I didn’t want to go to the press box \(situated right on the finish line on a jetty in the middle of the Thames\). She couldn’t grasp the concept of my _not_ wanting to shoot the rowers as they splashed past the line.

    I wandered amongst the gathering throngs of peacock dressed arrivals, men in Panamas and boaters, women in huge ornate trampoline-like affairs that seemed to defy anatomy and physics. This was what I was there for. As I’ve said many times, I’m strange in that I don’t really have a tremendous interest in faces; it’s about the gestures and circumstances for me. As a result it became difficult to visualise discrete moments as the crowds swelled. Multi-coloured, striped blazers and vivid couture dresses morphed into a sea of dizzying patterns and colours.

    I shot ten rolls that day, in terms of absolute keepers I have about half that amount if I’m lucky. 250+ images are now whittled down to 43 that I like after a few days viewing. Those 43 are probably going to sit quietly for several months until a second look will end in a second culling….and so on. The odds are stacked against an image being a good one.

    By four o’clock I had enough, more than enough in terms of film used and also physically. The urge is always just to keep moving just in case “that” shot is unfolding around the next marquee and, at my age, it’s tiring. My back tends to ache after about five hours and then the concentration starts to slip to the point that I’m no longer receptive. People were still arriving, looking forward to the slightly less genteel evening’s revelry, but I don’t use flash and I had no more energy. All my shots were becoming replicas of those that I had taken five or six hours beforehand. Same scene, different dress or pastel slacks. Seeing the dial reading 23 on the camera, I decided to finish the roll and head home

    Two days later my fantastic local lab had them all scanned and burnt to cd. My first instinct was to post the best ones. My last entry dealt with false affirmation and my diminishing need for praise, but in this digital age I still have an impulse to present work for others. It’s exhibitionism in its truest sense. I really do envy those who have the discipline to retain images on file for the day that they can be unveiled in a more formal and permanent way - via a book or exhibition for example. I’m not saying that we should all wait and publish a book because that would fly in the face of my views on book proliferation via Blurb and other self-publication methods. However does the online publication of the cream of our work negate the impact of a future presentation? I would suggest that of course it does. Webb’s Suffering of Light was in effect his “greatest hits” selected from years of shooting and other publications. Most shooters now have online portfolios that are a chronicle of their photographic life’s work. It somehow feels less than legitimate. I can’t explain why - but it does. The image on a screen is so transient and, naturally, intangible.

    So what do we have to do? I’m beginning to rethink my position about online affirmation. I think the fear is the lack of acknowledgment. There is nothing as loud as the visual silence of a posted image ignored. I am just more phlegmatic about it now. At least for the moment. Increased involvement with the online community leads to the onset of photographic Tourette’s, the almost irresistible urge is to post and keep posting. It must be very seductive when one is a cult figure to keep throwing images online. I wonder how Maciej Dakowicz \(one of the most prolific posters online today\) feels when, every time he posts a shot, his stars hit “99+” in an hour or so? Does he feel pleased that he’s got so many adoring fans? Perhaps I’ll ask him one day.


    How we can do better

    Ah. Weird times and dark days. The photographic social media world appears to be alive with strong comment and criticism - some of which is at my own instigation.

    There’s a passion that seems on the one hand to be worthy and yet on the other channelled into tearing down others. I have made my views very clear about staging in the past and \(perhaps inadvisedly most recently on the recent SPNC instruction\). Fair play to those who stand by their beliefs that a little harmless staging under the auspices of an instruction is fine and will broadens minds and encourage experimentation. There’s a no win situation for all there because people have very entrenched views on the topic.

    The recent Urban Picnic competition also appears to have drawn a little flack about the lack of originality in the submissions. No one thankfully has complained about the winner - Observe’s own Ilya Shtutsa whose original, free shooting style belies his incredible knack for intricate and subtle layering and composition.

    The main complaint by one quarter is the lack of emotion and originality in the submission. Of that I’m probably one of the main culprits with my photo booth image. A clear example of style over substance and an image that can probably evoke no more than a wry smile. Nice colours and a handy juxta of people’s positions though.

    I’m not sure how people can strike out successfully on their own without putting in the hours first. At the risk of becoming repetitive, there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to candid photography. It’s been done and done by masters. They created it for god’s sake. We tread in the footsteps of giants and few if any will be able to equal what they have done. What is concerning and frustrating is the certain knowledge that comparisons will always be made. We will always be judged against the highest bars possible - Gilden, Parr, Eggleston, Meyerowitz, Winogrand and and and…….the list goes on.

    Personally I’m happy to keep plugging away. I like the idea that I am trying to clamber onto my heroes’ shoulders. I think that if I ever find myself making good images it will be because of them. The quest for originality has led to a bastardisation of the genre. Admired by some, reviled by others for the blurring of the lines between originality and outright deceit. It’s now hard to know whether an image is either a work of genius in its creation or a work of genius in its construction and directed positioning of characters and use of software based composites.

    Yesterday I wandered into the wheat field adjoining our house. It was staggeringly beautiful. I celebrated that with a roll of exposures and yet throughout, I had the occasional voice niggling at me with the admonishment that “this wasn’t street” but I ignored it on the basis that I was simply pressing a shutter button and trying something fresh and new \(at least for me\). When I get the rolls processed I will probably like the shots in the same way as when looking at holiday snaps for the first time and feel the pleasant pang of the time and place of their taking. The question is whether I have the courage to show them to anyone online. A silly concern? It shouldn’t be but it is. Just for fun and just for me is a slogan that I would have branded onto my frontal lobes if I could. I hope it’s one of those affirmations that, one day will become a permanent fixture in my thinking. However, despite best efforts, it subsides and the online curse of popularity rises up and queers my thinking and, most importantly, informs my shooting. A bad thing I think.

    There will be comments along the lines of “go with what you feel is right” “Be yourself”, “shoot what you’re drawn to”. But am I alone in feeling that the lack of a nurturing wider community undermines that? Don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredible resource. But like all communities formed of people, it’s deeply flawed. Filled with clashing personalities and views. Mini wars spring up and factions are formed. Those caught in the middle of the Venn diagram of personalities are, by turn drawn one way and then the other.

    Now it would be a complete nonsense for me to suggest that a community it should be a tie dyed utopia of online hugging and love ins. I’ve even complained about exactly that being one of the flaws of Flickr and the Facebook like button. Nevertheless I find it hard to reach and equilibrium in myself and consequently my photography. Historically I have been an insecure person and have been unsure of my footing in many aspects of my life. What masochistic lunacy pushed me toward such a subjective and unstable passion? I couldn’t have picked something more designed to drive me insane with paranoia and uncertainty. And yet……

    For the first time in the four years of my committed photography, I’m starting to hold things back for myself. Shown to some trusted friends those images will be kept in electric and physical storage until the day when I feel that they, and those that follow them into the “Maybe Some Day” folder, might form themselves into something worth displaying. I’ve often wondered what my legacy might be and, aside from my twin careers, what my daughter will be able to tell my grandchildren. Maybe she will reach up to a shelf and pull down a maquette of prints formed of those images and sit with them and show them what their grandfather did. And did well.

    I figure that’s good enough.

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