Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Art books; how precious should we be?

winter rain
Part of the symposium at Camberwell Space on self published books focussed on what constitutes an art book. A certain amount of scorn was thrown upon mass produced self published books such as those from Blurb or Ubyu by Chrystel LeBas, one of the participants in the exhibition "Elusive". Chrystel has produced her own books, working with a printer who she trusts and sourcing her own paper. Coming from a background of using letterpress and as a passionate collector of books, she did not seem to worry whether or not she recouped the costs of self publishing. She is lucky enough to know a graphic designer who has helped her with typeface and design, and has found someone to write an accompanying text. This is a luxury that I do not have. But having seen the difference between my attempt at an "art book" with Blurb, and the touch and quality of hand bound books, I understand where she is coming from. I do, however, think  that she is choosing to ignore publishes such as Steidl and Taschen and 21st editions http://www.21stphotography.com/, who have a reputation for producing beautiful limited edition volumes that become collector's items.
It was generally agreed that  art books come in limited editions, are hand made, and are produced by the artist. it seems that only a very few publishers are working with photographers in a way that satisfies these criteria. Also up for discussion from the editor of "Self publish be happy" http://www.selfpublishbehappy.com/, Bruno Chessel, was the view that art books might include "zines" and pamphlets, in the manner of those originally produced for political reasons. The over riding aim should be a passion to get your work seen by other people, in what ever format you feel appropriate, and if your funds are limited then a low budget option is perfectly acceptable.

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