Tuesday, July 21, 2009

blurb, photobooks etc...

If a blurb photobook is printed, sells a few copies, and is subsequently deleted and no longer available, does anyone read it? what is its life, influence and significance to the medium?

One of the exciting aspects of services like blurb is that they allow photographers and artists to create their own books. As much as self-publishing has a bad rap, for photographers it is worth noting that self-publishing has long been a liberating tool of necessity - Lee Friedlander's Haywire Press is a prominent example. Although photobook publishing has grown tremendously over the past fifteen years or so, the costs and hurdles to getting a book published are still great. Without the large overhead of self-publishing, blurb, and other similar services, allow photographers to publish their books and transfer the cost onto their audience. However, for all its democratic appeal, these books are often expensive and have an uncertain future. Lacking the certainty of an edition of 1000 or more and a publisher with distribution, a book may sell well or may not sell at all. A book may also only have fifty copies printed before an author deletes it from the servers, or blurb goes out of business, leaving the book homeless.

I was thinking about these issues when looking at this years Photobook.Now competition at blurb and reexaming the one book I bought from last year's competition winners - John Lehr's Something is Happening. Unfortunately, the book is no longer available and seems to have an uncertain future. While blurb printed a number for the competition, how many were bought? Did it sell out? Was it pulled from blurb? Does it have a future or beyond its short life? Will books like it become prized limited editions or artist books hoarded by future (and current) book collectors, whose carefully detective work has determined exactly how many copies were actually printed and sold?

Sifting through the endless books of nudes and sunsets, there are a number of excellent books, which are worth mentioning from this years entries. Ed Panar, whose book Johnstown, was a winner last year, has offered two books, one of which continue his obsessive documentation and exploration of Johnstown, PA, 574 Views of Johnstown, and City of Champions, which turns his gaze to Pittsburgh.

Ed Panar, City of Champions

 Ed Panar, 574 Views of Johnstown

Emily Shur, a photographer based in California, has created a smart book of idiosyncratic landscapes and landscape fragments from around the world entitled The Woods.

Emily Shur, The Woods

Hannah Allen Smith's book, The Battle Of Monmouth, is a subtle and poetic exploration of place and history.

Hannah Smith Allen, The Battle of Monmouth

Irina Rozovsky's quiet and beautiful images of Israel in One Too Many are reminiscent of last years critically acclaimed Naini and the Sea of Wolves by Trinidad Carrillo.

Irina Rozovsky, One To Nothing

Ofer Wolberger's Life With Maggie, which has already deservedly won awards and is currently on exhibit at Michael Hoppen Contemporary in London, is a smart and funny travelogue/photo-album in the tradition of Ralph Eugene Meatyard's The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater.

Ofer Wolberger, Life With Maggie

In the recent tradition of Jason Fulford's Crushed and Raising Frogs for $ $ $, Mike Flemming's Vague Vagaries is an idosyncratic collection of smart and funny photographs.

Mike Flemming, Vague Vagaries

Steve Smith, whose first book, The Weather And A Place to Live, was the recipient of the Honickman First Book Prize, has created another book which continues and expands his exploration of the man-altered landscape of western landscape - albeit this time in color.

Steve Smith, Close To Nature

Other excellent books include Maureen Dreenan's Meet Me In The Green Glen, Jacqueline Bate's La Vita Americana, Sarah Palmer's Heart's Desire, Susan Worsham's Some Fox Trails In Virginia, Sean Hanratty's Photosynthesis and Mike Sinclair's City Beautiful. There are others I've missed, I'm sure, but it is daunting sifting through the 2000+ entries. I'll post more as I go through them.

What exciting is that you can preview most books, so take some time and have a look.

[Update: Please note the revision above about Ed Panar's books. City of Champions is based on Pittsburgh, not Johnstown. Thanks Ed, and sorry for the confusion.]