The PhotoBook Journal

December 30, 2013

Self-publishing – a matter of timing

Filed under: Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 6:33 pm


Copyright Matej Sitar 2012, self-published

This last month I had an interesting exchange of emails with Matej Sitar regarding the self-publication of his photobook America, My Way that I thought I should share the underlying lesson. What actually sparked our discussion was the request from Mel at photo-eye‘s on-line magazine/photobook store for my list of top ten photobooks for 2013. While making my selection, one of those that I found really interesting, Matej Sitar’s photobook, which was acquired about mid-2013, but in checking the copyright date, it stated 2012. That should have been a quick elimination (the foundation for this little story) for a best of 2013 photobook.

Nevertheless, since I had been exchanging emails and Fb messages with Sitar for most of this year, I sent him a quick question; when exactly was his photobook published in 2012? The short answer was that in December of 2012 was when he brought all of the elements together, including the text copy stating 2012, but in fact, it was not formally published and launched until March 2013. Great! I could then place it on my 2013 interesting book list, regardless of the copyright date. Nice thing about being a photobook blogger, I am not tied to formality!

As Sitar stated during our exchanges, it did not occur to him at the time as to the potential consequences of having the 2012 date on his photobook at the time and how that might impact the end of the year “Best Photobook” list frenzy that occurs. We only need to look back to last year to see how Cristina de Middel’s Afronauts went so crazy after getting listed by so many folks that Aftronauts resulted in being considered the most popular contemporary photobook for 2012 and the subsequent mad scrabble to include de Middel into so many exhibitions and workshops. Instant stardom! So yes, the end of the year “Best Photobook” list can really make a difference in a fine art career, whether you agree with this or not, these lists have do have an impact. Sadly the corollary is that is if your photobook does not make it on any of these lists, it can have another type of impact.

So is there a rule of thumb for those who are self-publishing to consider? For a first time photobook and not represented by galleries where you can grander some exhibitions and press, it may make sense to join the Spring publication crowd (There are two big “traditional” photobook publication seasons, Spring and Fall). But Spring is a relative time, so maybe a February launch date is your “Spring”. Which means you really print and bind in November/December of the previous year, printing your copyright date on your release, not your production date.  This would allow plenty of time to get your book out to the photobook reviewers, into the stores, get some PR traction and maybe an exhibition or two to hopefully make an impact. In fact, this was the strategy that de Middel followed.

Now some books have been published in the Fall that are making the current lists (I think that there are more than 55 photobook “lists” or more). Again,  your “Fall” might be in July or August (or even earlier). I think part of the thinking about an early Fall release, somewhat like the movies released late for the Academy Award season, is that the books are still fresh in everybody’s minds and the buzzzzzz is still running strong when folks starting thinking about their list.

Just keep in mind, those reviewers/bloggers who publish their list each year, they work on their “Best Book” list the entire year, constantly evaluating new titles and content as to whether to be included on their end of year list and perhaps replace another title which is not as interesting or as great a body of work.

So when self-publishing, this is just another aspect to take into consideration along with the begillion other tasks that need to be accomplished. Best of luck!!


December 16, 2013

Interesting Photobooks for 2013


I have been invited to take part in photo-eye’s annual poll by photobook commentators as to the 10 Best Books of 2013. For those who follow this blog, that fact that I am participating in this may seem a bit unusual, as I have readily admitted in the past, I do not have access to read and study every photobook that was issued during the year. Nevertheless, although I have had an opportunity to see a great many photobooks, this will still be a of a bit biased list as I will draw from those books that I have actually read or are in my collection.

My list, which is not in any particular order, may not be the “Best” photobooks of 2013, but rather I have selected some of the more interesting photobooks that I read that were published in 2013. And my list is for 11 photobooks since I could not narrow it down to just 10, as well as a new category of my own making, interesting exhibition catalogs for 2013, for which I have named two.

I have published commentaries for most of these, which I have linked up. It is my intent that to publish commentaries for the remaining photobooks shortly.

More Interesting Photobooks of 2013


 Two Rivers, Carolyn Drake, self-published 2013

Two Rivers is a complex story and an excellent example of how a book design (by the talented Sybren Kuiper) can create an effective subtext to a photographer’s narrative. This is a compelling investigation of survival and the tribulations of the people in the region of Central Asia.


Pierdom, Simon Roberts, Dewi Lewis, 2013

Simon Roberts seems to really connect with his fellow people and the underlying psych of Great Briton. This is another in his series that utilizes a large format vision to investigate the British culture. His subjects are the many piers lining the British coast and how the built landscape can reveal some of the essence of his own society.


New York Arbor, Mitch Epstein , Steidl, 2013

New York Abor is a beautiful book that is classically designed and elegantly printed to showcase the lyrical black and white photographs of Mitch Espstein. The interior plates are approximate in size to the original large format film and in conjunction with the superb printing by the publisher, Steidl Verlag, the experience is breath taking, not unlike viewing large format contact prints.


 The Burn, Jane Fulton Alt, Kehrer Verglag, 2013

In reading The Burn, I view these lyrical photographs with mixed emotions having experience the wild fires in Southern California. But for me, that is also a hallmark of a good body of work in that it can stir memories, activate the senses (I can almost smell and taste the acid, dense smoke of a wild fire), while yet be visually captivating.


Business as Usual, Brian Griffin, Editions Bessard, 2013

Having spent an inordinate amount of time in corporate business, the small narratives that Griffith creates are hilarious and almost too funny for words. Although the photographs were from an earlier period and perhaps appear a bit over the top, they are still spot on regarding today’s office politics and the theater of business.


Swell, Mateusz Sarello, Instytut Kultury Wizualnej, 2013

I was immediately struck by the many narrative possibilities created by Ania Nalecka’s design for Swell.  It’s ingenious and well executed book concept that metaphorically works with Sarello’s two-part visual narrative. Their collaboration has resulted in a beautifully conceived and photographed book.


America, My Way, Matej Sitar, self-published, December 2012- released early 2013

I am intrigued by the possibilities of what others might also experience during shared events and moments. I found that Sitar’s multiple alternatives presented in America, My Way of a road trip up the American West coast to have fully tapped into my psyche.


We Make the Path by Walking, Paul Gaffney, self-published, 2013

Reading We Make the Path by Walking just connects with me. The lyrical photographs investigate a journey and the many options and possibilities that lie beforehand, while yet enjoying the view in transit. I found Gaffney’s book to be a wonderful metaphor for the messiness of living life.


Still, Patrick Hogan, self-published, 2012

Still is a splendid and intriguing investigation of personal relationships. As the title implies, quiet and intimate moments are captured while creating a place that can best be described as ambivalence. The book has an interesting cadence and inclusion of difficult to read interior plates, at times there is the faintest hint of a photographic image and others on the extreme of darkness, both bordering on illegibility that beguiles me.


Nowhere, Leon Kirchlechner, Der Grief & dienacht Publishing, 2013

Nowhere is an intriguing set of landscape photographs in which Kirchlechner has introduced a translucent object, a whiff of smoke (or whatever it is) that tugs at my imagination. This occasion vapor acts as a subconscious trigger for some distant memory that I cannot easily grasp. The ambiguous images are unsettlingly; seemingly fragile and yet have ominous undertones.


A Remote Barely Audible Evening Waltz, Max Sher, Treemedia, 2013

A Remote Barely Audible Evening Waltz (English version of the Russian title) is an investigation of memory and personal experiences; concurrently evokes mystery and nostalgia. A delightful semi-fictional story based on appropriating vernacular photographs that narrate a poignant story of Sher’s making set in Russia during the 1960’s.

More Interesting Exhibition Catalogs for 2013


2013 10×10 American Photobook, published by 10×10 American Photobooks, 2013.  (I need to admit my bias as I am a contributor to this exhibition and my selection is included in the catalog)

Douglas Stockdale is a photographer, author, photobook collector, blogger, independent photobook curator and founder of the this much admired blog, The Photobook. Recently he was a contributor to the 2013 10×10 American Photobooks traveling exhibition (NYC, Pittsburgh, Tokyo) and curated the photobook exhibition Work for the 2012 Fotografia Festival Internazionale in Rome, Italy. He recently release his self-published artist book Pine Lake and in 2011 Edizioni Punctum released his hardcover book Ciociaria. Stockdale’s photographs are in the permanent collection of the Museo d’Arte Contemporea di Roma (MACRO), Rome, Italy.

Update/correction; Patrick Hogan’s Still was actually published in 2012, which I acquired in 2013 and the title page is a bit obscure as the book’s copyright date. Thanks to Paul Gaffney for his assistance in tracking this publication fact down. Nevertheless,  I still think it as one of the more interesting photobooks for me in 2013.

Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

Paul Gaffney – We Make the Paths by Walking


Copyright Paul Gaffney 2013, self-published

Paul Gaffney investigates a regional passion that is prevalent amongst the isles of Great Briton, that of walking. Whereas the leisure walks or foot journeys in the isles are usually of a short duration, Gaffney expanded the scope and range of his visual walking quest to 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles). Gaffney’s viewpoint is close to midpoint, essentially minimizing the visual clues as to the actual location. This framing visually teases the reader to look closer and deeper into the image. The ambiguous images are contemplative and lyrical, sometimes looking ahead or the passing viewpoint as one might walk by.

A classic, yet well visualized, allegory for the journey of life, that while in transit there lays ahead a potential separation of the ways and one must chose one path over another. For a walker it is possible to walk one path and then return back for to the other, but in the passing duration, small atmospheric and chance occasions occur. Likewise a walker does not need to remain on a given path, but create one of their own making. His book ends with a crossroads, with the path in front dissolving into the distance, where the unknown lies in wait.

Reading We Make the Path by Walking just connects with me. I enjoy the photographs of his journey and the many options and possibilities that lie before me/him, while yet enjoying the view in transit. I find Gaffney’s book to be a wonderful metaphor for the messiness of living life.

Gaffney’s photobook is a text-printed stiff cover book that resides in a printed ¾ slip cover. The slip cover design suggests an individual’s pocket, representing a place for the small guide booklets that many walkers acquire to prepare for a walk in a specific region.


The interior book block has an exposed binding due to the front endpapers are not attached to the cover. The block is affixed to the back cover by means of gluing the endpapers to the back cover and the end paper is included as a part of the last signature. The binding itself appears to be a Smyth bound with gluing, which allows the book to provide a lay-flat viewing, which I really enjoy. A book design with an exposed binding is intriguing as to the metaphoric intent. In this case the photographs, as well as the narrative, appears to be open ended and thus the journey is still not complete.

Gaffney complete the design and editing of this self-published book.

Douglas Stockdale for The Photobook








December 13, 2013

Photobook definitions on a new Reference page

Filed under: Uncategorized — Doug Stockdale @ 7:41 pm

While I was reviewing some recent photobooks, I realized that I have been using some book design and publishing jargon that may not be as well known to photographers and readers of photobooks. I think for many folks, the book printer (and bindery) may be a black-box; photographs and essays go in one side and pretty soon a ton of printed photobooks in cardboard boxes come out the other side.

So I decided to provide a little bit of information to demystify some of the book design and publishing (printing) processes and terminology. This may be especially helpful for those who like me who are very interested in creating their own artist books and self-publishing. Thus I have initiated a new Reference page available on the upper right side bar of this blog to provide definitions and links to sites (usually Wikipedia) that provide even more detail.

So check it out and perhaps it might help you understand some of the things lurking in the book designers bag-of-tricks or in the publisher’s black-box. And if you still have some questions, leave a comment and I will try to answer the best I can.


Btw, this is currently a work in progress and hope to have this finished by the end of the year (2013).

December 5, 2013

Book Fair this Sunday in Santa Monica – updated

Filed under: Photo Book NEWS, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 11:44 pm


Book Fair and print sale for emerging photographer/artists

Which includes yours truly, me! I will be there with my artist book Pine Lake as well as my Ciociaria Limited Edition book + print set (both versions), and trade copies of Ciociaria to purchase and be signed. I will also have a framed limited edition photograph from the Ciociaria book for sale, which was exhibited at OCCCA earlier this year. Cool, eh?

Collectors and artists set to mingle at upcoming book fair and print sale at Duncan Miller Gallery in Bergamot Station, Sunday, Dec 8, 2013, 2-5 pm. From the gallery:

We are producing a one day event to showcase and sell books and photographs from 26 talented emerging photographer/artists — Come join us!

It’s free to attend, the great food truck Deano’s Deli will be on hand, and we’ll have wine and soft drinks in the gallery.

Enjoy an afternoon of mingling with photo collectors, art lovers, friends and photographers at Duncan Miller Gallery in Bergamot Station, Santa Monica.

Artists include: Melissa Richardson Banks, Sara Jane Boyers, Richard Chow, Steve Daly, Elena Dorfman, Judy Francesconi, Kevin Gray, Maureen Haldeman, Lorna Hart, Liz Huston, Mark Indig, Renee Jacobs, Jamie Johnson, Tom Johnson, Robbie Kaye, Sandra Klein, Clay Lipsky, Claire Mallett, Rico Mandel, Lisa McCord, Linda Morrow, Lori Pond, Kristianne Koch Riddle, Yasmina Rossi, Douglas Stockdale, Michael Wood

Please see the Facebook page:

This event is sponsored by Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, coming to Santa Monica in 2014 and

2525 Michigan Ave, Unit A7
Santa Monica, CA 90404

So if you are in the area this Sunday, drop in, check it out and introduce yourself; I’m looking forward to meeting more of my readers and talk photobooks.


For an update on my experience participating at this Art Book Fair, please see my post in my personal photo-blog Singular Images, here.


Renee Jacobs holding her recently published book Paris while I hold Pine Lake. (photo by Wendy Hicks). I reviewed Renee Jacobs Slow Burn earlier on The PhotoBook, which was one of books that I selected for 2013 10×10 American Photobooks.

December 4, 2013

Mateusz Sarello – Swell


Copyright Mateusz Sarello 2013 published by Instytut Kultury Wizualnej

After receiving Mateuszu Sarello’s photobook Swell, I was immediately struck by the many possibilities being offered up by his book’s ingenious and well executed design that metaphorically works with Sarello’s photographic. This has resulted in a beautifully conceived and photographed book.

Very simply, his is a story in two parts. First is a past event, a visit to the Baltic Sea with a lover and a relationship lost.  That in turn has led to the circumstances for the second situation, a revisit to the same sea as a personal therapeutic journey. And correspondingly, the book has two distinct parts, incorporating the two bodies of work in two unique page blocks. Each page block is attached via the end papers to a book cover panel.

The two interior page blocks have exposed spines that infer rawness to the book and to his story; that Sarello is leaving himself likewise emotionally exposed to the reader. That the spines are left unfinished implies that this is a story still in the making, that relationships can be incomplete and there is more yet to come. That the page blocks are attached to the cover panels by a single sheet of the end paper hints at the underlying fragility of his story and that this book, hence the story, should be handled with care.

The book has an amble spine that allows it to lay flat and visually separate the two page blocks. It is easy for the reader to quickly comprehend that there are two distinct segments to his narrative.

The velum page that is bound to the top of the second block is a subtle touch, connoting a separation, while providing a veiled glimpse at what is to follow. It reads as a soft transition, not an abrupt change and hinting at a continuation, yet letting the reader know that something has change and is now in some way different.

The hardcover book has embossed covers and spine (subtle text to read on the black linen cover), with the text in English (produced in Warsaw, Poland) and book design by Ania Nalecka. The text is provided by Kuba Rubaj and from the diary of Mateusz Sarello.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook








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