Monday, October 8, 2007
Book Smart - Creating Your Own Photo Book
The process of landing a book deal is a combination of hard work, critical evaluation and no small amount of luck
I can't think of a better venue for a photograph than a finely produced book. In terms of the dissemination of a body of work as well as leaving behind a legacy, there's simply nothing better—newspapers fade, magazines are off the shelf in a month. A book is also a product that can be used when seeking gallery representation in addition to something gallery owners can use as “hooks” on which to base a show.
From my experience on five solo book projects, as a contributing photographer for many other books and having conducted hundreds of interviews with other photographers about their books for various magazines, I've learned the key steps that can turn a great photo idea into a successful book.
The first step is to create a strong thematic body of work. This may sound simpler than it really is. Ask any photographer with a successful book, and he or she will tell you that the subject matter is something about which he or she cared deeply. The time, effort and dedication it takes to build a truly memorable collection of photography can be sustained only with this type of relationship. Look inside yourself before you look anywhere else. I often look at the work of W. Eugene Smith and his series of Minamata images as a source of inspiration.
Going to bookstores and attending exhibitions will give you a feeling for what's already out there. Publishers ask, and you need to know, what has been previously published on the subject you're pursuing. Some of this homework can be done on the Internet, but there's no replacing the importance of the tangible aspects of a trip to a bookstore. If you want to see a collection of some of the greatest photography books of all time in one place, find a copy of The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century.