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Monday, 28 April 2014

Don't Believe the Hype. It's not really Hype

picture by Eamonn Doyle

The Amazon Turns Everything to Shit post got a lot of attention and a few misunderstandings. Some people thought I meant that photobook-making should be some hairshirt cut-and-paste budget operation. And it can be. Café Royal Books make really cheap saddle-stitched (stapled) photobooks on a budget. And they look great. Head over here and buy some.

And some people thought I meant that you should only make really expensive books, bound in  unicorn hide and presented in a box carved out of a single piece of the inner-most rings of the tree of life. And  that’s fine (except for the tree of life and unicorn parts - find something less destructive for your books please. Don't be destructive and vulgar) if you have the cash. Amc have the cash and they make beautiful books.

But that’s projection I think, and most of the piece was on the business of photobooks and the hype of it all and the central idea that the hype is really hyped. The photobook world  is not that big, most of the numbers and prices and deal-making that you see does not really exist – it’s all smoke and mirrors.

So with that in mind, I thought it would be good to present a couple of hyped books (that will probably sell out in the next couple of months and be listed for a few hundred pounds on ebay).

The first is Eamonn Doyle’s i. I heard about this book from a student (thank you Paul Fox) who saw it on the Hardcore Street Photography flickr page where Martin Parr, in a post titled, 'The best new street photo book I have seen in a decade', said: 

Hello hard core street people!
Take a look at this book, very small edition ( 750) self published by an
Irish photographer, beautiful printing, and great images.
I am sure it will sell out pretty quickly.
On top of this the simplicity and directness of the images is brilliant.
You heard about it here first.
Martin Parr

I don't know if  it is the the best new street photo book, but it is a lovely book with a very simple design that highlights Doyle's main subjects; old people on the streets of Dublin. There's a focus on backs, on coats, on the weight of the world on their shoulders, and he hits the street photo sweet spot of getting both a sense of the democratic into the book and doing something that is really simple; because most of the time, Doyle photographs pictures of backs. 

Maybe that's one of the reasons it's such a powerful book. We have all photographed pictures of backs, we've all thought about them, but Doyle is the person who has got in there first-ish and invested the time and the money in making it something that looks fantastic. 

And he spent money on it; on the design, the paper, the binding, the whole process. He's gone down the route of putting in £20,000 give or take five grand into publishing his own book. And he's sent them out to people like Parr and got a big bite. He's lucky in that respect but a lot of background hard work has also gone into the book. 

Parr's comment instantly rippled the book out to other people (and he recommended it as a book of the week for Photo Eye, and I have reviewed it for them) and that is helping very much in selling the book. So it's a hyped book and it will almost sell itself. That, very simply, is how hype, in photobook terms, works. I don't really see it as hype though, or as a bad thing. If that's what hype amounts to, it's pretty lame. Get over being affected by it. And if you can't get over it, tThe only way to prevent it is to stop people giving opinions about books. But opinions about books and the expression of those opinions are what makes it all so interesting.

Eamonn Doyle's i is a book where the photographer had money to spend. Another book that is getting a lot of attention (and I saw it on Josef Chladek's excellent photobook showcase) is Euromaidan by Vladislav Krasnoshek and Sergiy Lebedynskyy.

This is a book that memorialises the protests in Kiev. But it's a book that is made on a limited budget - it's handmade with a sewing-machine binding on 21cm x 15cm paper - which I'm guessing was printed off digitally somehow. 

It's a protest book then, which brings Japanese aesthetics to a 21st century conflict - which is also kind of obvious but Krasnoshek and Lebedynskyy got in there and made it happen. I guess their book will sell out too and, like Eammon Doyle's book, be listed for outlandish prices on ebay. 

But that's not happening yet. They're worth the £30 that you pay for them now. They're worth that now and even in the future, in monetary terms that's still what they're worth as far as I'm concerned. Because when you buy a photobook, the value is in the feel, in the touch, in the feel of the paper upon your naked flesh.... no that's nonsense! I'm going to get 10 of each. 2 x 10 x £200 = £4,000. Whoo - I'm in the money! Over £3,000 profit, etcetera, etcetera... continued in Delusional Hut, Daydream Beach, Fantasy Island, Parallel Universe in a galaxy far, far, four hundred volts please-------------------------------------------------------


Microcord said...

But then again, it's partly hype. Example:

"... very small edition ( 750) ..."

For a Japanese street photography book, that's on the plentiful side.

There are (I read) 600 copies of Sakuma Gen's Go There. As if I care. I bought a copy because I like the photos. Judge for yourself here, here, and here.

colin pantall said...

...it is partly hype, but it's hype in a small world and your attitude to go with the photos is admirable. I'm a bit affected by hype - same as I'm affected by advertising - but I try not to be.

And 750 isn't a small edition is it. It's quite big isn't it. And nice book!