The Photobook Bristol Blog ran two interviews with Martin Amis of Photobookstore and Andrea Copetti of Tipi Bookshop. These are two great booksellers who have an instinct and knowledge of books, what is good and what sells that is beyond compare.
Both answered questions on what are the biggest mistakes photographers make when it comes to making photobooks.
This is what Martin said:
"Thinking that the project/photos actually needs to be a photobook in the first place."
Which is actually really great advice. We like books but sometimes you shouldn't make the book. That's not the place for it.
And this is what Andrea said:
There are predefined rules for making a book, like paper, binding, ink.
But within those rules, they don’t play around enough. In an exhibition you can’t change the walls, they’re just there to hold the works. In a book there are no walls, it’s flexible, you can mould the medium. Also, people don’t do enough dummies during their work in progress.
Also, a big aspect in the self-published world is that you don’t have to make it all by yourself. The feedback of a graphic designer or a third eye is always valuable: different points of views, different actors in the field – but you have to balance all the reactions of people, people might find your images pretty but they might not think in sequence or paper or… The far biggest mistake is to make a book for a pre-defined audience. You should just work for the content of your story.
One of the key quotes here is that people don't make enough dummies. That people just make one or two and expect there to be a finished book. But making a good photobook is difficult. Making a really good one is really difficult. It is bewildering when people make books quite painlessly and expect them to be brilliant. Maybe it's a bit protestant of me, but I do sense that all really good books involve a certain amount of pain in their creation. As well as a certain amount of playing around. Pleasure and pain at the same time.
You get the feeling with Martin Bollati has had some pain but also played around plenty in the making of his new book, La Forma Bruta. It's not a safe book, and you can see that he has gone through different stages of discomfort and doubt to get to the end result.
And the end result is something that stands out both in terms of the images made and the form in which they are presented.
La Forma Bruta is a series of images shot in museums around Spain, Portugal, the UK and other countries in Europe.
They are coded and modified to make a new narrative that is both a commentary on the way we gain knowledge from museums and other such repositories of knowledge, and a new story in its own right
The book starts with the picture below which looks like a sunrise over a rock or a pyramid of some form. It's all very 2001, but it takes us back in time to a primordial age.
The book continues with African heads - it's the birth of man - minerals, rocks, opposable thumbs, and images that speak of the discovery of fire.
The pictures are rich with reds, yellows and oranges. These are earth colours, so it's like we're going back into our primaeval self. This is a world of the elements, of fire, and magma, and people living lives at the beginning of our human time.
Slashes of yellow cut across the page like rivers of molten iron and the story continues as humanity rises into a consciousness seared with burning beams of orange and red.
It comes in file form, with the pictures printed on glossy card so it feels archival - very strange archival but archival all the same.
I always like photographing things in museums and it's a staple of the documentary world. But it can be a bit lame. Bollati has done something with those images and reshaped them into something new that is also a commentary of sorts on how we are fed and consume the exhibits we see in a museum. So it's a kind of Evidence (Sultan and Mandel) of the diorama. But he's done it boldly in a way that looks and feels great. It's one of those "I wish I'd thought of that books." Well, Bollati did think of it, but I get the feeling lots of other people are going to be thinking in a very similar way in the next few years.
Buy La Forma Bruta here.