The Price Of Fame

I discovered a surprising fact the other day.  It was at a ‘meet the artist’ session at a photography exhibition that had just opened.  I didn’t much take to the photos but the photographer had some interesting things to say.  This exhibition been shown over ten times before at venues around the world over the last couple of years.  The photographer was hoping for some sort of breakthrough, I think.  The total cost of staging those ten plus shows to the photographer personally had been just short of £100,000.  I was staggered.  A publisher had offered a book deal but required a £25,000 down payment.  What’s going on here?  In the back pages of newspapers and magazines there used to be adverts on the lines of “Publishers Looking For Manuscripts”.  At first glance it might have looked legit. but everyone knew that these were vanity publishers.  You paid a lot for a little plus marketing, distribution and the rest was all up to you.   You get a better deal in the photobook since you don’t have to do the post-publication legwork and many of the books are beautiful objects but it still doesn’t look like a smart move financially or professionally.  Even if you get your book published how many people are going to buy it or even see it?  It simply doesn’t seem an efficient way of getting your work before the public eye, if that is your aim.  You might get more people at the exhibition than would buy your book but you won’t get any royalties and the payback on any money you sink into it would be way over the horizon.  I wonder if we are in a bubble here: not an artistic one but an economic one.


Leafing, Reading, Studying?

There is no obvious verb for what you do with a photobook.  Although they usually mimick the physical form of a book of writing you can’t really say that you read them.  So what do you do?  Leafing through is too unengaged.  Studying is too academic.  Browsing sounds like passing time.  The photobook is a strange beast.  To corral photos between covers, eternally arranged in an unalterable sequence of numbered pages seems to consign them to a strange and unnatural fate.  With prose, whether fiction or non-fiction, it works because the sentence, the paragraph, the chapter or indeed the whole work are all linear by nature.  Once you have started you have to keep going along the lines to the end in order to get the full sense.  The same is not true of photographs.  They are much faster through your brain so if you are not disciplined you can be through a photobook in no time at all, and it all seems very unsatisfactory.  My method is to use a display stand such as a small easel.  Having taken a first tilt through the book I then prop it up on the stand and display a page or two a day.  I may follow its sequence or I may not.  Freed from their pen the photos seem to live and breathe more freely.