Publishing photography in the Digital Age

Publishing photography in the Digital Age

When Garry Winogrand, an American street photographer, published his book “Women are beautiful” in 1975, he thought that the book full of street pictures of women will be an instant hit. The pictures were indeed beautiful, but the book did not sell well. Of course, nowadays this is the most expensive and sought-after of Winogrand’s books, but initially it was a market failure. This had happened in the “golden age” of photography and photo books, when not many people did photography and much less published photo books, and there were collectors who bought each and every photo book published in the United States.

Photography today is a common practice: everybody does it, no exceptions. Out of this literally billions of people, many believe that photography is an easy way to create art (it is not, of course, but usually nobody is around to tell this to the novice). So it begins: photographer takes pictures, and eventually accumulates a portfolio which he/she considers “personal best” (been there, done exactly that). The idea of sharing images through paper publication comes next; the portfolio had already been shared online and accumulated likes and praise; it is time! Again, nobody is around to point out that the photography book market is choking with books. Printing books has never been so easy and cheap; as a result, there have never been as many titles offered for sale as today. That is how a photographer ends up with a book nobody needs – that is, nobody but the photographer; a pure vanity project, doomed before it began.

I believe that for a book of photography to be something more than a vanity piece it has to go through a standard process which includes all of the common publishing stages:

  • Editing the portfolio in cooperation with the publisher,
  • Creating text essay(s) to introduce the reader to the photographer’s work,
  • Working in cooperation with designer to create a visually appealing piece,
  • The title has to have an ISBN and has to be registered in common catalogs and libraries, including Library of Congress and PubWEB,
  • The book has to go through multiple revisions before it can be released,
  • The book has to be reviewed and marketed through all available channels.

All of the above does not guarantee that the book will sell well, but it guarantees that the book will be interesting to at least some readers, not just for the author.

I created DarkSlide Press to do just that. I am here to find a good work and to publish it with care and inspiration. Will it be sold? Some books will, some will not. It does not mean the books not sold are unnecessary or that the work is not worth publishing. Even few copies in circulation make a difference. That is why we are starting all our projects as POD (printing on demand) or small press run books.

Photography books and print media in general underwent considerable changes in the recent years. More and more electronic-based products enter the market. E-Book became a common thing, and is replacing paper-based books. In the case of photography, though, this process is not as rapid as with text-based books. I believe that quality photography books will stay with us for a very long time, and eventually, with advancement in printing technology, will stand next to a photographic print as the primary medium for presenting photography to the viewer.

Emir Shabashvili

Miami, 2015