What motivated you to start publishing?
It started when I was making my own projects with other publishers – I did not have the feeling I could build a relationship with them. The publications I make are pretty niche, and at a certain point I thought it would be better to publish my own work. This would be a way to establish something over the years. Apart from publishing my own work I still work together with other publishers, because a certain publisher may have a wider network and distribution for a particular project.
How would you describe your role in the creation of a publication?
I work in different ways. The publication “In almost every picture” – which I made fourteen publications of – I did completely by myself (idea, edit,…). In these publications, I am the author and designer, whereas in other publications I work together with a variety of people. For instance Hans Aarsman. Sometimes it can be very interesting when you think of an idea and somebody else does the design. In fact I have a lot of collaborations, there is not really a pattern. A lot of the times I am listed as an author of the book – I am sort of a director that makes all the different components and people come together. I find working together with different people and steering the project a lot of fun.
What do you look for in a project?
Most of the time I work with pictures made by other people. I don’t make images, but I look for images in which I can find a certain story. Images where there is a story behind it. I find the images at flea markets, online, etc. They are vernacular images – images by amateurs. You could see this as visual archeology, as a search for the imperfect instead of the perfect image or story.
What advice would you give to anyone planning to make a publication?
It is not difficult to make a publication nowadays. It is very easy to make and to realize and then to present it to the world. The last few years there is a huge push for self-published art and photography publications. Never before there was so much stuff made. This part of the process is not complicated anymore. However, it is still very difficult to figure out a good idea, a concept behind the publication. A lot of times photographers are publishing books that are nothing more than a series of images, but these publications do not stand out. What is standing out is a publication with a story behind it. There are not enough of these kinds of publications. This is still uncharted territory with a lot of opportunities. There is a lot of room for interesting and exciting ideas, I think it is best to wait for a good idea and then publish it.
What do you consider to be your biggest challenge?
The same I answered to the last question. I still have a lot of stuff and ideas laying around and I go back to it a lot. Important is that something is authentic and that there is an audience. It is strange that people tend to forget the marketing behind it – when something is printed and published, it is only the beginning. The distribution of the publication and the story is something that people have the tendency to overlook. Most important is the idea behind the book and the feeling of wonder that you feel looking through it.
As a lot of specialised (art)bookstores are disappearing, is it harder to present the publications to a wide audience? Are you using new channels to reach them?
This is not a new phenomenon. It has been going on for the last fifteen years. The funny thing is that there is more that is being published – there have never been so many magazines. There is an increase. When I took the train ten years ago everybody was reading from their e-readers, but when I take the train or the plane nowadays everybody is holding a book again. The emphasis on physicality is coming back. You also see this in the revival of vinyl. On the other hand you can reach much more people online through blogs. There are so many chances to show your work and link them to your webshop. This a huge opportunity. For the moment there is a revival of specialized stores – people want to feel the tactility of a book.
What do you find the most rewarding?
The feedback that I receive. It is interesting to see if something works. That is most satisfactory. I published a book at Phaidon that deals with the making of mistakes, and it has been published in fifteen languages. When a project finds an audience, that is most rewarding.
What does the future hold?
Our publishing house is very niche. It has a lot to do with ideas and the publication of images. You never know when the next publication will be published. A lot of times we have to wait for a good idea to come around. The publication Usefull photography is a publication that we already made fourteen editions of, every time we make a new publication for this series. So that could be up next.