Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What If "Guide" Had Been An Indie?


 Without Szarkowski, would Eggleston be known as a drunken footnote? 


There was a veritable shit load, excuse me, plethora of "Best Of" book lists end of last year. And the one obvious factor amongst them all was how freaking diverse the selections were- and that was in no small part due to the fact that there are so many small, independently made and distributed photo books out there. And no one could possibly argue that that's not a good thing...

Unless, of course, the one wee problem is that not everyone has access to all these independent, international, limited edition books. We can perhaps see selections of said work online, but we all know that ain't nowhere near the same. And the vast majority of us certainly can't peruse 'em at the local, neighborhood bookstore. The question then becomes- are indies fine tuning fine art photography into haute cuisine for those with access? And what happens should that certain someone come along and publish the modern day equivalent of a William Eggleston's Guide as a limited edition indie, either because of financing or greater creative control? Is it then destined to become, and remain, a cult classic- or will word of mouth with the aid of the internets assure its revolutionary and meteoric rise to equivalent sea change status? 

Perhaps this bottom up approach will actually help further democratize the medium, as well monied, art market institutions no longer field the voice of authority that dominate and propel. Or perhaps this will not follow a contemporary political profile, and instead serve to further isolate audiences, and artists alike. In an age with leaderless movements, will we still need the visionary, well heeled, uber connected art czar to announce the dawn of a new day?

5 comments:

colin pantall said...

I think the lack of access will mean that we get increasingly reliant on the 'curators' of taste, at which point the energy of new indie publishing gets redirected and its original appeal is lost as it either dies or grows to join a new mainstream. We'll see in the next few years.

Noah Beil said...

I'm happy about the proliferation of small publishers because they have the potential to shake things up in the art world.

You pose an interesting question Stan, but in my ideal world, photographers would concentrate on the quality and authenticity of their work instead of worrying about the size of their audience.

Stan B. said...

As every photographer should, Noah! But as you well know, indie books (for better or worse) can often be perceived and judged differently, for a variety of reasons, real or imagined. And then, there's always the question of distribution, where indies always get the short end of the stick.

Fortunately, there are sites like The Independent Photobook Blog, which attempt to alleviate the latter- but of course, even they can't help but fall short of the actual book experience.

Like Colin says- it's gonna take some time to sort this all out. In the meantime, photographers can only keep making the best they can, however they can...

PS- And in some alternate universe, Mr. Meyerowitz did have the money to make prints for MOMA- and ol' Bill went home and poured himself another drink.

Blake Andrews said...

It's the glory days of photobooks but in some ways it's just like old times. Many books are hard to find and look at in person. What about Carte Blance in SF? I've heard they stock some of these new indie titles.

Stan B. said...

Yes,they do- and hope they continue to expand their stock. But I didn't know which were "approved" when there... Seriously, I was saving up for Vivian Maier, Street Photographer (unfortunately), and Salt And Truth by Shelby Lee Adams at the time. But do plan on going back (for the books and exhibits). Even when you've seen the work, are familiar with it (online), and actually love it... still no guarantee until book is in hand- as was the sad, sad case with VM.