Mind the Gap: An interview with Joshua Lutz

Disclaimer: A publicist working with Schilt Publishing got in touch looking for a review of Mind the Gap. I don’t tend to review books, particularly if approached, but having really enjoyed Hesitating Beauty I thought this could be a great opportunity to see if Joshua was interested in a frank conversation about photobook publishing. Luckily, Joshua has given the questions posed a good deal of thought and has been refreshingly open about the publishing process. I hope this is of interest to readers here and truly I do recommend  seeking out the book if you can…

Joshua, seeing as we are talking mostly about Mind the Gap it seems that the best way to start might be in asking you why this work, and the publication, matters to you?

I wouldn’t say Mind the Gap matters so much, It’s the conversation that the work is about which feels really important. The publication functions simply as a way to have a dialog of sorts with these issues. I don’t really know how to play a productive part of that exchange in any other way besides things like teaching and making work that creates the conditions to talk about it.

And the book is a key part of this? With Meadowlands and Hesitating Beauty, it seems as though the book as a medium really offers you something as an artist — what is this?

They were all really very different processes. Meadowlands didn’t start as a book it started as just pictures I was making. This was way before book making became so ubiquitous. A book or even a show really wasn’t even on my radar. In a way Hesitating Beauty didn’t start as a book either but it quickly lent itself to the medium once I started making some small prints. I like making books because I can work small. With a book I can see this thing from beginning to end. I feel that it can say the thing that I want to. If it falls apart ultimately it is on me. With a show, I tend to work backwards where the space dictates what is included and at what size. The parameters for what I am going to say is very different. In a way I don’t hold myself to the same standard. I am ok with shows falling apart a little bit or not saying all the things I want them to.

Image from production process. Joshua Lutz

My favorite components of the book as a medium is how one reads it in such a way that confirms something that they may believe to be true and how a belief system is reinforced by something in the book itself. Basically, If you have a small hint of something that you think is true and apply it to the book that very thing becomes the glasses for which you read the entire book. A younger version of myself fought this as much as I could to make sure people where seeing exactly what I was. Letting go of this is a little scary but ultimately has ended up being really quite spacious.

Is this connected to the books permanence? Its longevity? It seems especially in a predominantly digital medium this is important to makers and readers alike?

I am not thinking consciously about permanence with the work. If anything, impermanence is the thing that drives my work. I do one day want to explore the digital realm of showing my work. Right now, the digital format for me really functions as a document for the actual print or the book not the piece itself. For now, I think it’s more connected to control. Feeling a bit unresolved about the work online I ultimately can’t control what happens to it. For example, there is an artist taking my photographs and turning them into design posters and fabrics. At first, I wanted to reach out and ask them to stop but then I was flattered that they would spend any real time with the work to consider using it in their own practice.

Joshua Lutz

This is your second time working with Schilt, something that would certainly suggest a symbiotic relationship. Can you explain a little about what the two parties put in to the production of the book and why it is that you have chosen to work with Schilt again?

We worked together again because I was extremely pleased with Hesitating Beauty. The book was produced almost exactly how I wanted it. There was very little push to change anything that was not in the original design. Although he didn’t do Hesitating Beauty I know one of the designers (Henk VanAssen) that Schilt works with very well and I wanted to work with him. Henk was great to collaborate with. These things are really so difficult. Photographers spend years looking at a project only to have them hacked away by over- design. Henk was very conscious of the work that I had done, willing to push ideas while honoring the intent of the book. In the end we didn’t land far from where we started which for this book was ultimately the right move.

Is this important to you that your intent remains mostly unchanged — not that it isn’t challenged or supported but do you see the resulting book with you as author or a co-authored project?

Perhaps this sounds smug but I do not see the designers that I work with as co-authors at all. Co-designers but not co-authors. I would argue that with all my books I came to the design process with 99% of the layout done and 95% of the design done. My designs however are never in the right format and far from print ready. I use photoshop instead of InDesign to hack my way through the process. The designer then takes my pages and translates them into a format that can be used by the printer.

Joshua Lutz

Where does price fit into the process of bookmaking? At $50 it is not a cheap publication and I wonder whether the price (or range) is set at the start or whether it is the product of all the other decisions that go into the production of the publication?

That is something that is set by the publisher. I have really no say in that stuff. I think Schilt Publishing weighs the cost of the book against the Amazon reduction. $50 becomes $35 but really not sure how any of that happens.

It is pretty hard to see the ‘work’ that is Mind the Gap without buying the publication, or seeing the ClampArt show at the moment — is this a conscious decision to hold back and keep something limited or perhaps you are keen to really curate or control the experience of those coming to the work?

I wish it was that thought through. Honesty, it is really just about not updating my website. Most the images are either on the galleries website or other publications that have interviewed or reviewed the work.

Do you have a strategy for getting the book into specific archives, libraries, schools and so on? Does this factor into your bigger plans for the book?

No, I don’t really have plans for the book in that sense. I do very little outreach to institutions to get the book placed. As a teaching artist with kids my time is so limited. If I am not teaching or with my kids I try and devote all my studio time to making work. Perhaps in another life I would have a gaggle of assistants that could help with these things, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Who is it then that you want to see, or buy the book? Are you aiming for the book itself to primarily be read by photobook enthusiasts or are there other groups of people you are looking to reach?

That is a really important question. Often when a book comes out people ask you to come to different places to show the work and talk about it. I did a bunch of that before realizing that almost everyone coming to see these events were people that want to be doing it themselves. We end up talking to ourselves over and over again. Rarely, for many of us in the photography art world are we able to really reach outside of our own little echo chamber. That said it does become really beautiful when the work is able to transcend beyond our circles. With my first book Meadowlands that happened a little bit with people interested in the environment but more often with enthusiasts of New Jersey. Hesitating Beauty was a bit more successful in this realm and seemed to touch a note with caregivers, specifically those caring for parents or those suffering from mental illness. I am really not sure who the audience will be for Mind The Gap. It does seem to be hitting some strange notes that are trickling into all sorts of unintended interactions. The range has been somewhat disparate; from the Bernie Sanders Campaign wanting to collaborate to a warden of a Texas Prison connecting about a public works project. At this point, I am not sure where any of it is going just feeling grateful for the ability to be a part of the conversation.

What is a successful reading of Mind the Gap for you? What do you want (or do you even think about this?) people to hear when they look at the work?

I don’t really think there is a successful read as much as there is an unsuccessful read. For example, the book has about 20+ short stories in it. Some readings have taken the stance that based on my previous work certain stories must be grounded in truth while others must embrace fiction. It is not that I am bothered by the picking and choosing of real vs fiction it’s just a bit more effective if people embraced not knowing. In a way that is essentially what the work is about; our collective need to come to conclusions about things. It is about the state of being lost in confusion 99% of the time with only tiny glimpses of clarity. I like the Sanskrit word samsara and refer to it in the drawings of the wheel of samsara used in the end pages. I suppose this becomes a legend or a map for the book for anyone really wanting to dig in. Samsara translates to wandering and these drawings depict ancient and modern-day states that from a buddhist perspective prevent us from finding clarity. My favorite thing about them is that these obstacles have been updated but they haven’t changed we only think they have.

Joshua Lutz

What role does the accompanying spiel/blurb/precis that accompanies the work do for this communication between you and the reader?

That’s a publisher thing and that has to do with marketing. If I had it my way there wouldn’t be anything, but I do understand the need.

Do you think consciously of the ways in which the book (this or previous) impacts you from a financial perspective or in terms of your career —

To the first part of your question photo-books at the scale that I am making them do not contribute to any real income. My finances are not directly tied to book sales at all. My income is generally balanced through the ebb and flow of teaching, art sales, grants and the occasional editorial job. As far as career, I think they are all intertwined and support each other.

Is it important today for photographers to be making books?

No not at all. Don’t hate me for this but I think there are way too many photo-books being made. I can’t tell you how many people tell me about a book they want to make. They see the book before they see the work. What is important for photographers to be making are long term realized projects that may or may not one day find themselves in the book format. The work has to come first. A photo-book should be the end result of every possible iteration. It’s a massive undertaking that should really not be seen as the goal but if anything the outcome.

The Photobook and Dance in Barreiro

Great to hear about this experimental workshop and reading session in Barreiro that looks to explore links between photography and dance. Thanks to Sofia Matos for the report and images…

24st may | Auditório Municipal Augusto Cabrita

Studies for the Impossible Body

Magda Fernandes (Imagérie – Casa de Imagens)

Studies for the Impossible Body is a series of little artist books that document the making of the Impossible Body project, developed in a photography workshop, in partnership with the photographer Susana Paiva and the Olga Roriz Dance Company, in Lisbon.

In pursuit of an elusive territory, that could be inhabited by photography and dance simultaneously, there were many dead ends and bifurcations along the way. These books are diaries of experimentation and exercise books at the same time, and they speak, through images and words, of discovery, as well as of the infinity and the poetry that emanate from the dancing body.

cargocollective.com/magdafernandes
imagerieonline.com

photobook-club-barreiro-004_web photobook-club-barreiro-006_WEb photobook-club-barreiro-010_web photobook-club-barreiro-013_web

The Natural Collection

There are some fantastic photobook collections the world over – collections that focus on indie or handmade books, collections that are driven by rarity and monetary value, collections based on location and many based on specific events or happenings. The Photobook Club has never been and never had a collection, occasionally kind folks have sent books through to me and I have sought wherever possible to take them with me to Photobook Club events and talks but no more.

Paul Gaffney – We Make the Path by Walking

Now, I find more and more I have been asked to bring collections of books to events, Universities and so on – I respond by bringing my own collection but it is a young and sparse collection lacking curation and coherence. At the same time I have been thinking a great deal recently about a thematic collection, a collection that, while not seeking to be exhaustive, does seek to provide both broad and deep reading. A collection that can be visited in my home, a collection that will be viewable online and a collection that can travel in whole, or in parts, to different locations.

Lucas Foglia – A Natural Order

I figured such a theme would need to be narrow enough that it could near a completion of sorts but in reality this will never happen. I have chosen instead to openly begin a collection with a broad headline, which can then be shaped both by works submitted and interest in it’s contents. The theme chosen I believe speaks not only about photography and it’s history but also relates to the indie photobook movement, the interest in the generative artefact and a quest for a less hectic way of life.

The Natural Collection
– Photobooks, zines and papers that explore our relationship with nature and the natural landscape.

As mentioned above, this is broad, but will be shaped in time. As a set of books to offer a well known guide, I would consider the likes of John Gossage’s ‘The Pond‘, Lucas Foglia’s ‘A Natural Order‘, Ricardo Cases ‘Palomo al Aire‘, Ron Jude’s ‘Lick Creek line‘ and Oscar Tuazon’s ‘Leave me be‘.

The call

I would be grateful to anyone, established or otherwise (incl publishers) who would be willing to send works through to the collection, these works will be featured on the Photobook Club website, will be taken to various book club events and will be open to anyone willing to pop by for a cupa! The condition of the works is not of paramount importance so any misprints at publishing would be welcomed with open arms!

The Natural Collection
The Photobook Club
10 Granby Avenue
Harpenden
Hertfordshire
AL5 5QR
ENGLAND

Matt
matt@photobookclub.org

 

Bangalore Weekend of Photobooks July 20-21, 2013 (incl the Box of Books)

Excuse my lifting text directly from the event itself but it perfectly sums up what this event, and Mahesh and Vidya’s open house project in it’s wider context, seeks to do.

For about a year now, photographer Mahesh Shantaram and book designer Vidya Rao have promoted appreciation for photobooks through their Open House library sessions.
On one or two Sundays a month, members are invited spend a few relaxed hours in the residential library.

The Bangalore Weekend of Photobooks will open that collection to a larger audience of photography and book lovers in the city. Come and get immersed in a weekend full of activities centered around the magnificent world of photobooks.

The event will also include the unboxing of the Photobook Club’s ‘Box of Books’ which will be heading next for Kuala Lumpur! You can find out more about the event by clicking the banner above.

Midwest Dirt, A Photobook by Nathan Pearce, edited by Matt Johnston

Dear all,

For a while now I have been working with photographer Nathan Pearce to edit his ‘Midwest Dirt‘ project into what will be a photobook towards the Autumn of this year. Nathan is seeking a modest amount of funding to realise the work as a physical artifact in exchange for some awesome Midwest rewards and I would love anyone interested to check out the project in more detail below.

I will have more on the work, and the process soon but for now, enjoy having a look

Matt

When I was 18 years old I packed my bags and left rural Illinois. It had been my home my entire life, but I thought in leaving I would find the perfect place for myself elsewhere. In the city everything and everyone I knew was very different from what I knew back home and yet at the same time familiar. The wild and restless days of my youth were in full swing. But when I awoke those mornings I still expected to see my old midwestern life.

Where I was living wasn’t exactly the wrong place for me, and at its core my life wasn’t drastically different, but it wasn’t home.
I came back home to live almost a decade later. I still have no idea if this time I will stay for good, I don’t know if that will ever happen.
The wild restless days and nights haven’t ceased.

Some nights when I lay down in my bed and close my eyes I fantasize that I didn’t ever return. I dream that I could get right back up and go over to my corner bar in the city and have a drink looking out on the crowded street.

But I’m not there. I’m here. In the country.

Now it’s just after harvest time, my favorite time of year. The fields are almost cleared and I’m barefoot on my porch with a beer in my hands. I can see for miles.

This project is about a time in my mid twenties when I can feel the tension between home and away.

– Nathan Pearce

 

 

The Box of Books in Barcelona

The Box of Books arrived this week in Barcelona and there was a special meetup that Jon Uriarte organized themed around the box, which also coincided with the branch’s 10th meetup!

There are a few word below from Jon followed by images via Oscar Ciutat

We had prepared a outdoors meet-up at Montjuic (a mountain/park) but because of a heavy storm with a lot of rain and thunders, we finally met at the CFD, a documentary photography school who kindly let us met at their space. It was great to have books brought by nobody, because it allowed at even more open and sincere discussion about the books than when they are brought by the participants.

Images are CC BY-NC-ND Oscar Ciutat

The box shows some signs of love and travel
All the books
A notebook that travels with the box
Ron Jude’s ‘Lick Creek line’
Rena Effendi’s ‘Liquid Land’
Mrs Merryman’s Collection

The Photoook Club Belfast Launches

The newly formed Photobook Club Belfast run by Laura McMorrow at the awesome Belfast Exposed Gallery held it’s first meetup just this weekend with a great turnout and some sweet books brought along. Looks like more will be planned some day soon in Belfast. I’ll keep you posted, in the meantime, check the event out…

PBC Belfast
PBC Belfast
PBC Belfast
PBC Belfast

Two New Photobook Club Launches: Belfast and Galicia

A busy week – having just shared the Photobook Club San Sebastian’s inaugural invite, here we have two more first sessions from Belfast and Galicia…

Belfast:

The event to be held in Belfast will take place at the fantastic Belfast Exposed Gallery in their book section. The event will take place on World Book Day – Thursday the 7th of March at 6pm. If you are interested in attending, pop Laura McMorrow an email.

Galicia:

The newly formed Photobook Club Galicia will hold their first session next Saturday 9th March at 5pm. Anyone interested in attending this event should email dispara@dispara.org prior to the date. You can find out more about the club by visiting their Facebook page here.

PBC Galicia

The #Picbod Exhibition

264 posts, this is only the second mentioning anything other than photobooks*, but it is something that I am very keen to share. For a while now I have been lecturing at Coventry University on the photography degree and just this term have been running an open class called #picbod (Picturing the Body) which looks to question our representations of the body as well as develop the students artisanal skills as photographers and producers.

The #Picbod Wall at Coventry School of Art and Design

The class is unique in that alongside the 30 students who attend classes with me in Coventry, there are a further 160 who take part remotely, from around the globe through a Google + Community. For the first five weeks all students had small tasks (The Self Portrait, The Tribe, Nude and Naked, Negotiation and The Empowered Portrait) which they would share with one another and be able to receive feedback and discussion outside class times.

©Melissa Santos

Now, students are working on their final submissions which will be exhibited at a venue in Coventry on the 8th and 9th of March (All of this organized solely by the students). They will also be exhibiting digital artifacts online which will be linked by the G+ Community so if you cannot get to the exhibition, this may be an interesting place to go.

If you are keen to see the tasks I have set the students as well as lecture notes and their responses, head to the G+ Community.
(All lectures and lecture notes are available for you to use and reuse how you see fit but I would ask that you let me know if you are planning to do this)

If you are interested in attending the exhibition in Coventry, UK, or just want to show support, head to the event page in facebook.

*Actually, a heap of students are making handmade books for their submission so perhaps this is about photobooks after-all.

©Kate Green