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Book Review: Publish Your Photography Book by Darius D. Himes and Mary VIrginia Swanson

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It has been said many times that we are living in a golden age of the photobook. We are also living in an age when more and more photographers are making their work available online, via social networking/sharing sites like Flickr or Instagram, and through a growing number of self-publishing print-on-demand outfits like Blurb and Lulu. As one of these legions of photographers, I have personally partaken of each of these companies’ services. The social and professional rewards have been significant in my life, but as the pool grows more and more varied, one can’t blame the emerging photographer for feeling lost amongst what seems an endless array of semi-professional choices. How does one maneuver this vast and changing landscape?

Darius D. Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson do a great service to the lost and the semi-found in Publish Your Photography Book, issued by Princeton Architectural Press. After an introductory chapter on the history of the photobook, the authors guide the photographer through each step in the process — from concept to marketing — of making a distinct product of his or her own. The cover of the book neatly immerses the reader in the world of publishing (and is a handy short-cut for cataloguers as well), listing the paper stock and printing specs of the very book is in your hand — and it will be in your hand if you are at all serious about getting your photography into the physical hands of your audience.

But how do you begin? What are the mechanics of the process? Who is your audience? Your questions are here answered in text-book precision in this tome — whether you are an aspiring Jason Fulford, whose wonderful, unique photobooks like Raising Frogs for $$$ and The Mushroom Collector have been printed in the limited runs of an art publisher; or an aspiring Anne Geddes, whose Geddes’ coffee-table books of infants in flowerpots and other horrors sell by the minivan-load.  For those image makers with a more personal vision, but lacking in practical considerations, there is plenty to learn from these chapters, perhaps none more valuable than the closing case studies, which include illuminating interviews with the likes of Alec Soth and John Gossage, to pick two of he most consistent producers of thoughtful photobooks today. The one thing Publish Your Photography Book won’t give you is a concept. That is up to you — and me.

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About Pat Padua

Pat Padua is a writer, photographer, native Washingtonian, and Oxford comma defender. The Washington Post called him "a talented, if quirky, photographer." Pat has also contributed to the All Music Guide, Cinescene, and DCist, where he is currently senior film critic.