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A conversation with Sebastian Hau 


About distribution and the explosion of personal.

Olivier Cablat_ Hi Sebastian. When and how did you start interresting yourself to photobooks?

Sebastian Hau_ I started working for the Schaden bookshop in 1999, having no idea about photography as an artform. Working with him and in his team taught me everything, as the environment was rich and open minded.

OC_ Is there specially a book that convinced you to engage yourself in this way?

SH_ Since I have been collecting all sorts of books for a long time, I started to collect photobooks very quickly. But I still remember the grace of Eggleston’s «Democratic Forest» and the day I took it home. Today I believe it’s editor, Mark Holborn is one of the most important photobook editors of the eighties.

OC_ What do you think about the explosion of self published photobooks for at least last 10 years?

SH_ I think self-published books have been going on since the seventies (indeed if I think about poetry, it was one of the main outlets of the french poets and writers of the 19th century). It has also been going on in some countries (Germany, Netherlands, Japan, US) for longer than the year 2000, since bookmaking was actively taught in some schools and artist circles. But the explosion since 2000 concerns photobooks and fanzines and everything inbetween, and the success stories of some photographers and books are enough to justify speaking of an explosion. But the market has been driven by the ongoing «explosion» of photography in the art market and field of contemporary art (institutions, schools, galleries) and specifically the still growing importance of the Paris Photo fair, as the driving motor. I doubt that photobooks are a sign of a new visual world language as some proclaim (photographs and photobooks lack nearly everything you need to define a language) but on the other hand the hunger for photographic publications of all sorts might be an argument to presume that a public exists for which such an ideal of a visual language can exist.

OC_ Did you feel an important changement on photobooks form as soon they were conceved with digital softwares?

SH_ No, quite frankly, no. Thinking about it some more, of course design software such a indesign, or the simple fact of scanning and printing your images at home changed a lot. But in the beginning, in 2005 let’s say, the first books made that way were still very personal statements. If I put it this way, according to my memory, then I would think that the explosion of self-published photobooks, in parallel with the explosion of blogs was primarily an explosion of the personal.

OC_ To which level do you locate the bigger influence of digital on photobooks? Content, graphic design, printing, binding an book forms, distribution?

SH_ Mainly distribution today, but followed by the do it yourself aspect of the other parameters, where one could make a book at home with maybe a little help of friends. The digital I believe on many levels, also regarding other art forms (film, music, literature) gave people a feeling of entitlement: I can do this, too! I don’t have to wait. And more so it gave them a waiting public that feels it needs no intermediaries (critics, curators, specialists) to chose what it likes. The connection between the public and the photographers is the important thing, and maybe even their exchangeability. If I concentrate on the «digital» aspect of your question I can only answer: the fact of digital images (digital cameras, scanning, and photoshop) plus the internet are the main influences.

OC_ Will «digital books» (dematerialised) find a place in the future of publishing?

SH_

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