I had the great pleasure this weekend of attending the Blurb Photography Now awards and symposium to receive my award.  So I thought I would share some of the highlights. Thanks to everyone from Blurb who were so supportive and generous.  It was nice to see how genuinely invested all of their employees were in the contest.  I highly recommend the upcoming NYC symposium, especially if you are contemplating or creating a photo book. Darius Himes, from Radius Books, gave a thoughtful and very intelligent presentation on the history and importance of the photo book as a medium. Mr. Himes, also explained the criteria he created for the judges of the contest.  Not only was the quality of your photography a factor, but overall book design, the concpetual & emotional impact of the book, and the pacing and editing of the project.

There was an extremely informative presentation by Bob Aufuldish, a book designer from Aufuldish & Warinner, who went into great detail to explain the components that are used to design a photo book.  For a photographer, it is great to hear the ways in which design choice can help to elucidate your conceptual framework.  He showed various books as examples of successful design, including Lewis Baltz, The new Industrial Parks, near Irvine California, Robert Adams, The New West , and Edward Steichen, The Family of Man. I know I am already inspired to take my book to the next level.

Also very exciting, Michelle Dunn Marsh, formally of Aperture West, now a senior editor at Chronicle Books, showed the soon to be published Aperture West Prize winner, Hank Willis Thomas‘s book.  It is a truly inspiring piece of work. Thomas’s varied formal strategies are all intelligently incorporated under a unifying theme.  What was great to hear, is that Marsh had followed Willis Thomas’s career for some time but felt unsure of how to publish it, before he resubmitted his work for Aperture West Prize with a new artist statement.  She said that his shift to from a personal interpretation to a broader cultural theme, placed the work in a different context, which to her elevated the work and made it important to print. I think it is easy to be discouraged or worry that you must get everything right at the first go, so I love to hear that your work can evolve as it lives in the world. What is not quite right one day can suddenly comes into focus.

Which leads to another very interesting discussion at the event, the impact of self-publishing on your chances of getting published by one of the major houses.  This is obviously a “developing field” and the impact is still in transition.  What clearly emerged, is that limiting your book editions, and being open to changing your book and to collaborating with a publisher, greatly improve your chances.  Of course for every rule there is an exception, but it does make sense to me that a publisher would be wary of investing $50,000 is something that has already been released. Although I think as time passes this may change.

Other presenters included, Elisa Urbanelli, senior editor at Abrams, Clare Jacobson from PA Press, and photographers Todd Hido & Dan Milnor.  Perhaps the strongest theme I took away from the symposium, is the importance of research.  Find out what publishers are right for you before submitting, and create a book project that has lasting power. The pro publishing world is working 2 years in advance, so they must consider how relevant your work will be in 2010.  As an artist, it is hard to think that way, but clearly good work only improves and becomes more relevant as time passes.

Another useful tidbit was the importance of following up and keeping in touch.  Again, no’s can become yes’s as factors change.  So if someone says to keep in touch, according to Dunn Marsh, that means do it!  You may not hear back, but if they are interested in your work, they do pay attention.  While it is hard not to give up when you get no response, in the long run it does not help you to be easily discouraged.

The Blurb event is on the road, it is in Cologne now, and will continue on to London 10/10, and then comes here to NY 10/22.



10/23/08 – 10/28/08


Messeplatz 1
50679 Köln

Hall / Stand: 10.2: C042


Friday, October 10, 2008
1:30-5:30 pm
Delfina Galleries
50 Bermondsey Street,
London SE1 3UD
+44 20 7564 2400

New York

Wednesday, October 22, 2008
2:30-6:30 pm

New Museum
235 Bowery, New York, NY 10002