Photobooks have been intrinsic to the history of photography since the medium’s very earliest days—for example, many consider the first (commercial) photobook to be William Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature (others point to Anna Atkin’s Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions).
There have been other milestones along the way—Robert Frank’s The Americans; Ed Ruscha’s Twentysix Gas Stations, the immensely prolific Japanese photobook market. In the 90s and early 2000s, the scene began to diversify and then, with the release of Martin Parr and Gerry Badger’s encyclopedic publication The Photobook: A History Vol. I in 2004 (followed by Vol. II and Vol. III), the photobook has gained incredible prominence in the hearts and eyes of photography lovers.
Today, the photobook marketplace is made up of a dazzling (and sometimes bewildering) array of top-notch publishers, upstart collectives, self-publishing platforms and an endless array of tiny print-run, hand-made art objects. Add to this crowded world a new idea—FotoMarket, the first ever crowd-funded photobook store.
“Photobooks are definitely here to stay. Of course, there are signs of a bubble: to produce a photobook costs a lot of money, and on average only a small number of copies are sold, generating little to no revenue.
“But the problem are not the books—books are only becoming more thoughtfully designed and well-executed. The problem is that most people (outside of a very small world) are oblivious to the idea of photobooks at all. What photobooks need is promotion. At Fotografia, for example, we host The Photobook Show!, a regular series of features in which we share pictures of actual books we love.
“Indeed, I believe photobooks are photography’s best bet to grow out of its niche. Exhibitions, festivals and similar events are great—but no matter how big they are, they will always be location-dependent. Photobooks are a perfect medium to disseminate a photographer’s work in print on a wider scale, and the Internet is the perfect companion to promote such books globally.
“It’s no coincidence that the photobook phenomenon exploded in the Internet era: the web has provided a unique platform to connect the fans of the photobook scattered throughout the world to the objects they love. We want to do our part in supporting (and connecting) the thriving global community of photobook makers and lovers.
“Besides being crowdfunded, FotoMarket hopes to make fine art photography a bit more ‘pop’ in the way it is presented and communicated. We don’t like the status of the photobook as a collectible object; instead, we really like the idea that a 18-year-old kid starting out in photography can afford the book of his favorite photographer and learn from it, or that a casual visual art fan falls in love with a certain photobook and doesn’t have to choose between buying the book and buying a dinner to get it.”
And finally, when asked for his favorite photobook Graziano had an unusual response:
“Like I said, I don’t like the idea of the photobook as a collectible object, but if I had to choose one book, it would be William Klein’s Life Is Good & Good for You in New York: Trance Witness Revel (1956), which is better known as New York.
“Klein revolutionized photography. At a time when being a good photographer meant being invisible and using a clean technique, he provoked his subjects, framed hazardously and grained, blurred, cropped, blew up, contrasted his negatives. He opened up new creative possibilities for the photographic medium—but what is perhaps less known is that Klein revolutionized the photobook as well.
“He was the first to completely break away from the traditional ‘album’ design and experiment with the sequencing and layout of the photographs to make the book look more like a film on paper. New York had a tremendous influence, particularly on Japanese photographers like Daido Moriyama, who in his turn has produced some of the finest photography books.
Editors’ Note: FotoMarket is trying to crowdfund a budget in order to build its initial stock of photobooks. Since they can’t make a selection of books that will be for sale just yet, they’re giving photobook credit as a reward (along with 9 beautiful postcards) and some other special perks for the first 50 contributors.