Understanding a Photobook: Bromide Book | PHOTOFAIRS

Understanding a Photobook: Bromide Book

Bromide Books is a young independent photobook publishing company based in Hong Kong. Founder Alexandre Jutard-Verdon gives a few home truths for those thinking about publishing a photobook in our most recent Understanding a Photobook interview. 

The term ‘photobook’ is recent. What’s your definition of a photobook? 

Even if the term "photobook" has existed for a long time for those in the West as it originally applied to personal photo albums that were used to share family records and snaps through generations. The thirst for visual culture and the ability today to reduce production cost meant the photobook evolved in modern civilization. The photobook became an accessible way to display and spread photographic artwork as well as be a piece of art itself. 

What makes a photobook work? 

A good photobook is a standalone, independent piece of art. Even if it accompanies an exhibition, a strong photobook will be more than just an accompaniment. The mandatory component for a successful book is good content. 

The photobook should be helped with an excellent edit and design. Every element is important: the sequence, the quality of print, the size, the materials. Each component must work together and no one part should take the lead. 

To make a book work, photographers should collaborate closely with editors and designers during every step of the process. The final result must not show the particular talent of one or another but a project that’s balanced and complete.

A good sequence can create a story, a large size can allow you to emerge in the photographs and allow you to appreciate textures. A small format can create intimacy. If the designer doesn't use the right tools, the effect produced could be misleading, or lost. Pictures have their own language, and even different pictures may have different languages.

What do you think is unique about the photobook? 

One of our publications – Sensuality, Tension, Hope – got its title from a transcript of talk Mark Rothko gave. He listed the ingredients needed to make a good work of art. He listed the elements like a recipe – which also included irony, wit and chance. 

Unlike Rothko, I don't think about a unique recipe but more a dedicated process that makes the artwork happen. Every person involved should bring their ingredients and I think every project has its own recipe.

The photobook, like any piece of art, is under subjective consideration. 
A book, as a product, can work successfully from a business perspective and be totally of the moment but will be outdated soon. Novelty is important, but personal taste is a better guide when it follows emotions, not trends. This may be why a long lasting product should be considered by the audience.

What advice would you give to artists looking to make a photobook?

DON'T! ...No, just kidding! In a nutshell:

  • Firstly, ask what is motivating you to make a photobook. Do you want to make it for money? Do you just want to inflate your ego? Do you really think the "book" format is better than a smaller compilation of fine art prints? Be true with yourself when answering.
  • Secondly, consider how ready you are to invest in this book project. It's not just about the financial commitment, it also takes a lot of time and energy! Seriously think if your work is good enough and again, be true to yourself when you answer. Being true now will prevent you from disappointments later. If at this point you're in doubt, maybe think about waiting a while longer to give your project more time. Why not get some reviews or feedback from experts in your field?
  • If you're still motivated, here's my final piece of advice: get help. Just because you bought InDesign, that doesn't mean you’re a designer. Just because you’re the photographer that doesn’t mean you know everything about editing and sequencing. Find the right people to help. If you're contacting publishers, accept the refusals and listen to advice. If you’re thinking about self-publishing make sure it’s of a high quality. Later in your career that book will still exist – there’ll be no way to take back the books you’ve sold. I hope these points don’t sound overly negative or pessimistic, just try to be as realistic as possible. 

Click here to read more about Bromide Books in PRESENTS: The Photo Book