This interview initiates a series of Q&As that focus on the contemporary photo book. Over the coming weeks our readers will have the opportunity to hear a variety of thoughts and opinions on this vibrant and developing art form. Both in terms of press visibility and market value, photo books have risen to become – alongside the exhibition format – one of the key ways of producing and presenting photography to the public.
Damien Poulain of oodee books, London, 2013
1. What, in your view, do photo books contribute to the culture of photography?
Books are essential to artists and to their practice; they are dialogues between their work and the public. If you want to see an artist’s work, the best may be to see their exhibition, but if you miss it or are not capable of seeing it, you always have a photo book – which is not the exhibition catalogue, but a big part of the project as it reflects the artist’s intentions and thoughts. I am personally very attached to the idea of the book as an object, which carries the thinking of the artist, conceptually and formally, and can live in time and history, in your home or in bookshops, and can travel and be seen in many places worldwide.
2. How do you define your role within the growing and changing field of photo book publishing? What are you trying to achieve?
I am interested in using the medium of the photography book to bring new talents to the surface from different countries and different backgrounds, as well as to publish the work of established artists whose work would not (necessarily) be published by major publishers. Oodee focusses on quality production and good distribution: we are aiming to have a presence in all key photography places (museums, bookshops and online shops) as it’s important for the dialogue between the artist and the public. A few years ago, the internet was still a window to the world but now it allows us to be linked in real-time and grow together through social media networks and other interactive means. I learn a lot from the discussions around books that take place online.
3. Do you publish online books and what might the future hold for this method of digitally distributing books?
Oodee is not planning to publish digital books in the near future and we don’t feel ready yet, as the structure for this method of distribution is still small and growing slowly. For now, we are concentrating on doing things correctly and with precision, to build up a relationship with the public and the artists we work with. I am deeply in love with the physicality of the book and the thought behind it, which can be shown within the material used, the binding, etc. I think that there will be a real future for digital publishing and it’s important to follow what goes on within the industry, but for it to really work a good percentage of the public would have to have tablets or new tools to view the digital books, which will take some time. But it’ll come for sure, because it’s practical and will be a cheaper and lighter way to share ideas.
4. Which book do you feel most precisely demonstrates what your publishing company is about?
Without hesitation, it has to be the series of books titled POV Female on young female photographers. This is my first love and I am still very excited by each series that I produce. POV Female publishes the first book of young female photographers, which is very important to me as the book is something to hold onto – a project which has taken shape in the form of a book that helps the photographers to be taken seriously.
5. What kind of a relationship do you strike up with the artists whose work you publish?
I only publish the work of artists I like, respect and feel connected to. We spend lots of time communicating via email and Skype, or in person if we have the occasion, and it’s always a really pleasurable process. We set our own deadlines too, so the pressure is measured and the work can happen smoothly.
Damien Poulain is a graphic designer working across a wide range of fields, with a specific focus on art, fashion and music. He publishes a series of photography books titled POV female, with the aim to promote the work of five young unknown female photographers in five different cities worldwide, as well as books for Pieter Hugo, Viviane Sassen and Charlotte Dumas. oodee is a London based independent publishing house focused on making well designed and produced contemporary photography books.