Little shelters and ongoing floods: Lewis Chaplin on publishing photo books and zines

This interview further continues a series of Q&As that focus on the contemporary photo book. For our first interview of 2014 we spoke to Lewis Chaplin, artist and co-founder of fourteen-nineteen, a young publishing house created in London with artist Alex F. Webb

LewisChaplinGarden

Artist and publisher Lewis Chaplin

Suzanna Zak Place And

Suzanna Zak’s Place And, four-colour Risograph zine, 20 x 25 cm, 60 pages, Munken 120gsm, saddle-stitched, softcover, first edition of 300, 2013

1. What, in your view, do photo books contribute to the culture of photography?

I would like to think that when done right, books are the Temporary Autonomous Zones of photography; little shelters from ongoing floods of images, data, flows. They are a place to slow down and take refuge. They walk that precarious tightrope of being at once commodity objects but also intimately personal and direct things – dowsing rods for contemporary image culture. I don’t think you can get that unmediated, individual experience through seeing photographs in any other form.

2. How do you define your role within the growing and changing field of photo book publishing? What are you trying to achieve?

As fourteen-nineteen we have never had any particular goals. It feels like what we do comes from a necessity or imperative to share important, sincere work being made by artists at earlier stages of their artistic enterprise. Now I think we are in this weird in-between place where we can make some beautiful, more high-end publications that sometimes end up in hands more prestigious than our own, but also aren’t out of place in a teenage bedroom or a zine fair. I don’t think we’re trying to achieve much, hopefully somewhere along the way we have made a few people get motivated to make their own publications, or take seriously the things they are making.

Nathanael Turner - At Water LA

Nathaniel Turners’ At Water, Los Angeles, colour monograph, 18 x 24.2 cm, 64 Pages, 150gsm Profimatt Uncoated, softcover, first Edition of 500, 2013

3. Do you publish online books and what might the future hold for this method of digitally distributing books?

No I don’t. I’m sure it will continue to exist, but right now I’m not interested.

3. What kind of a relationship do you strike up with the artists whose work you publish?

Publishing other people’s work evolved out of being a 16 year-old kid releasing books and zines of my own photos, which I never really stopped doing and I suppose predisposes me to want to get really stuck into the work we release. Generally me and my co-publisher will tend to conceptualise, edit, sequence and design the books we do in full collaboration and dialogue with the artists we work with – it’s always pretty conversational and tends to take far longer than we think it will. Our relationships with artists tend to come out of a mutual appreciation and ongoing interest in each other’s work, and often end up in friendship, which is nice. If it wasn’t fun we wouldn’t bother doing it. 

Sean Vegezzi I Don't Warna 2

Sean Vaegezzi’s I Don’t Warna Grow Up, colour monograph, 18 x 27 cm, 144 pages, 150gsm Profimatt Uncoated / 80gsm Uncoated, OTA Bound, Softcover. With an essay by Abeline Cohen. First Edition of 1000, 2012

Sean Vegezzi Launch

Sean Vegezzi’s book launch

Lewis Chaplin is a London-based artist and publisher. Since 2009 Chaplin has co-run fourteen-nineteen – a project dedicated to publishing engaging young photography. He is also an organiser of Copeland Book Market, an annual event for selling and discussing printed matter. Lewis is currently studying Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London.

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