Trade and Trade Again

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For anyone who is not aware of my book fetish this post is for you. I make a lot of books. Not all of them are good, and not all of them see the light of day. I’m in love with our trade books. Easy, simple, cool, sketches if you will. These books are the perfect intro to bookmaking. You have 400 images and don’t know how to edit? Perfect, page limit for trade books is 400+. Don’t have a lot of cashish to spend? Great, books start at $2.49. In fact, all of the books you see are $2.49 pubs. My next play is to find a group of like-minded souls, scattered around the globe, and actually TRADE the trade books. Are you in? Whoever you are….

Why I Love Magazine

Not that you were asking but I’m going to share my magazine thoughts with you…again. Why? First, I’m amazed at how many people don’t know we make a magazine. Second, this format is SO unique in how it looks, how it can be designed and what it means to those who receive it. And third, there are SO MANY people who have the drive and talent to be publishing their own. How do I know? Because I did it. On a small scale mind you. I shot, edited, sequenced and designed a short run magazine, back in like 2009, and sold my allotted number.(100) And I’m pretty sure I could have sold a lot more.


Now, am I going to support myself on magazine sales? Probably not, but I will tell you within a week of “announcing” I was going to do this I was getting calls from people who wanted to advertise. I ended up not doing any advertising, didn’t really need it, but had I chosen to go down that route I think I could have managed it. The magazine has ALWAYS been one of the Holy Grails to documentary style photographers, going back to the days of Look and Life. HOWEVER, all of this died back in the mid 1990’s, and yet many of us are still pretending like these magazines are the keys to “getting work out.” Please. They aren’t, and they haven’t been for a long, long while, but the magazine is still very alluring because of what it means.
First, it’s designed to be discarded, in most cases that is. We all have friends who have every copy of National Geographic or Rolling Stone or Off-Road Buckshot Mudder….come on people I grew up country. To some the magazine is SACRED ground. Most people get a magazine, read it, leave it around until they look at it and ask “Why am I keeping these?” then toss them out. But why? BECAUSE THEY KNOW ANOTHER ISSUE IS ON THE WAY. People this is so fantastic. Ever thought about a subscription list? A simple email database of those who want in? How easy is that to compile? Wait for it….I’m doing this precise thing. Stay tuned for a subsequent post.

Also, magazines are informal in comparison to books. They are treated differently, taken poolside, used to mop up the puke of sick kids and probably still read, but I would need independent verification from you parents out there. Magazines travel. They are given away. My wife gives her’s away on airplanes. “Hey, wanna read this?” she asks and they are ALWAYS taken. Try giving a book away on a plane. It might work but people might think you are creepy too. And for all I know you ARE creepy. You’re here aren’t you?
These last two spreads are from a new project, Whistleblower, which is a look at the modern surveillance culture and the changing terminology of modern warfare. The images were made in various places around the world.

In a way this was a trial run. Just another test in a long, long line of tests. I made mistakes, even after proofing so many times I almost threw up. It happens. To everyone. Don’t sweat it. Correct and move on. Live and learn. Enjoy. When I see this magazine I think to myself, “What are the limits here, the possibilities?” and what comes back at me is…..there aren’t any. What are we waiting for? Permission? An editor to assign something then embargo the work after running ONE image? If you are a wedding photographer why not run a quarterly run of your best images which then goes out to your top vendors, planners and former clients, via print or “E?” If you are a editorial photographer why not run an issue on what didn’t run via mainstream channels? If you are an amateur who shoots for fun why not do a run for your family to keep them up on what is turning you on in the visual world?

We all need to get hip and get hip NOW. This isn’t 1975, or 1985 or 1995 or even 2005. This is a blank slate. A playing field where everyone gets in the game.

Trading Up

I love the Blurb Trade Books. I’ve always loved them. Made my first one in 2007, and that book has gone on to be the most successful book I’ve done, and I made almost no effort to sell it. Strange. Many of the photographers who come to me for advice come with the learned behavior of the photo-industry on their shoulders. Do a monograph. “What is the biggest book I can get?” “What is the page limit?” I give them what they want, “11×13 with 440 pages,” but I also try to get them to understand the realities of making books, and more specifically selling books. Occasionally I see a gargantuan book that works. Lord knows I have plenty of them in my collection, not that I flip through them much, but most of the time if a photography book comes in at that size it misses its mark. Too many photographs, not enough editing, and a lack of knowledge as to what people actually want and how much they are willing to consume. Not to say you don’t make books like this. If done correctly, edited right, designed right and built for the right audience they can, and do, work, but you gotta get your plan wired tight.
The trade books, for me, are like sketches. I detest stodgy, and much of what I see coming from traditional channels, whether that be books or photography, is stodgy. The club of being chosen by a select few who are supposed to know all the secrets. Well, in short, I don’t buy it. Not at all. I like freedom. I want to make what I feel like making, and I certainly don’t need someone else’s permission.

I just dream things up. I look at what materials and processes exist and I build to compliment those things. Very simple. I don’t rule out. I don’t complain. I don’t find reasons NOT to do something. I just go. I just do. I wasn’t always this way, but I realized I was walking a thin line of being one of those people who was impossible to satisfy. Spoiled. Arrogant perhaps. Stupid without a doubt. Not anymore. I found perspective.

Two thirds of the world doesn’t own a computer and is searching for food, water and shelter. They don’t care about what I’m doing, and rightly so. Photography and photo books have found their place in my life, and it’s not the same place it once was. Still important to me, for sure, but still just one of the puzzle pieces of life. Maybe a piece with an edge. A corner piece probably.
Not that you were asking, but my advice is to play. Experiment. Test. Make books, give them to someone you think would be interested and watch. Pay attention, take notes. Then build again, fine tune, sand down your strategy to fine sheen. And then do it again. It’s so much fun. All the images you see here are from a new series of trade books, 5×8, 24-page, softcover, $2.49 books that will end up in a box set edition of either one or five depending on how much money I have. By the way, if you make a trade book, and you like it, for S$#@’s sake, send me a photo of it.