When I decided 12 years ago to found a publishing company for photo books, my experience working on books, book covers
and catalogues for different publishers and museums formed the basis of the principles according to which I wanted to design my own future publications. The compromises demanded by the publishers, the distributors or the authors had often frustrated me, and I wanted every book to be my own book from the beginning. The prerequisite for the realization of this under-taking was the establishment of a principle: the artist/author would place a selection of images at my disposal, but would not see the publication I produced with them until it was finished.
The choice of artists would be carried out subjectively and above all according to two criteria:
1. The artist’s work and the stories he tells with it have to have something to do with me, with my own experience and my own life.
2. Of almost greater importance for my decision is the photographer’s independent position in the history of photography, a position he has attained within his country and his time, and with which he has made an important contribution to asserting photography’s status as an artistic medium.
For my decisions on the design and form of my books, both my knowledge of classical printing and binding techniques as well as my experience as a longstanding collector of photographs and photo books were crucial. For a number of years now, the photo book has no longer been a mere documentation of a photographer’s work, a mere thematic or historical selection of photographic images. Stimulated by a self-appointed «history of the photo book», in the wake of various country-specific anthologies, and not least of all owing to auction houses, certain photo books have become pure objects of speculation. Excessive prices and hysterical book-signing sessions by the superstars in the scene fuel the hype around certain publications and their authors and distort the objective eye for content, concept and craftsmanship. Not to mention the concurrently ever greater proportion of special sales with their often absurd price reductions! Printing shops with their own distribution departments, where the author has to finance the book’s production himself, are flooding the market with excessively large editions and often superfluous content. These oversize editions are produced in order to keep the sales price down, and as a consequence, numerous publications land on the bargain table at special prices just a few months off the press.
It was not least of all for this reason that I limited the editions in my series to a maximum of five hundred numbered copies. In view of my requirements – the highest printing quality possible, innovative cover designs and high-quality materials – it was clear from the beginning that the books would have to sell on a relatively high price level. Only with the special editions – the small partial editions supported by the artist, presented in handmade cassettes, and including an original – is it possible to keep the book’s price within a reasonable limit. What also helps us is the steadily growing circle of collectors worldwide who know and appreciate our work and purchase the around two publications I am able to realize per year directly by way of our website. Now that I have produced roughly 30 volumes, my preferences have clearly crystallized: again and again, black and- white photos, photos of light and shade, photos that tell stories and are always more than beautiful decoration, and above all: Japanese photography. Because again and again, I make discoveries in a country where, even today, an incomparable symbiosis between tradition and the present leads to exceptional images.
In precisely this area, I will endeavour in the coming years to present new discoveries in books which meet the highest standards of craftsmanship and content alike. Although it’s getting more and more difficult to find printers and binders who full fill my requirements. Which I’m not willing to reduce in any aspect of the process. I hope that, in the age of kindle, self-publishing and the flood of digital imagery, my traditional method of producing photo books will continue to find enough admirers.
Roland Angst, Berlin, January 2019
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