Publishing is an important part of my artistic practice.
The text below is an attempt to explain and introduce my PUBLISHING MANIFEST as I wrote it down a couple of years ago. All 14 points apply to my working method and remind me of which path to follow. The first 8 points lead through the various stages of making a book, whereas the last 6 consider the finished book(s).
01. The book is the carrier for my (photographic) series.
As an artist working with photography, I always build series. To keep these series together and present them as a whole, the book is the perfect format. The collection of the images is more important than the single photograph within my work.
02. The printed page is the perfect form for the reproducibility of the photographic image.
To prevent any photograph from floating in the void, letʼs say on your cell phone or harddisk, you need to take action. Assigning an image to a specific page could be one of these first actions. The reproducibility of both the photograph and the printed page blend easily into a new form.
03. The spread contextualizes the single images.
Using the spread, the single image becomes part of something bigger. Through formal decisions images start to create direct relations with each other, possibly through repetition, contrast, or links within the photographs.
04. The sequence of pages may provide yet another context.
Apart from formal decisions in designing a spread, what enters here is a storyline, a sequence. By mixing other photographs and the turning of the pages a story evolves and grows. In this part of the process the rhythm of the reading is decided.
05. The collections of images are mirrored in the collectability of the actual book.
As well as the photographic images are collections, so are the actual publications. Different books from the same catalogue tell yet another story. As it is important to keep the series of pictures together, the different books together also have a distinct weight. The value of the individual books lies partly in their collectability.
06. The ratio between the quality of the printing and the quality of the image is more complex than to be read 1:1.
Of course there are a million ways to print a photograph, by combining printing techniques and papers. The first step to come to a specific printing technique is to carefully read the quality of the image. Not only the outer, or immediately visible quality, but also the inner quality should be taken into consideration. These different levels of qualities could be represented on different levels by the quality of the printed matter. One should try to look deeper into the used techniques, both for the print and for the image, to understand the connections between them.
07. The relation between form and content is as equally important as both parts separately, but all parts may represent different values.
The content of the photographic projects is always the starting point, but one of the roles of the form is strengthen this content. Some projects may use a very bold form to point out a subtle theme, whereas others use a subtle design to make a bold statement. Depending on each project the form should be dosed accordingly. Especially when the form is an actual part of the content, their different values can strengthen meaning.
08. The fetishistic character of the printed matter may provide the extra layers to strengthen the iconic value of its images.
The choice of exotic papers or printing techniques can be used to surprise the viewer. This sudden appreciation of the scent of ink, texture of the paper or look of the binding can help elevating the meaning of some images. Images that have been chosen in the first place, because they represent an iconic view on a specific subject, will grow through the immediate surroundings in which theyʼre shown, i.e. the printed matter.
09. The book, as an object, gains strength as it gets re-contextualized by its viewer, owner or bookcase in which it stands.
As soon as the finished book leaves the publisher, its re-contextualization begins. Imagine a project on a specific architectural theme, standing in the bookcase of an architect, held between other architecture books that have been gathered and collected over the years. The meaning of that single book will be evaluated by each owner and judged on different merits.
10. The connections between different publications may be invisible, but are always present.
All books grow out of a little seed from deep within the maker. There are only a few themes touched upon, but treated in as many different ways as possible. If you track back these, sometimes, underlying themes, youʼll find connections within all published titles. Even if connections are only minimal, they should always be strong enough to hold the web together.
11.The steps made in the publishing process are solely based on artistic principles.
There can be many reasons to publish a book, but there can be only one reason to become an artist. If you choose to make books as an outlet for your artistic work, you should stay true to that and put aside other reasons. A merely financial reason, for example, will be visible in the project and will weaken the work. Donʼt underestimate your viewers. Most of them will be smart enough to see your true reasons behind the project. If you are an artist, than make art. If not, than donʼt.
12. If the book is like a building, then, the publishersʼ catalogue needs proper urban planning.
I compare my work to a building, just like Fassbinder did. Some works function as the bricks, some as the windows and even some as the wallpaper. So in that same logic, if you consider your book to be as a built structure or object, all these different books or structures together, should show some clarity. Buildings on top of each other, or parallel roads leading to nowhere will not make the body of work stronger. You have the power the carefully plan that city of yours and thus invite people to come and visit again and again.
13. Each published title must add value to the existing.
With each upcoming title you should ask yourself: ʻWhy am I making this book? What will this project add to all those already existing out there?ʼ Just because you can make a book does not necessarily make it a good one. Is the subject or theme strong enough? If your project turns out to be a copy, be it in subject, design or whatever, no one, except your family and close friends, will find it interesting. Your book should be strong enough to make it on its own outside in the big world. If not think of all the paper, ink, money and time wasted.
14. All books that are not made are, at least, just as important.
We make decisions all the time. Left or right, big or small, yes or no… All those times you say no to something or someone can help you make your body of work stronger. On first sight it might seem youʼd be losing out by saying ʻnoʼ that event or publisher or gallery, but in the end people that really matter for your work will praise your decisions and determinacy. The difficulty is that almost nobody knows about any of those times you said no. But that doesnʼt make it less important. Always say no to those proposals that will not strengthen your vision on the project.
Erik van der Weijde (Dordrecht, 1977) studied photography at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. He has published over 30 titles, most under his independent label 4478ZINE, but also with other renowned publishers such as ROMA Publications and Rollo-Press.