How to Prep for the NY Art Book Fair

All this week, the photographer and handmade-book publisher Andreas Laszlo Konrath has been preparing for the NY Art Book Fair, which opens tomorrow, and he’s been documenting his progress on The New Yorker’s Instagram feed. 

It’s been a busy few days, with a lot of heavy-metal music, as Konrath and his colleagues at Pau Wau Publications printed, cut, and bound a collection of photo books and zines to display at their booth this weekend. Above is a selection of photos from the feed and snapshots of some of the finished products; below is a Q. & A. with Konrath about his book-making process.

What was the first book you made, and how has your process evolved since? 

Brian, my studio partner, and I had worked together on a exhibition in 2008. I decided to hang enlarged Xeroxes on the walls, and while we had them all lined out on the floor Brian suggested it would be great to stitch them all together into a giant 30 x 40 Xerox zine. This was slightly ambitious as we didn’t know how to begin making books; we eventually sat down and scaled down to a 8 1/2 x 11 zine to start. The result was “J.O.E.” We both had the desire for a long time to make artist books, and had a huge appreciation for zines and hand-made D.I.Y.-style publishing. “J.O.E.” really got the whole thing moving; it had a very positive response and sold out in a few weeks. With my background in photography and Brian’s in design, we had the material to experiment with and practice. Each zine totally had its flaws, but at the same time a lot of character and love is put into them—people started to respond to the hand-made aesthetic. 

We still try and make everything ourselves—our goal has always been to make the process as economical as possible and in limited quantities, which means trying to outsource as little of the production as possible. Each time we’ll try a different printing process or binding techniques, and therefore you learn something new and that experience will contribute to the next production.

What will you be bringing to the art-book fair? 

Right now we are finishing up our latest book, titled “North East South West,” by the photographer Nick Haymes, in an edition of three hundred. We just bought a new printer called a Risograph, and decided to print the entire book in this fairly unsophisticated and crude way—it lends itself to the printing style of the photos and the dark nature of the imagery. It’s very heavy, a lot of ink sits on the page, and it smells good, too. So we’ll have that ready, plus two other new releases that haven’t really been circulated yet—“Poems,” by Lisa Rovner, in an edition of a hundred, and “Natural History,” by Jordan Sullivan, a series of hand-collage artist books, in an edition of fifteen.

How do the book-making projects compare to the way you work as a photographer?

I’ve always liked this Cornell Capa quote about his photographs: “Isolated images are not the most representative of my work. What I do best are probably interrelated pictures which tell a story. My pictures are the ‘words,’ which make sentences, which in turn make up the story.” This couldn’t be better presented than in a book, which for me is the ideal way to view photographs. Book-making, for me, is a total escape from “working” as a photographer. It gives me an opportunity to share ideas with Brian, and help each other think about the work in a totally different way than an editorial assignment. And now that we are working with a much broader and more diverse group of photographers, it has given me a chance to look at incredible imagery and meet amazing artists. Brian is the head designer on all the projects. My role is to help edit and source new photographers to work with, which is really exciting.

My work as a photographer helps inform the book projects and vice versa, it’s just a great way to keep trying new things and not become stagnant, plus it is so hands-on —I mean, we are hand-cutting, stapling, stamping, folding, binding everything. You don’t get to do that on commercial photo projects.

Can you tell us a bit about your process of making a book, from the selection of photographers and images to printing, binding, and distribution?

At the beginning it was just Brian and me making it up as we went along. Once we’d made the first three or four, it just evolved naturally that we wanted some new material to work with, and to work with new photographers. We both know a lot of people in photography, so initially we kept it pretty tight as far as working with people we already knew who weren’t afraid of us messing around with their work. A lot of those artists introduced us to other people who they thought would work well with us, and so it was quite organic. Now we’ve started getting introductions to a really broad collection of people—we have titles coming up with artists in Italy, England and Denmark. It’s really wonderful. 

All our first titles we produced on photocopiers and laser printers. We embraced the poor quality of the prints and made each book unique. The details are important, whether hand-binding with thread or custom spray-painting staples—there is always an element that made the pieces stand out. We approach each project differently, and will try various printing or binding methods that we think fit with the work itself.

Distribution is something that builds over time. Our first book was sold exclusively through Dashwood Books—David Strettell really gave us a helping hand with out first publications. Since then things have grown bit by bit, expanding to other bookstores in New York, as well as London, Paris, and Tokyo. We also have an online store on our Web site, which really enables us to reach a wider audience.