The Photobook Review

Editor’s Note: Ramón Reverté

Jane Mount, Ideal Bookshelf #751: Ramón Reverté

I confess: the more I know about the photobook market, the less I understand it. It is widely believed that the photobook community is growing—and in fact, one often hears this moment described as a “golden age”—but if you ask publishers whether they are seeing a corresponding growth in sales, many will tell you no. Sales have plateaued or are declining, and it is increasingly easy to find good books with print runs of just a few hundred copies. My guess is that the market is maturing and growing, but the sheer volume of published books has outstripped the appetite for them.

All this notwithstanding, great books do sell, and sell very well indeed, if the formula is just right. The combination of photography, new book printing technologies, and—that catalyzing ingredient—the Internet has proved to be a potent cocktail for the dissemination of photobooks and information about them. More people appear to be collecting books, albeit from a more informed perspective and in a less voracious, compulsory way. The broader recognition of the photobook as a work of art (finally) has created new rules and increased interest in buying books not just for the pleasure of owning them, but because of their monetary value.

In the midst of this interesting moment, this issue of The Photobook Review focuses on the explosion of events that have grown up around the photobook: the fairs, festivals, workshops, contests, and clubs. As a Mexican publisher based in Barcelona who spends roughly half the year working out of Mexico City, I also wanted to address the recent exciting revolution in photobooks being produced in Latin America and, especially, Spain.

Many consider this extraordinary period of creativity in Spanish photobooks to have begun in 2011, with the release of Ricardo Cases’s remarkable book Paloma al aire. Other great examples had emerged previously, but Paloma al aire appeared at the right moment, when many things were converging in Spain: a hungry, young generation of photographers; new photography schools outside of the traditional academy, notably Madrid’s Blank Paper; independent publishers such as Phree, Ca L’Isidret, Bside Books, Standard Books, and Ediciones Anómalas; specialized booksellers doubling as publishers, such as Dalpine, Kowasa, and Ivorypress; photobook collectives such as NoPhoto; blogs such as 30y3.com and cienojetes.com; talented designers such as Eloi Gimeno, N2, and Astrid Stavro; active photobook meet-ups and clubs; and, perhaps most important, the exhibition space and publisher La Kursala.

We have invited some of the protagonists of the Spanish boom to write for this issue, and Cristina de Middel created the centerfold: the bombastic Photobook Boulevard, an homage to various now-iconic photobooks, using the cover of The Great Unreal by Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs as a template.

I would like to thank all the writers and reviewers for their collaboration. It is my hope that this issue will help broaden our shared understanding of this amazing field.

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Ramón Reverté is the editor-in-chief and creative director of Editorial RM, a publishing house based in Mexico and Spain. He is also a voracious book collector, the cofounder of the Concurso Fotolibro Iberoamericano, and the publisher of The Latin American Photobook (Editorial RM/Aperture/Images en Manoeuvres/Cosac Naify, 2011) and Photobooks: Spain 1905–1977 (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía/Acción Cultural Española/Editorial RM, 2014). editorialrm.com

Jane Mount (illustration) published The Ideal Bookshelf, a collection of the favorite books of one hundred creative thinkers, with Little, Brown in 2012. More of her work can be seen at idealbookshelf.com

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The PhotoBook Review is a publication dedicated to the consideration of the photobook—focusing on the best photography books being published, from the coffee-table book to the handmade artist’s edition, and on creating a better understanding of the ecosystem of the photobook as a whole.

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