Terrific webinar today with Lukas Birk, hosted by Gary. Lukas was really helpful to me last year as I was starting to think my way through creating a book. One of his main pieces of advice was ‘print and publish locally if you can’, and I am taking him at his word.
Not necessarily in the order of the webinar, but here are some of my key takeaways from today.
He is not doing so much photography himself these days, as he uses a lot of archive material, and he has small publishing operations in different countries.
A book still gives you credibility, and everyone knows how to navigate a book.
If you are going to create a book, its a tactile, feeling proposition – not just a content issue. Lukas is always looking at and touching books and paper, to scope out what he really wants. And the cover is key – design and feeling.
He really doesn’t like PDFs as they don’t actually mean anything, just paper or digital bits.
Lukas creates lots of dummies, and uses cheap digital printing (€10 to do, 20 copies) to start things off (I must get the name!). He sometimes uses those cheap first editions to be then be re-covered by hand, and turned into more expensive ‘collectors’ editions – which in turn help fund a ‘proper’ print run.
Two keys are 1) what is the simple idea for the book and 2) who is the audience? He doesn’t fuss about creating a broad market, but it is clear that his approach gets him a range of collectors who follow his work.
It’s clear he has a great process. idea – clear design and flow – dummy – cheap first copies and / or expensive handmade limited edition – broad publication. He also carefully looks at proofs, quality of paper and so forth on site.
Lukas also experiments a lot – screen printing, glues and so forth – takes staples out of zines, sews them, and sells them as hand made!
At the beginning, Lukas did talk us through some of his installations – all very multi-media.
He’s made mistakes, and still has a 1000 copies of Kafkanistan in his basement. He bought too many without having clear idea of the market because he got a quantity discount – and he also didn’t properly check colour and print quality. Moral: small print tuns until you really have a market.
I asked why he set up, with Sean Foley, a separate website for the Afghan Cameras project. He wanted it to be ‘their’ project, and the box camera community – not part of his branding. perhaps a thought there for my project, as I already have unfinished stories.com registered.
All in all, super inspirational. He talked through several of his book projects, some of which I already knew (and have). He has a very eclectic yet clear imagination.
BIRK, Lukas & FOLEY, Sean. 2008. Kafkanistan. Austria: ?Fraglich
BIRK, Lukas. 2018. One Year in Yangon 1978. Lukas Birk: Austria.