Melissa Lazuka, Song of the Cicadas, copyright 2018
One of the pleasures I derive from being a Portfolio Reviewer for various events is that my experience as Editor of this Journal attracts individuals who are either in the midst of creating a photobook or may have recently developed one. Such was the case recently when I was providing Portfolio Reviews for Los Angeles Center of Photography (LACP) CONNECT 2018 event this summer and I had the opportunity to spend time with Melissa Lazuka with her two recent artist books, Song of the Cicadas and Fly Away. (Note; I will be providing a full review of Song of the Cicadas).
Our discussion is prompting me to briefly write about some of the challenges of making multiples of unique hand-made artist books, versus printing a smaller number of traditional printed and bound photobooks.
Both of Lazuka’s hand-made artist books are very complex, layered and very unique (1 of 1) and our discussion was centered on the issue for artists who create very intriguing and visually complex artist books of how then expand that physical concept into a larger edition size. I shared my personal experience of creating a unique artist book (Pine Lake), and the challenges to expand on this to produce multiples of this concept and how this involved into a relatively fun scavenger hunt as I attempted to find all of the book parts to make a larger edition of 25.
For Lazuka, she had found some unique old book parts that she had deconstructed to create her artist books and the daunting challenge of how to either find more of the same, something similar, or re-create these book elements. As an example, I shared with her how I had found some ephemera for Pine Lake and resorted to recreate these elements for my book since I could not obtain multiple copies of these old items.
Another artist who has successfully found a way to create multiples of her artist books is the Russian book artist Julia Borissova. I have reviewed many of her very creative endeavors on TPBJ and I will shortly feature her latest, Let Me Fall Again. For this article, I asked Borissova to discuss her approach to transcend from a singular artist book idea to creating multiples of her concepts.
Julia Borissova, Let Me Fall Again, copyright 2018
Borissova states; When I’m creating a unique book dummy, I’m thinking about all details. Sometimes I understand that the design of my book is to much complicated that I can realise it only by my hands, so I print the edition in the form of sheets in print office (commercial printer) and after that I make the rest work myself – cutting, binding and so on.
But always the choice of materials (paper, carton) was very important for me, and always I tried to evolve my idea through color, weight, size of the book. The construction of my book consists of various layers which viewers are encouraged to interact with. My intent is to create the book in form of art-object as multiples to present them to viewers with no barriers or limitations, so that everyone can touch them freely and imagine the multiple possible forms that the book can offer. The main value of my work with books — is the contact with the viewer.
Another issue with artist books, even with an edition of 25, is that there are so few of these it makes it difficult to provide all of the requests from editors, publishers and bloggers to see and handle the physical object and still have some books to sell. Thus the limited number of books for promotion also limited the number of potential buyers who become aware of the books. Likewise, the limited number of the edition can also increase the relative cost of the book as the small size precludes a lot of commercial printing, binding and other supporting opportunities. Which is one of the reasons that I expanded the edition size of Bluewater Shore, my sequel to Pine Lake, to an edition of 99, plus A/Ps to have more books available for review copies, etc while concurrently reducing some of the complexity, such as eliminating the wooden box frame for the book and the extra ephemera.
Thus Borissova and Lazuka have taken two different paths for their artist book multiples. Borissova, whom I think is similar to my practice, is on the path to pre-visualize an artist book in the context of how multiples of the concept could be actualized. It seems for Borissova even that artistic journal is a creative endeavor as only the concept is determined before she develops her edition.
Meanwhile Lazuka has decided that for her multiples, these will be a series of unique (1 of 1) artist books that certain elements will be repeated, such as the inclusion of her photographs, that then will be layered on similar found book materials for her small edition series, such as the 25 she intends to create for Song of the Cicadas. Each of these artist books will be truly unique but repeating the design elements with similar materials will help her expand and extend her concept to a much larger audience.