Lay Flat’s venture into photo book publishing has launched with titles from Sam Falls and Misha de Ridder, both of which are currently available for pre-sale. Founder Shane Lavalette generously answered a few questions about the books and new endeavor.
Visible Library by Sam Falls
In a departure from the colorful still life photographs he is known for, artist Sam Falls brings together a series of black and white images for the first time in his limited-edition artist book Visible Library. With a large format camera and a few boxes of expired film, Falls spent a day making these beautiful and haunting pictures in the stacks above the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Like “walking alone in the woods,” as he refers to it, Falls created what can easily be considered his most intimate body of work, a personal meditation on art, history, preservation and the photographic medium.
DUNE by Misha de Ridder
Somewhere in densely populated Holland exists a twilight zone where it is possible to travel in time: a small strip of dunes separating polder and sea, just a twenty minute drive from the city of Amsterdam. In DUNE, Misha de Ridder unveils natural scenes so estranged and mysterious that they could be described as unreal realities. Lushly presented in this limited-edition artist book, De Ridder’s precise and highly detailed photographs call to mind Dutch landscape paintings of the 17th century and Romantic Era. In the barren and tormented nature of the dunes, it is light, color and atmosphere that salvage the memory of a wilderness lost.
We seem to be in a new golden age for self-publishing for photography. What made you decide to pursue publishing books?
My love of photography in many ways began with books. It was by way of photography books that I discovered a special depth to the medium. They have continued to play an important role for me personally, and I’ve learned to see the role they play in contrast to galleries or the computer screen. Publishing photography books is fulfilling for a number of reasons but one of the big ones is this, knowing that I’m providing a people with a unique, intimate experience.
Do you think there’s going to be demand for all the new magazines and books hitting the market? What do you think can be done to help expand the audience for fine art and documentary photography?
In ways, the ubiquity of publishing (both online and offline) can easily make things feel competitive, however I think a lot of artists and publishers are working together to build a community. For example, Lay Flat took part in the exhibition “Picture Books” at F.L.O.A.T. Gallery, which brought together four independent book publishers. And then there are communal projects popping up all over, such as The Indie Photobook Library or Self Publish, Be Happy, which are helping to rapidly expand the audience. At present, I think there is a great energy.
How did you go about selecting the artists for the first two books? And how did you go about choosing the projects that would be published?
I’ve followed the work of Sam Falls and Misha de Ridder for many years, and have maintained conversations with both of them about their pictures. So when I opened dialogues about books, we had a nice starting point already.
In the case of Sam, he is an avid self-publisher who has produced a variety of books already, so for me it was important to find a direction that was entirely its own, distinct from all of his other work and books. We landed on Visible Library, a project which Sam produced with a large format camera and using expired black and white film. The work is personal and dark – very different from the colorful still lifes he has become recognized for.
Misha approached me with the idea for DUNE, which was a project he had been working on for a number of years. It contained a few images of his that I had been struck by in the past, but also an underlying social thread. In my opinion, his work with nature had never been published in a way that elevated the photographs themselves. His images are so sublime that they almost become sinister. There’s a sense of this in the book – the more you look the darker they become.
The process is very organic – when an idea is ready, you begin to see how it can be a book, and when a book is ready, it becomes more than just a sequence of photographs.
What are the plans for the future? Do you have more books in the pipeline?
Yes, there are many more artist books to come as well as Lay Flat 03, the latest edition of the annual magazine, which will be announced this fall.