This series features interviews with independent photobook publishers. This month’s interview is with the founder of Yoffy Press, Jennifer Yoffy.
Don’t Take Pictures: How would you describe Yoffy Press to someone who has never seen your books?
Jennifer Yoffy: Yoffy Press is an independent publisher dedicated to pushing the boundaries of photobook publishing. We look for artistic partners who inspire us and projects that amaze us and then leverage our individual strengths to create an elevated, dynamic work of art.
In other words, we make books that are rad.
DTP: What series of events led you to start your own publishing house?
JY: I have worked with fine art photographers in a variety of capacities over the past ten years or so, and I have always been interested in creating opportunities that are beneficial for all parties involved. I owned a gallery, drove a VW bus around the country giving away art, created an online sales platform, started a non-profit, developed a photo retreat program, and consulted with photographers about how to build audiences for their work. In all of these adventures, I have tried to bring innovation to the status quo. I’ve also tried to have a lot of fun. Yoffy Press feels like the culmination of everything I’ve done and the perfect way to apply all of the lessons I’ve learned, both about the industry and about the way I want to work with artists.
A lot of opportunities for artists rely on the photographer’s willingness and ability to shoulder most of the responsibility, both financially and in terms of sheer effort. I understand the reasons for that model. I’m not criticizing it, I just don’t want to do it that way. Yoffy Press is a passion project. I want to make beautiful books, and I want to feel good doing it.
DTP: How do you find photographers that you want to work with and how do you determine what might make a good photo book?
JY: I have learned from all of my various pursuits that I get the most enjoyment and personal fulfillment from working in true partnership with artists. Yoffy is collaborative. The artists and I work together through every stage, from concept to selling, and we share the work and the profits. And of course, I’m not interested in doing anything the traditional way. I want to create books that are art objects. I’m interested in strong projects that, when married to unique design, become something elevated and new.
So I look for several things. First, I am interested in content that is not only exceptional, but that would also function well as a photobook. Then beyond that, I want there to be opportunities to take the project to a new level through design and creative concept. And finally, but perhaps most critically, I want to work with photographers who are dynamic, driven, and unconventional. We will be communicating constantly for at least a year. Our values need to be in line.
DTP: Have there been any books that have been particularly rewarding to produce or that you felt a special kinship with?
JY: I wouldn’t make a book I didn’t feel a special connection to. The amount of time spent with the images and the photographer—I need to be in love to move forward with a project.
DTP: What are some forthcoming titles you are particularly excited about?
JY: All of them. Matthew Brandt’s 1864 is on press. He is a dream to work with, and this book is going to be gorgeous. We are fundraising for Tara Wray’s Too Tired for Sunshine now and going through the edit and sequence process. This project is both quirky and intense, and I adore it. There are also two other projects in the very early design phase, both planned for release in the first half of 2018. And of course, they’re going to be amazing.
DTP: What was one of the most challenging books that you have published and why?
JY: Front Towards Enemy (Louie Palu), hands down. There are five components and a slipcase, and they had to be created in different places (and countries) and assembled in the Yoffy Press order fulfillment center (a combination of my garage, living room, and off-site storage). And because of the sensitive nature of the subject and Louie’s press exposure, there have been restrictions on images we could use for publicity and promotion. But I would do it all again a hundred times over. The book is exactly what Yoffy is about, and Louie is incredible to work with.
DTP: It seems that an increasing number of photographers, at all stages of their careers, are looking to publish a book. What should photographers think about before they embark on the book process?
JY: Make sure you are ready and the work is ready. If it’s the right time and the project begs for the book format, then go all in. Work hard. Take risks. Only put work out into the world that you love and can be proud of. And find a publishing partner you can build a meaningful, rewarding relationship with. It’s not a marriage, but it’s close.
Visit the Yoffy Press website to learn more about their books.