This series features interviews with independent photobook publishers. This month’s interview is with RITA.
Don’t Take Pictures: How would you describe RITA Books to someone who has never seen your books?
RITA: RITA is an independent publisher focusing on artist books that advance the dialogue of the book form.
DTP: What series of events led you to start your own publishing house?
RITA: It started from an interest in the book form as a means of distributing art and ideas. A book’s mobility and affordability offer an appealing alternative to other distribution methods, and the artist run community that has been cultivated around the medium has been an incredibly rewarding thing to be a part of.
DTP: How do you find photographers that you want to work with and how do you determine what might make a good photobook?
RITA: The discovery process is always different—from randomly meeting someone at a bar to reaching out to an artist we have been following for years. There is no predetermined set of criteria that is required to make an artist book, but in regards to photography, the photographs themselves must be successful. Considering all the current methods that we encounter images, it is imperative to reflect on whether or not, as a photographer, one is even contributing something useful to the language of visual culture. When we find an artist we want to work with it feels as if we become infected by their vision of the world—it fractures our existing perception and thought process.
DTP: Have there been any books that have been particularly rewarding to produce or that you felt a special kinship with?
RITA: Every book has been a rewarding and knowledge building experience that has a unique set of problems to solve. Because of our hands-on approach with every step of the process, a bond is inevitably built with all the artists we work with. The process is akin to a residency, wherein we meet with the artist multiple times a month until the book feel complete. Our latest book, Rockaway Beach: Art and Adaptive Capacity Post-Hurricane Sandy, is exemplary in that regard, as the editor, Chris Viaggio, was living and working in Rockaway throughout the entire process. Being in Rockaway, in the material of the book, made the content particularly potent. Learning through working with the artist has been one of the most rewarding elements of being a publisher.
DTP: What are some forthcoming titles you are particularly excited about?
RITA: We’re working on an image and text book on coastal erosion and sea level rise, and the subsequent storm mitigation techniques being implemented throughout Jamaica Bay and Staten Island. There are a few other projects that are slowly materializing as well.
DTP: What was one of the most challenging books that you have published and why?
RITA: Every book presents a unique set of challenges, and as we’ve learned more about the process, the challenges have become simultaneously more complex and easier to deal with. Developing an understanding of how to both push an artist and respect their vision is something that is an invaluable part of being a publisher.
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?
RITA: It is important to consider whether or not one’s project should be a book. It has become a kind of default or arbitrary decisions, which is ultimately doing a disservice to the medium. Unless you’re working with a publisher that is providing you with something you don’t already have—funding, distribution, exposure, conceptual insight—it may not make sense to work with a publisher.
Visit the RITA website to learn more about their books.