This series features interviews with independent photobook publishers. This month’s interview is with the founder of Skinnerboox, Milo Montelli.
Don’t Take Pictures: How would you describe Skinnerboox to someone who has never seen your books?
Milo Montelli: I always find hard to describe Skinnerboox in a few words. It’s something complicated, it’s my life in a way. I never expected to publish all of these books in few years. When everything started in 2013 it was a kind of experiment (one of the reason for the name, which comes from the behavioral psychologist B.F Skinner). Now I have a clear idea of where I want it to go. I love the idea that Skinnerboox could be a channel to express the various approaches in contemporary photography into printed matter. As you can see in our catalog, there are different voices speaking, each one very different from the other. I hope that people can feel the subtle line which keep all the books together.
DTP: What series of events led you to start your own publishing house?
MM: I was taking a lot of pictures, working on my own projects. I was kind of obsessed with the search of the “Idea.” At the time I was already surrounded by very young and talented artists. I began to feel a big difference between them and me: they made no efforts to express what they had in mind, or what they needed to express. Like in a kind of “waiting” they were able to be a medium between "the things” and the artistic output.
I understood I was going against my nature, and I started working on other works. I really find a peace in the publishing activity. And I love this kind of peace.
DTP: How do you find photographers that you want to work with and how do you determine what might make a good photo book?
MM: It’s challenging. Most of them are people I personally meet during exhibitions or fairs. Sometimes I contact them simply by sending an email. I don’t think it’s possible to determine what might make a good photobook. At the moment, I think the artist’s honesty, as a man, and as medium as told before makes 90% of the success.
DTP: Have there been any books that have been particularly rewarding to produce or that you felt a special kinship with?
MM: I can’t say just one or two. All of them have a special place in my mind, for different reasons—not always good reasons. But that is publishing.
DTP: What are some forthcoming titles are you particularly excited about?
MM: We have just launched three new books, Your Blues by Michael Schmelling, Most Were Silent by Vittorio Mortarotti and Anush Hamzehian, and Trophies by Simone Bergantini.
I think all three publications represent the good place we are in, and our approach to publishing. I can assure they are three great books.
DTP: What was one of the most challenging books that you have published and why?
MM: Maybe In Quarta Persona, a book we published in June. The artists (Martin Errichiello and Filippo Menichetti) developed this long term project using a lot of different outputs (photographs, documents, archive pictures, video, interviews) and I really thought it was impossible to make a strong book. Then we decided to work with Nicolas Polli and everything changed. Everything found the right place and balance. Filippo and Martin made a great project, the work is absolutely stunning, and Nicolas is one of the most talented designers I’ve ever met.
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?
MM: They should make themselves several questions, starting from the first: How many photobooks did I buy in the last couple of years? A lot of photographers come with their submission without knowing at all what a photobook is. That’s like buying a car without driver’s license. Some of them have the money to buy the car and they buy it! Aside from that, photographers should think of the audience, not in terms of sales but, what their work is going to add to the viewer’s experience. Is it something solid? Is it something will make them laugh, cry or what?
Visit the Skinnerboox website to learn more about their books.