This series features interviews with independent photobook publishers. This month’s interview is with Paul D’Amato of Skylark Editions.
Don’t Take Pictures: How would you describe Skylark Editions to someone who has never seen your books?
Paul D’Amato: I’d say that it’s hard to describe what we do because every book has been so different from one to the other in terms of photographic style, content, book structure and feel. In short, I’d say the best way to describe us is unpredictable and we intend to keep it that way.
DTP: What series of events led you to start your own publishing house?
PD: The idea evolved out of a general interest in photography books that became increasingly more focused over a number of years. It spiraled in from first teaching together; then Kelli’s informal “PHOTOBooks + Beer” get togethers; hanging out at the New York book Fair; and then finally over a fire pit in my back yard where we decided to give it a shot. After that it took many meetings to think through issues such as kinds of photographers, styles of books, business models, etc. Even the name took a while until we were at a bar called Skylark one night and we thought, “Why not this?” The owner was a neighbor of mine and so I asked if he minded. Since then we’ve even held a few fundraising events there.
Practically, it started with receiving a grant from Columbia College Chicago. The funds from that grant payed for the production costs for our first, modest, single signature book, NATIONAL TRUST by Jay Seawell.
DTP: How do you find photographers that you want to work with and how do you determine what might make a good photo book?
PD: We’ve started with photographers we know in the Chicago area. That’s not a limited pool of very talented under-represented image makers. But we get around and we know the field so we will build from there as we go.
DTP: Have there been any books that have been particularly rewarding to produce or that you felt a special kinship with?
PD: Really all of them for different reasons.
DTP: What are some forthcoming titles are you particularly excited about?
PD: We are working on two books at the moment. The first is a book of mine of work I did in the early Acid House/Rave scene in the early 90s. We’ve refrained from publishing our own work but this work has never been seen and feels particularly interesting now when we can barely remember a time before cell phones, social media and the internet.
The other book, entitled OUTS, is Kelli’s idea and promises to be really interesting. It’s a call to photographers to send us an image that they really like but just doesn’t fit into anything. This book will give those images a home, finally, while pulling a lot of different photographers under the SKYLARK tent.
DTP: What was one of the most challenging books that you have published and why?
PD: Along the lines of what I said before, there are no favorites and no most challenging. Again, because every book is so different, each one has its own learning curve. Either we never will or haven’t done enough books yet to settle into a production pattern.
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?
PD: There are a lot of ways to answer that. But the simplest advice I’d give is to not rush it. Shows come and go and are soon forgotten but books stay around forever and once you publish a body of work, it’s done. There are very few do-overs in publishing so find the right publisher and make sure you’re ready to move on from that work. I’ve never regretted any delay in the books I’ve done.
Visit the Skylark Editions website to learn more about their books.