Bookmarks: Zatara Press

This series features interviews with independent photobook publishers. This month’s interview is with the founder of Zatara Press, Andrew Fedynak.

Scavenger: Adventures In Treasure Hunting by Jenny Riffle

Don’t Take Pictures: How would you describe Zatara Press to someone who has never seen your books?

Andrew Fedynak: At Zatara Press we endeavor to create photobooks around the idea of a uniquely designed and collaboratively considered process using the minimalist Wabi-Sabi Japanese esthetic as a framework. Each of our photobooks are unique art objects as well as books, and we allow each project to dictate the form and function of the book in order to work in conjunction with the final design. Thus, our designs, choices, sizes, editions, and practically every step are different for each book.

DTP: What series of events led you to start your own publishing house?

AF: While I had been creating photobooks before hand, I attended the Hartford Art School Limited Residency MFA program, which is centered around the photobook as a theme. My love of the photobook only skyrocketed from that program. The first two Zatara Press books were of my own work, which is how many photobook companies start, but I knew I didn't want the company to be just about my own photographs. Then after meeting Nate Grann of Emptystretch, and having some long conversations, I decided ZP should be made into a larger company so that I could promote other photographers' projects that I felt needed to be seen. From that point onward ZP has only grown bigger every year. Each project has allowed for more collaborative work with a number of additional guest graphic designers, and artists on each project (Such as with Everglades, whose cover is a wood cut commissioned piece from Questionable Press - Sarah Brown). We are planning for 2-4 more additional books by the Fall or next Spring.


DTP: How do you find photographers that you want to work with and how do you determine what might make a good photo book?

AF: That's a hard question to answer. First off, not all photography projects should be photobooks. When we see a project, we hope to see some sort of subliminal x-factor that is unquantifiable that makes one express, "Wow that would make a great book." While we do have open submissions on our webpage, we have yet to select a project from those submissions. Some have come close, but none have made it past the e-mailing stage. However, we did have a Call to Entry for our group book, Unassembled, two summers ago where we selected five photographers. I'm always open to hearing new ideas from photographers, but we like to see portfolios and not completely realized book dummies. Rough book dummies can be fun to see and photographers should go through the process of making many of them, but we like it when people are open minded to new concepts when they show up with their book dummies. One of the great enjoyments with ZP is designing and creating the books in conjunction with the photographers.

DTP: Have there been any books that have been particularly rewarding to produce or that you felt a special kinship with?

AF: Scavenger: Adventures In Treasure Hunting by Jenny Riffle was a great pleasure to make. It was a wonder to work with Jenny Riffle, who I didn't know before we made the book, and I think it turned into a beautiful example of how refined a soft cover photobook can be. Working with a stranger who would later become a friend just reinforces one of the many reasons why one makes collaborative art pieces such as a photobook. I enjoyed how the book allowed me as a designer to take the reader on a narrative journey around the central character portrayed in the photographs.

Photo from Pictures From The Next Day by Robert Lyons

DTP: What are some forthcoming titles are you particularly excited about?

AF: Our next book is Pictures From The Next Day by Robert Lyons. The subject of this book deals with human aging, which I feel is a topic that can always be covered in more detail. This also goes hand-in-hand with the topic of the aging artist which is often over looked in our sometimes overally youth centric art industry. The final book is going to be a roughly 45-foot single sided leporello (accordion) book. Producing the book for printing in Germany has been a fun new challenge.

DTP: What was one of the most challenging books that you have published and why?

AF: To date our most challenging book to publish was Everglades by Lisa Elmaleh. From a production standpoint it contained far more steps than any project we had made to date. In short, it took one and a half years to complete, which is roughly double the average time it takes to make a photobook. This was due to a variety of factors that are too long to list. The final book has seven separate what we call "hand work" steps that went into assembling all 1000 books.  If I had to do it all over again, I would. Through hard work, it turned into a wonderful final product I'm proud to show to people.

Everglades by Lisa Elmaleh

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? 

AF: Photographers should realize there are many different designs and forms to the photobook, and not every project has to be some "grand opus" or monograph. Instead, projects could be envisioned as truly anything in a sequential photographic form. If one removes the limitation of an industry's design conformity then they are free to dream up anything. A photographer should consider making a photobook to be inherently a collaborative and compromise based medium/process much in the same sense as the cinema/film industry. While some people can accomplish a book as a "one man band," books of a large edition size simply require collaboration with a multitude of skilled people to complete the project. This can be fun, because that is where new ideas can be spawned between different fresh innovative minds. Lastly, a photographer should make lots of dummies for themselves, and constantly experiment with new ideas. There are always possibilities to be explored.

Everglades by Lisa Elmaleh

Visit the Zatara Press website to learn more about their books.