This series features interviews with independent photobook publishers. This month’s interview is with the founder of Drittel Books, Andreas Gehrke.
Don’t Take Pictures: How would you describe Drittel Books to someone who has never seen your books?
Andreas Gehrke: Drittel Books has a strong affinity with simple, timeless book design. All of our releases stand for our belief in photography as a medium to reflect and influence culture and society.
DTP: What series of events led you to start your own publishing house?
AG: I’m afraid it’s the same experience that many artist or designers had: I had published my first book with a major German art publisher. I took responsibility for everything (and paid for everything too): content, design, scans, texts, translations, etc. In the end, I realized that aside from distribution, all of the work was done by me and my team. I don’t blame the major publishers here, I know that small editions are simply not profitable enough and large editions are today are impossible to sell
How do you find photographers that you want to work with and how do you determine what might make a good photo book?
AG: Drittel Books is tiny. We can publish a maximum of 1-3 books per year. Unfortunately, my job as a photographer affords me limited time for publishing and editing. These time constraints put our focus on work by a circle of artist friends. I wish I had the time to publish more books of other artists’ work. What makes a good book? I don’t know. I follow my instincts in terms of quality and, more importantly, I need to feel that the work is relevant to society and/or to the photographic medium.
Have there been any books that have been particularly rewarding to produce or that you felt a special kinship with?
AG: Sara-Lena Maierhofer’s Dear Clark is our most successful and best-selling book. Many different aspects came together to make it so: The strong conceptual work of the artist, the elegant and sophisticated design (including manually tipped-in images), and I think the book is the perfect size. In terms of selling and marketing it’s been very helpful that the book made it to the Paris Photo shortlist. I’m still really proud of this book.
What are some forthcoming titles that are you particularly excited about?
AG: In cooperation with photographer Michael Disqué I’m working on a book project about an important historical place in Berlin. This place is in the city center and has been a “playground" for some famous photographers in the past decades. We would like to bring that work together and it’s always a challenging to make a book with different sources of images and different artists.
What was one of the most challenging books that you have published and why?
AG: So far, I think the three-volume book Voyager—The Grand Tour by Martin Eberle was the biggest challenge. It was such hard work for all of us: the artist, the graphic designer, the translator and for myself. I’m very happy with the result and now we have only a couple of copies left.
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?
AG: I think especially today every photographer (the famous ones as well) should ask themselves how many copies of their book the world really needs. The issue of the print-run is really hard. It’s so difficult determine in advance and it all comes down to issues of production and budget.
Visit the Drittel Books website to learn more about their books.