Bookmarks: Chose Commune

This series features interviews with independent photobook publishers. This month’s interview is with the co-founder of Chose Commune, Cécile Poimboeuf-Koizumi.

Behind the Glass by Alexandra Catiere

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

Cécile Poimboeuf-Koizumi: We publish book-objects with a strong curation, which is also the reason why we don’t publish that many a year. Every book we make takes months to come to life as we really take the time to dive into a project and come up with the best form for it, in the layout, sequence and design.  

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

CPK: We are two co-founders, Vasantha Yogananthan who is a photographer and Cécile Poimboeuf-Koizumi who used to work in museums and galleries. We are both self-taught in publishing. We started Chose Commune in 2014 as Vasantha was looking to publish his first series, Piémanson. There was interest from several publishers but all were asking for personal funding. As we had a very precise idea of how we wanted to make the book, we thought we might as well publish it ourselves. From the start, we had the desire to publish other photographers and this is why we founded Chose Commune rather than just self-publish Vasantha’s work. 

Piémanson by Vasantha Yogananthan

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

CPK: We look at work, everywhere, all the time. Sometimes they are photographers that we’ve always been admiring long before our publishing adventure started. Sometimes we randomly come upon photographs from emerging or unknown artists and we have a gut feeling on how it could be turned into a book. There are no rules.

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

CPK: All our books have been extremely rewarding in different ways. Making a book is always a new challenge. But we would say that making a monograph for Shoji Ueda was perhaps the most incredible experience we’ve had so far. It was only our second book, we went to Japan and got access to the whole archive. We picked the photographs we liked and were granted free reign to make the book we wanted. 


Shōji Ueda

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

CPK: There are a few titles in this year’s catalogue that are quite new for us, which is exciting. It’s quite a playful year overall, in the kind of work or the design we’ve imagined for some books. We’ll also publish fashion photographer Coco Capitán’s first text-based book with her aphorisms and short poems in April. And we’ll also be launching a new collection dedicated to works on paper (drawing, painting, collage) in March. 

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

CPK: Shoji Ueda’s book that we mentioned earlier was definitely challenging. Otherwise, all books are challenging in different ways as you never know how they are going to be received. It’s a very solitary work in a small team, with the photographer and designer. It’s always hard not to get the blues once it’s ready and out in the world as you’re very much in a creative bubble during the whole making process!


Halfstory Halflife by Raymond Meeks

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?  

CPK: There’s only one question we always ask the artist: "Why should this work be a book?" It may sound obvious, but a lot of photographers feel like publishing a book is a milestone in their career. As publishers, we think there should be a real reason for the work to exist in a book. Unlike exhibitions, books stay forever and one has to be sure it will make sense now and forever. 

Visit the Chose Commune website to learn more about their books.