Bookmarks: Kris Graves Projects

This series features interviews with independent photobook publishers. This month’s interview is with Kris Graves, the founder of Kris Graves Projects.

Lux Noctis by Reuben Wu

Don’t Take Pictures: How would you describe Kris Graves Projects to someone who has never seen your books?

Kris Graves: We work with artists in making limited edition art projects, usually photographic. Currently they are in the form of monographs. I guess I'm a publisher but have never considered myself that. 

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

KG: I ran a gallery for three years and realized that I wanted art to be accessible. I'd rather sell 250x $25 books than one large artwork. I focus on producing projects that would normally not be chosen by the big publishing houses. I don't have a ton of staff to pay and I can do most of the work from home. 1. Almost nobody can afford artwork these days, all prices are inflated. Even my own artwork prices are too high. 2. Books are fun and easy—less stressful. I don't have to pay for space and my debt isn't in the tens of thousands monthly. 

Middle Distance by Issac Diggs

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

KG: I am filled with envy and very often choose projects that I wish I photographed myself. Ha. I find photographers through friend connections, art fairs, portfolio reviews, and the interwebs. If you can make 20 killer images, we can figure something out. 

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

KG: All of the relationships mean the world to me. My clique is filled with lovely people working in every corner of the globe. The people are always dope. The group of art-makers we have worked with are some of the best artists around. For sure. I love and appreciate them all. 

Endless Bridge by Mikhail Mishin

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

KG: This year is big. We have new projects by Rana Young, Isaac Diggs and Mikhail Mishin. Our biggest project is LOST, which is a 20-book set, photographic stories from 20 cities by 20 photographers, including Andrea Modica, Wendy Red Star, Aline Smithson, Zun Lee, Shane Lavalette, Shawn Theodore, and more. I can't even name all of the excellence, you must peep the site. It's going to be a killer year. We also have a few secrets in the works for fall. We will have tables at AIPAD, Photolucida and LA to start the season. 

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

KG: Recently, finding the correct combination of cover materials for Endless Bridge by Mikhail Mishin took some time. We wanted a super thick black paper, but not hardcover. And we wanted to foil stamp the cover. The black paper devoured the foil and we had to go a different route. I work with some great presses, so that made it much easier. Still, slightly stressful. All worth it, the book is perfect. 

Journey by Marylynne Wrye

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?  

KG: It's hella easy to produce a book. There must be 1000 printers in every state, I research their previous projects. I spend a lot of time in book stores. You can make 100 copies of a book for about $1000. You must think outside the box and make it happen. Some of the best books I own cost me under $40 to purchase. Act like nobody else will do it for you. I ask: how many people would buy your book for $40? And how many would buy the book plus a limited edition print for $100-150? Half the number you come up with and that's your book budget. Start there. Good luck!

Visit the Kris Graves Projects website to learn more about their books.