Bookmarks: Halfmoon Projects

This series features interviews with independent photobook publishers. This month’s interview is with the founder of Halfmoon Projects, Matthew David Crowther.

The Lonely Hunter by Matthew David Crowther

DTP: How would you describe Halfmoon Projects to someone who has never seen your books?

Matthew David Crowther: Halfmoon Projects publishes photo-based books, zines, and objects with a focus on work that is smart and critically engaged yet accessible to a wide array of audiences with varying degrees of experience with contemporary art.

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

MDC: Halfmoon Projects grew as an extension of my own studio practice and a desire to make collecting art more accessible through artist-run ventures. Shortly after finishing my MFA and moving to Chicago my wife and I opened an apartment gallery and named it Halfmoon after my hometown in New York's Hudson Valley. After a few years, we stepped back from the gallery and as I refocused on my own work and found myself drawn more and more to publications rather than exhibitions I began self-publishing. Eventually I became interested in collaborating with other artists again and the current form of Halfmoon Projects was born.

The Lonley Hunter by Matthew David Crowther

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

MDC: Most of the artists I’ve worked with are people I’ve known through the wider photography community, either in person or only through online interactions. I’ve also found some work through portfolio reviews, though those publications are all still in the pre-planning stages. I do accept open submissions through the Halfmoon website as well. When I’m considering a project for publication I’m mostly looking for work that can be engaged on multiple levels, from intellectual to emotional to purely formal. I also look for work that feels like it belongs in a book, by which I mean that it’s coherent and cohesive, but also that the images work on the scale of the page and relate to one another in a way that makes sense at the pace of turning pages.

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

MDC: Two books immediately stand out to me as extra special, and that would TK1 by Carl Gunhouse and Midwest Dirt by Nathan Pearce. TK1 is special to me because it was one of our first publications with an artist other than myself, and Carl has been a good friend and supporter of my work since he was the TA in my Photo 1 class at Fordham University way back in 2000, so it meant a lot to be able to offer some support back. Midwest Dirt is special because it was represented a big leap forward for us in terms of scale and production and was also an opportunity to work with a good friend whose work I’ve admired since before we met.

TK1 by Carl Gunhouse

TK1 by Carl Gunhouse

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

MDC: Being essentially a one-person operation our books tend to have a long gestation period, especially over the last year as I’ve been getting set up in a new studio. That being said we do have a few publications in the works I’m extremely excited about, but they’re probably too early in the process to talk about yet. I should have some announcements coming in the fall and winter.

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

MDC: The most challenging book yet was probably Midwest Dirt, because it was the most collaborative book so far. It was the first book to work with an outside designer and editor. I mostly stepped back and let Nathan make his book, offering help and opinions but really trusting him and his co-editor Jake Reinhart and designer Elana Schlenker to put together something special, which they certainly did.

Midwest Dirt by Nathan Pearce

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?  

MDC: I personally think there are two questions that a photographer should answer for themselves as honestly as possible before starting a book project. First, why do you want to make this book? Hopefully, it’s because the work is ready for it and the book is a natural extension of the work. Sometimes it’s better to be patient and make the right book than to rush to make any book. Second, what kind of presentation best suits the work? Books are certainly having a major moment in the photo world these days and I think we all can appreciate and would love to produce a big beautiful monograph, but not all projects are best suited to that format. That’s why Halfmoon has published everything from photocopied folded paper zines to hand-bound artist’s books to unbound collections of postcards. I believe the publication should be an art object in and of itself, building on the images to make something more than the sum of its parts.

Visit Halfmoon Projects’ website to learn more about their books.