This series features interviews with independent photobook publishers. This month’s interview is with the publisher of Stanley/Barker, Rachel Barker.
DTP: How would you describe STANLEY/BARKER to someone who has never seen your books?
Rachel Barker: STANLEY/BARKER is a publishing house that creates unique artists’ publications with attention to detail. We work with designers, illustrators and artists to create bespoke elements for each publication, such as one-of-a-kind typefaces, hand-drawn cover illustrations, and different print techniques. Our aim is to make books that embody the work, and are of the highest standards in every aspect.
DTP: What series of events led you to start your own publishing house?
RB: We met whilst working for a print on demand book company, we both studied photography and most of our conversations since then have revolved around books and art. In 2014, we saw Tod Papageorge's Studio 54 on display at Paris Photo, Thomas Zander was showing the work and we loved it, so we approached Tod and Thomas and a book was created. We then went onto work with Bill Henson, Larry Fink, Karen Knorr, Stephen Shore...
DTP: How do you find photographers that you want to work with and how do you determine what might make a good photo book?
RB: We find photographers in many different ways—visiting art fairs, such as Paris Photo Fair where we saw Tod Papageorge's work, online and on social media where we have come across photographers such as Michael Northrup's work, and since published Dream Away; in person where we've met photographers at events such as Thomas Boivin, who approached us during an event and showed us his portfolio—we were so impressed, Belleville is due to be released later this year, and finally there are photographers that both of us have greatly admired for many years, such as Bill Henson, Dave Heath and Mark Steinmetz. The only criteria we use to determine what might make a good photo book is that the work has to be truly great.
DTP: Have there been any books that have been particularly rewarding to produce or with which you felt a special kinship?
RB: Tod Papageorge's Studio 54 was hugely rewarding and first books are probably like first loves. In 2015, the book was nominated for the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards shortlist and we spent time in Paris and London with Tod promoting the book, and hosting a launch event at Silencio, David Lynch's night club in Paris and a talk at The Photographers' Gallery in London. Bill Henson's Kindertotenlider is also very special. The work took Henson over 40 years to create, and we worked on the book creation with him for over two years. Each copy is made in Germany, and features letter press text and a vinyl record. There were only 350 made, so it becomes a really special object to cherish.
DTP: What are some forthcoming titles are you particularly excited about?
RB: We are currently working on titles with Christopher Anderson, Mona Kuhn, Tom Wood, and Esther Teichmann. Each title is completely different and it's exciting to see all the different design elements going into making each one unique to each artist.
DTP: What was one of the most challenging books that you have published and why?
RB: All of our titles have had challenges, but one of the most challenging books in terms of the subject matter is Jeffrey Silverthorne's Morgue. Morgue came about very smoothly, Jeffrey is wonderful to work with, and we knew that the work would challenge most people but it has made publicizing and distributing the title more challenging. We believed so strongly in the work that any difficulty is worth it to get the work out there as a book.
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?
RB: Many of the projects we publish are 40-50 years old, waiting for the work to be ready and not rushing. Also, finding the right publisher that fits with your ideas and that will do the work justice. We always think about the longevity of a book, and to us that comes with a responsibility to leave something truly great behind.
Visit STANLEY/BARKER’s website to learn more about their books.