On Publishing

Disko Bay

Tique asks the same set of questions to an international art book publisher about its motivation, practice and role today.
This week: Disko Bay (Copenhagen, Denmark).

Publisher Disko Bay
Location Copenhagen, Denmark
Website https://www.diskobay.org

What motivated you to start publishing?

Founder Stinus Duch: “I started Disko Bay in 2018 after working five years with Danish Magnum photographer Jacob Aue Sobol editing books and creating exhibitions with him. We used to talk about why there was no photobook publisher in Denmark, and I thought that at some point someone would make one. It just seemed odd to me that no one wanted to work with this because we have so many talented photographers in Denmark. Years went by, and I started collaborating with the book designers from Spine Studio on other projects. The idea had been in my head for a few years then, and they just said “Go for it, we’ll help you with the books, a visual identity and webpage” and then there was no turning back. I just had to jump on it one book at the time.”

How do you define and develop your artistic program?

Disko Bay is a small publishing house that work to publish photobooks by Danish Fine Art and Documentary photographers (mostly). It’s a one-man operation, but I work closely together with the photographers, designers and printmakers to edit and craft the books. Our aim is to promote Danish photographers on the international scene of photography and in the world of photobooks. I would describe Disko Bay as a family more than a business. Making a book is so intimate, and you need a secure and familiar space to engage with a project, so I try to create this atmosphere when we edit and work with the books.

I worked with photography for over a decade before I founded Disko Bay, so finding projects to publish is very natural for me. I often contact photographers that I know to be working on projects that I sense would make a great book. Right now, my focus is on Danish photography and on pulling all these amazing projects out in the light.

What is your role in the creation of a publication?

Editor, sales, promotion, PR, fairs.

What do you look for in a project?

A good photobook consists of a lot of different things that can differ from project to project. But one essential thing for me, is that a photobook has to be honest. That it doesn’t try to be something it’s not, it could be by size, choice of paper or number of images. That is why it takes a long time to edit a book for me. You really have to listen to the work and give it time and space to grow.

Do you have any advice to artists planning to make a publication?

You should never embark on a book process if you don’t need to make a book. I can’t stress this enough. Making a book demands so much attention and sensitivity (and time and money, etc.) but the most important is that you simply have to make this book. There is no better answer. I talked to several of the photographers I worked with, and they told me that once their book was published, they felt almost redeemed or reborn, as if something were lifted off their shoulders or out of their bodies.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenge as a publisher?

That’s a tough question because there are many challenges you can beat yourself with, but there are also opening up new possibilities all the time. It’s expensive to produce books (now more than ever, with the paper and freight prices skyrocketing), it’s hard to reach an audience etc. etc. But things are moving in the world of photobooks, especially international, where there’s a public around it – festivals, awards, buyers, and collectors. In Denmark, we have lacked some of these initiatives, but slowly it feels like it’s turning a bit. And Instagram is a wonderful tool for inspiration, and for us to show our work. Challenges shift. Right now, it’s paper prices and transport. Two years ago, it was Covid, sometimes it’s money or time or both. Buy mostly it’s god-damn fun to make books.

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