Zak R. Dimitrov
University: Arts University Bournemouth
Statement: Face Death explores the way in which the deceased are depicted in public in Bulgaria. What I found most interesting was that the image that ended up being used as an obituary was not intended with this purpose when it was taken. Most Images have deteriorated which made me wonder whether their friends and family have forgotten to print new ones or have simply coped with their grief and don’t consider it necessary. I’m western society we avoid thinking about death and live as if we’ll be here forever, which is not the case. Initially the project was going to be about people that have died before their parents as this is rare and unnatural.
What university did you attend and when did you graduate? I attended The Arts University Bournemouth and graduated in 2015. Currently I’m pursuing an MA at The University of Westminster.
What is your favourite photobook by another photographer? I’m a big fan of the books by Sophie Calle and the ways she incorporates photography to document her performances. If I have to choose one book it will probably be A Shimmer of Possibility by Paul Graham, which will soon be reprinted by MACK. It was announced as the best photo book of the last decade and it was ground breaking in its format - it comprises of ten individual books, some of which contain a single scene photographed moments apart.
Direction: I’ve been fascinated by books for as long as I can remember. Having grown up in the 90s without mobile phones, I see a photo book as a reprieve from the digital world, a tactile physical object that doesn’t require a screen or battery to be experienced. They’re fairly inexpensive, easy to store and can be found in any good bookshop. I read somewhere that a photo book is an exhibition on your book shelf that you can experience over and over again whenever you wish. I have considered both contacting publishers and self-publishing a book and they both have their pros and cons. With a publisher you benefit from their years of experience as well as contacts and reputation whereas with self-publishing you have no restrictions when it comes to decision making.
Considerations: There are many factors to consider when making a book but the first decision to make is whether the book form actually suits the project. Many artists make books because they’re easily accessible, affordable and make their work known to the wider public, which are all legitimate reasons, but some work is simply better suited as a framed photograph on the wall instead of a book. Once you’ve decided to make a book you have to consider size, format, what paper to use, design, whether to include text, etc. It helps if you collaborate with other people who are more experienced in this field, such as graphic designers and curators, they have a different eye from photographers. A recent trend is making a standard edition in the roughly £50 price band and a print edition, which comes either in a slip case or a box with a signed print and generally costs £250 or so. A nice little touch is to have the cover embossed with a tipped-in image, but there’s no template to follow that would suit any book, every project is individual and has its own visual requirements.
Interior: I consider the layout of a book as language - it needs to flow naturally and have visual grammar and punctuation. Whether to include text or not is an important decision as it can completely change the perception of the work. I asked a professional photography writer to introduce my work as I felt it needed a bit of context to explain what the images actually are. Other than that I followed a very simple layout - blank page on the left, image on the right - with only three exceptions where the image was on the left and the page on the right was black. I made two variations of the book, one with black and one with red end papers and even a subtle change like this could change the mood of the book. It’s not paginated as I felt it was unnecessary, I prefer non-paginated art books, page numbers are for magazines and novels.
Inspiration: Alex Soth and Paul Graham are a huge inspiration when it comes to photo books. Stephen Gill as well, as far as I know he starts a project with the idea that it will end up as a book, which influences the work itself. Anouk Kruithof is another contemporary artist who is incredibly playful with her book making - she is self-published, which means that she’s rarely restricted by publishers’ demands and has a free reign when it comes to ideas. She has made large-scale newspapers, books that are loose sheets and can be rearranged by the viewer, etc. Her work is somewhere between photography and sculpture with the book acting as a document of her performance and becoming a sculpture in its own right.
Advice and Future Goals: I used to work for Hotshoe Magazine and the editor introduced me to many helpful people within the publishing industry, himself and his wife being one of them. It’s important to know what questions to ask and there will be someone who can help. It’s difficult to self-publish your book, but I believe that’s the way forward nowadays - you can fund the book before it’s printed via Kickstarter. Most books are printed in Italy and the quality is amazing - it’s very easy to find good designers, printers and book binders, marketing is the hard part. If you enter the work into competitions and get it featured in magazines and journals, you make people aware of it. After this when they see it as a book they’ll be familiar with it and more likely to support it. Currently my work focuses on abstraction and I think the work would make a beautiful book - full bleed, uncoated smooth paper, every page filled with an image. Sort of a visual overload similar to Masahisa Fukase’s Hibi published by MACK.