What makes a great photo book? An interview with Darius Himes

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What makes a great photo book? Everyone will give you a different answer, but when one of those people is Darius Himes, it’s a good idea to listen. Himes is a former Photography Book Now judge and the Assistant Director at the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco. In short, he lives and breathes photography. He stopped by the Blurb offices to share his thoughts and experiences as the first featured curator in our Curated Collection, Blurb’s quest to find the best and most innovative photo books.

Blurb : Given your history in traditional art book publishing with Radius Books, what initially piqued your interest in Blurb?

Himes: The power that it places in the artists ‘ & photographers’ hands. It’s one more tool in a big toolbox of ways to fulfill an artistic vision. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, artists have been masterful at co-opting commercial and industrial materials and products for their own purposes. Blurb provides an amazing platform to creatively play with the print-on-demand process.

Blurb: Overall, what were your impressions of the submissions for the Curator Collection?

Himes: Strong.

Blurb: How many of the submissions contained significant amounts text in addition to the photographs, and how did this influence your judging?

Himes: Not many, now that I think about it. It wasn’t an influencer. In fact, unless the photographer is a trained typographer, text in self-published photobooks often looks amateurish.

Blurb: The initial task was narrowing the submissions to ten. How difficult was that?

Himes: Narrowing it to 10 wasn’t all that difficult. Getting it down to 3 and then to 1 was the tough part.

Blurb: What were the consistencies of the winning books?

Himes: Strong photographic vision.

book of dreams What makes a great photo book? An interview with Darius Himes

Blurb: How much of a factor was the design of the book versus the photography and  how well do those ingredients need to blend to make a successful book?

Himes: It was a big factor. I’m not interested in stack of printed pages with photographic reproductions. I’m interested in the artists’ vision applied to every aspect of a book. That means design, typography, materials and binding, as well as the photographic reproductions.

Blurb: Are any of the winning books projects that could potentially work for a traditional  publisher?

Himes: Of course! Although it’s important to clarify “traditional publisher.” If we mean a big trade publisher, then the book needs to be subject driven.

Blurb: As a publisher, do you like seeing a finished, self-published book when someone brings you a project?

Himes: That all depends. Making a book with a publisher, whether big or small, implies a collaborative process. It’ll be as much the publishers book as it will be your book, as the artist.

Blurb: The publishing world is in major transition. What future do you see for photographers and the almighty book? And I would be remiss were I not to add “ebook.”

Himes: The future is so bright, I need to wear shades. Gold ones. Ebooks will be another of the ways that I learn about the world through books….

Welcome to Berlusconistan What makes a great photo book? An interview with Darius Himes

Blurb: We know covers are important, but just how critical is it for you in the judging process. How quickly can it turn you when it comes to investigating a book further?

Himes: Of course you have to separate content from design. You wouldn’t judge Tolstoy based on his book cover. But having said that, we’re in the art world, right? Bad design will definitely turn me away.

Blurb: I’ve heard you use the word “considered” when it comes to books. What does  that mean and how does it translate into book design?

Himes: Similar to my answer about design, it has to do with considering all aspects of the book as a physical object.

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