London-based artist and photographer Andreas Schmidt is a prolific and, by his own admission, disruptive photo book maker. He’s a member of the ABC Artists’ Book Cooperative and in the last four years has created 70 Blurb books. With such a back catalogue and wealth of experience, Schmidt is a great interview subject and we were keen to find out more about his work and his attraction to print-on-demand photo books…
Blurb: On your Blurb biography page you’ve been defined as a pleasingly disruptive photo book maker. How would you describe yourself?
Andreas: Yes, that’s a great description of me and I might actually put that on my business card one of these days. As an artist I’m interested in using humour as a weapon and produce photo books that traditional publishers wouldn’t touch.
Blurb: You’ve been making books on Blurb since 2008. What triggered your passion for print-on-demand photo books?
Andreas: I came to self-publishing with the experience of using traditional publishers, so I quickly saw the freedom and opportunities that Blurb could offer. It’s super quick and allows me to try out experiments in book form and push boundaries – something just not possible with traditional publishing.
Print on demand also allows an artist to work on ideas they would never have done before due to the cost. Moreover, it allows you to avoid getting involved in the mechanics of creating a book – I’m really not interested in that side; it gives me a headache.
One of my early books using Blurb called “Please follow me.” was inspired by Sophie Calle’s Suite Venitienne, where she follows and photographs a man she met at a gallery opening in Paris to Venice. I sent her a copy of my book when finished and she sent a lovely postcard back. In fact, I recently re-issued an updated version of my book with a reproduction of the postcard in it – another benefit of print on demand.
Blurb: You’re quite prolific. How many photo books have you created?
Andreas: In the last four years (since October 2008) I’ve created 70 books with Blurb and two by a traditional publisher.
I liken my approach to making artists’ books to improvised jazz. And if I like it, I’ll put it online to sell, but selling is not paramount to me.
Blurb: Facebook is a common theme in your work? What draws you to it?
Andreas: When I first heard of Facebook I was nervous about joining. Initially I thought it was just for teenagers, but quite quickly I realised that it was an interesting marketing tool and you have to take it seriously in this context. But as an artist I wanted to make some comment on it – how as a society we are using it and how it is using us.
The Facebook books are also my way of recording my time on Facebook. There’s something quite nice about the printed page and its longevity. No one knows how long Facebook will be around for or how permanent the images and stories stored on it will be. My books on the other hand will be around for a while.
Blurb: As an experienced, professional photo book maker, what advice do you have for anyone just starting?
Andreas: First, just go and do it. Try it out. Then there are loads of places you can see great photo books for yourself, such as at the New York Art Book Fair, Offprint Paris, the Whitechapel Art Book Fair in London or even your local independent bookshop. Pick them up and take a look. There’s also some great blogs and books on creating photo books out there too.
Blurb: Final question. French book maker Jean Keller has described you as taking the concept of the book and shaking it like a rag doll…until its head comes off.” Any comment?
Andreas: Well, I’m shaking one of my books right now and I can confirm its head has just fallen off (laughs).
Andreas Schmidt is a member of the ABC Artists’ Book Cooperative, which this autumn is launching ABCED. ABCED is a multi-volume book project by ABC members, created to mark influential bookmaker Ed Ruscha’s 75th birthday and honour his contribution to the field of artists’ books. It consists of 33 books by 24 artists.