Can you tell me about the book — how does it work in comparison to your previous books? Do you see it as a catalogue of your photography over the past five years, or does it still work in and of itself, as a book-work?
With Made In Dublin we revisited some of the images from the first three books along with unpublished images from that time as well as some more recent images. It was important to me that we didn’t just make a facsimile of the other books or make a book ‘about’ those books.
We liked the idea of approaching the same images but presenting them in a different way. I never wanted to reprint extra editions of my previous books, so this was a nice way of getting the work out there again in a different context.
In the early stages of the book design we had just started a simultaneous commission of our cinematic work, also named Made In Dublin. This is a nine-screen, surround-sound panoramic installation presenting a continually changing cycle of events played out by the movement of people throughout Dublin. It also draws on many of the original material in the first books but allowed us to include a lot of unpublished and newly shot images. The editing and cropping process definitely influenced and fed into the design approach to the Made In Dublin book. I think with the editing, design and the extra layer of Kevin Barry’s six text vignettes, it stands on its own and not just a catalogue of work from the first three books.
My questions are pretty much around the book and about process, so perhaps tell me about the content here — is there anything other than location that ties it all together?
It is in someway an overview of the work from the first three books, which all share a similar location and were more or less shot at the same time. The vast majority of the images were shot within a couple of hundred meters of my front door over quite a short timeframe. Despite that, all three books took different approaches in terms of perspective, colour and focus so it was important that it still felt like a coherent book when all three were thrown into the mix.
Again, I think the editing and sequencing go someway towards achieving this. We wanted Kevin’s text to sit parallel alongside the images but not try to illustrate or directly refer to them in anyway. I think the text he has added has given an overarching sense of cohesion to the three different approaches to the images.
Made in Dublin is bigger, physically, and I imagine in terms of print run and audience. I think that can be a risk, especially with a bigger publisher, which is in every way very different to self-publishing. Yet the book seems to keep the integrity of a self-published, close-to-home type of publication. How have you found it? Have you had to ‘let go’ a bit more than previous or have you had full control?
Working with Thames & Hudson has been surprisingly easy. I’m not sure what I was expecting, really. I had gotten used to having total control with self-publishing but I was able to bring in Niall Sweeney who has designed all my previous books, so that’s been a huge help and has kept the whole project very close to home. I imagine I would have struggled to work alongside an in-house designer. There were, of course, certain parameters we had to work with in terms of paper stock and inks we could use but I didn’t feel like I had to ‘let go’ of much, really. From the start, I think we had different expectations of working with a large publisher in terms of production, etc., but those restraints mean the book gets to reach a much wider audience.
How much of it are reprints from previous books?
I’m not sure but I think about a third of the images are unpublished and the rest are taken from my previous books, i, ON and End.
If I’m right, there seems to be new additions of shots left out of previous books. So where previously you printed one portrait of a man walking, you have now created quite dynamic edits of the man walking, using several photographs in a way that almost become frames from a moving image. The process reminds me of some of Paul Trevor’s early experimental work.
It’s always been tempting to lay out the images in this way, as so much street work tends to be shot in these kinds of sequences. So although the key image is usually pretty obvious when doing an initial edit, it can sometimes feel like a shame not to show the whole sequence. I guess because we had already made the first three books, we felt a lot more liberated to shift things around and introduce extra frames here and there.
Is there a synthesis between your work as a photographer and as a producer/DJ of electronic music? The reason I ask is that in terms of process, viewpoint, and edit, your books are not familiar or traditional; they don’t have photographs on the covers, and the photographs are shot from non-standard viewpoints. There are risk and chance in the edit, sequence and layout, which kind of reminds me of the controlled chaos that good electronic music can be.
There are loads of parallels between music-making and photography, especially street photography. The very nature of street photography, at least the kind that I’ve been doing, is inherently non-conceptual in the sense that you go out into the street and see what the world throws up at you. You can be quite deliberate about certain conditions you set yourself; camera, film, weather conditions and location, and many other things play into the mix such as your mood, but then it’s really all about recognising something when it happens and honing in on it. It’s pretty much exactly the same when you go into the studio and decide to make music. It’s never a case of saying I’m going to make a specific piece of music. You set up the conditions, let a bunch of things happen and again it’s about recognising something when it happens; much of the time completely by chance or accident.
Do you find the process of making electronic music similar to the process of making photographs in series? Does it involve a plan including an idea of the endpoint, or is it a free and intuitive process with perhaps a starting point and to ‘see how it goes’?
Up until this point, I’ve tended not to think in terms of series with the street work. Very obvious patterns do start to emerge and present themselves but it’s never something I’ve specifically set out to shoot. It’s been a lot different with my more recent book K, which was preconceived to a certain extent, but there was still enough room for the unexpected to creep in to keep it interesting for me. The same can be said for making music with similar parallels between the more haphazard approach with electronic machines and a slightly more considered approach with my acoustic music.
In terms of DJing, the same could be applied. Do you work with the crowd’s reaction to determine the way the set goes? If so, has the crowds reaction determined the way your work and publications progress?
The DJ set is an interesting analogy in terms of reacting to the crowd. The crowd definitely determine what you play to a degree, depending on how they react. I think the analogy with book publishing holds up only in terms of feeling out the market for a body of work I’ve already made and am considering putting out. I’d definitely try my best to avoid making work just because I think people would buy it.
Since 2005 Craig Atkinson has been publishing (as Café Royal Books) British Documentary Photography. His aim is to source, preserve and make accessible a complete collection of a genre of photography, which has historically been ignored. The books sit between photobooks, reference/ visual and cultural history. They’re democratic and utilitarian, published weekly and cost less than a ‘curated’ coffee. So far he has published over 500 books, with over 100000 in circulation and available in many museum, library, gallery and university collections.