I love photography books in all their guises – Monograph, Theory, Practical (although perhaps practical books feature less than the others) – but undoubtedly there are many great photographers out there who aren’t picked up by publishers. And that’s why the fact that self-publishing is so easy is fantastic and allows us to discover photographers that may not otherwise be noticed.
In this article I wanted to share 5 zines/self-published books from my shelves which I think you should try.
The Pinhole of Nature by Nick Dvoracek
In this self-published book (which you can purchase through Lulu), Nick pays homage to Fox-Talbot and his book The Pencil of Nature. In order to get the full experience I purchased a copy of Fox-Talbots book as well. It’s hard to get a reasonably priced copy of The Pencil of Nature but Amazon do a cheap print run of it which is high enough quality to enjoy the interaction of these two books.
Nick’s book stands on it’s own, please don’t think that you need to purchase Fox-Talbots book to read this one but there is definitely some subtle themes and jokes that are brought out by having read the latter.
I read this in late 2020/early 2021 when the UK had been in yet another lockdown and Nick’s friendly writing and light humour was exactly what I needed. I wanted to share the following quote from Nick’s introduction because I think it really sums up the content:
“The Pinhole of Nature is about specific characteristics of pinhole images and the experience of making them, how it differs from lensed photography, and since it really doesn’t have any practical use, how I feel about it as art. I know this is a limited viewpoint, but I can’t really talk with any authority about why anybody else makes art.”
Monolayer by Russell Burden
This is the most experimental of the Zines on this list and is created using photo-microscopy. This is one of the first zines I purchased a few years ago so I can’t say with any certainty where I purchased it from, but an educated guess says that it was from Setanta books.
There is not an awful lot I can tell you about this zine because it is not accompanied by text other than a brief description at the beginning:
“Phenomena: An instance of self-organisation and self-assembly”
In terms of the content we are seeing images created out of nature/science – it’s finding beauty in what we can see through the microscope and therefore what we cannot see with the naked-eye. In terms of the book/zine itself I love the unusual way it’s been created. I don’t know for certain whether this was hand made but it looks handmade. We can see the construction of it in the sewn spine, in the cute, stuck in, faux library frontispiece, and finally in the partial envelope which is used to protect the zine. I adore the effort and thought that has gone into creating this.
Analogue Lockdown by Mark Thompson
If you recognise my name you’ll probably know that I’ve been working with Hamish to create a book which brings together analogue photographers from around the world, sharing their experience of lockdown/the first year of the pandemic. Out of that project, I’ve started somewhat of a collection of books and zines about photography and the pandemic. Here is one of those from my collection.
I came across Mark’s zine on Etsy because I do periodically just type “photography zine” or “analogue photography” or something similar into the search bar there and have come across some gems by doing so.
This zine has a high quality feel and is relatively large at about A4 page size although not as long as a standard magazine (this is just a description and is absolutely not a criticism). The large size of the pages and the fact that portrait images are one to a page (landscape ones are two to a page) mean that you are drawn into the images and it’s amazing to spend time lingering over each image (see what I mean by not a criticism that it’s not the length of a full magazine?).
I know that the majority of the readers on this site are interested in knowing what cameras and film stocks are used and so this is a zine for you because the back page is given over to talking about the cameras, lenses and film stocks used.
36 Windows by Group 6×6
Group 6×6 I first came across on Instagram when looking for other photographers working in 6×6. They are essentially a community interest group, promoting the work of photographers working in this specific format and have created various zines showcasing the work shared. From what I’ve seen they do a limited run of special edition copies which are hand bound and then also produce the zine in a “trade” edition for a cheaper price.
I actually own two of the zines that Group 6×6 have created and they have a few more available on their website which I do not (yet) own. I’d love to own the special edition ones as I appreciate the work that has gone into creating them but I own the trade editions because they are more affordable.
Of the two, 36 windows is my favourite and it’s possibly because the zine has a theme to it whereas the other one that I own is really just a collection of images from different photographers taken in the 6×6 format. There’s nothing wrong with the latter but I personally feel drawn to the themed edition.
It shares examples of images taken of, or through, windows in both black and white and colour and they are frankly beautiful. There isn’t much else to say really – just beautiful!
Monochrome by Analog.Cafe
Another from my lockdown photography collection and one which I’ve even quoted in my introduction to the Photography Through The Pandemic book which Hamish and I are creating.
This is a handmade zine from the creator of the Analog Cafe website and it shares the stories and photographs of those who have written for his website. All proceeds from the sale of this zine went to the UK Black Women Documentary Photographers Fund (I say went because I’m not sure if there are any left but if there are, go and support!).
There is not much I can say about the zine other than above but I wanted to share this quote from Dmitri’s introduction because it tells you so much about what is included:
“The result is an extraordinarily intimate showcase of the photographers’ private spaces and their diverse depictions of an unprecedented situation”
I’m hoping to make this somewhat of a series and as I consume and enjoy zines and self-published books, I’ll be sharing them both here and as part of my wider photography book videos on YouTube in the hopes of providing some extra advertising for these fantastic photographers and community groups.
I also wanted to mention that the above list of zines, and my second planned article, feature barely any diversity. There is some diversity included in the zines that are a collection of artists work (like Group 6×6 and Monochrome) but in creating this, I’ve realised that the gender, sexuality and ethnic representation in my zine collection is severely lacking – if you have created a zine or self-published book, or know of someone who has, please let me know so I can check them out and address the imbalance on my shelves.