Manystuff: Could you please present yourself and your activities?
Erik Kessels: As a creative-director and designer I work for KesselsKramer, an agency based in Amsterdam and London. Besides our biggest activity of making communication for different national and international clients, we frequently crossover with different disciplines like filmmaking, product design, exhibitions and publishing. Since several years we publish several niche publications on subjects like found photography or graphic novels.
We offer these books through kesselskramerpublishing.com and different distributors.
Manystuff: What do you think is the role of an independent publishing house?
Erik Kessels: There’s a growing desire amongst independent designers, artists and photographers to publish their own books. To publish your books independently has several reasons.
First off, many creative people’s jobs involve working in a sometimes sterile, abstract environment: online. The digital world is incredible in many ways, but it definitely isn’t tactile. As a response, these creative’s feel the urge to present their product in a more concrete way. In that sense, technology has trouble improving on books-they are durable objects that we can hold, look at, put on our shelves and give as presents.
Then, of course, there’s the craft of book making. To self-publish is to edit, design and build a book, assemble it with love and personal attention, and that’s a process most creative’s find very attractive.
More practically, there’s the market. When we self-publish, we reach a different audience, a wider public. The bookshops and coffee tables where our books land mean we’re exposed to a very different group. For instance: there’s a shop near KesselsKramer called Bookie Wookie. It’s a mini-paradise for self-publishing fetishists, stuffed with strange and beautiful books by local artists, and visited by fans of the brilliantly eccentric. The Bookie Wookie crowd would most likely never have heard of a company like KesselsKramer – if it weren’t for the fact that the store stocks our books.
Ultimately, however, self-publishing is big because conventional publishing is conservative. The publishing business wants moneymakers: boy wizards and maverick detectives, not unusual, uncompromising works. Mainstream publishing is most definitely not interested in the niche, unless they feel that the niche might explode into the mainstream.
Manystuff: Do you feel having responsibilities and a duty? Is the act of publishing a kind of activism and what for? What about your environment you are part of, how do you identify it?
Erik Kessels: The act of publishing started after some disappointing experiences with more regular publishers. Often you feel that they don’t have the same passion for the work than you have yourself. Of course we have the luxury within KesselsKramer, that we don’t have to live from publishing, but we run the business of KesselsKramer Publishing like any other business.
Manystuff: Some says that “Print is dead”. What resources and new kind of artistic relationships are in contradiction with that point of view? Is the increased complicity between “curator/author/graphic designer/printer/publisher/distributor” the proof of the contrary?
Erik Kessels: As a reaction to the whole digital world, designers feel the urge to present their works also in a more tactile way. The same reaction happened after people used the illustrator computer programme for many years. As a reaction to all the ‘vector’ drawings popping up, people started to use their hands and paper again to produce illustrations.
A book on paper has a different function for a designer. Often the work exists online, but in a book, with a different edit and all together in one object it feels different.
Manystuff: Could you mention one book/publication, or publishing actor, or artist, or graphic designer, or printer, or exhibition, etc… that made you work in the field of independent publishing area? What inspired you?
Erik Kessels: McSweeney’s, the quarterly they publish is always a big inspiration when it comes in. They always try to stretch the borders of how to publish literature. They constantly switch with their designs and always surprise you.
Also many independent artist books are always a big inspiration. People like Joachim Schmid, Peter Piller, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Chantal Rens, Paul Kooiker, Koen Taselaar make very desirable books.
Manystuff: Could you please introduce one of your upcoming project you are now working on?
Erik Kessels: At the moment the 10th issue of Useful Photography is about to get back from the printer, this issue is all about the ritual of weddings and how people document this with images. Also I’m working on another book in the ‘in almost every picture’ series. This book is about a restaurant in Montreal, where visitors had the chance to get photographed with a little pig in front of their dinner table.
And our latest edition with 10 small books is called:
‘When bananas come with smiles, cubes have photos, albums present strangers and beauties come from Bangkok.’