Manystuff: Could you please present yourself and your activities?
André Príncipe: My name is André Príncipe and I’m a photographer and filmmaker. Together, with Portuguese photographer and friend, José Pedro Cortes, We founded Pierre von Kleist Editions. A publishing company, devoted exclusively to photo books. The two of us are the publishing company. We are involved in everything, choosing the artists and the projects, commissioning work, editing, working with – or as – designers, coming up with money and occasionally publishing our own books.
Manystuff: What do you think is the role of an independent publishing house? 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?
André Príncipe: There are many roles to independent publishing. It’s hard to generalise. We can only speak for ourselves.
One of the reasons we founded the publishing house was that we found out that there were not any publishing companies specialized in photography in our own country, in Portugal. This became apparent when we trying to publish our own books. Of course, it’s not the only reason; we have ideas about photo books. Let me quote from our statement:
“… We believe the photo book to be a medium capable of expressing complex, abstract, contemporary issues and to reach a wide audience.
We believe that in a multicultural, globalized world, the photo book is one of the privileged mediums. The language of sequential images is, perhaps, today’s most international language, understood by the large majority of the world population. Photo books don’t need translation, they need world distribution. Internet provides an efficient, accessible way for books to reach global audiences.
At PVKe we aim to produce books that transcend the documentary quality that is usually associated with the photography medium. We are interested in artistic achievements and in the specific qualities that the medium offers. We want to make books that tell stories and deal with the contemporary way of living.
The photo book is a complex art form that combines photography, graphic design, cinema, literature, etc. Our goal is to push the limits and conventions of the photo book, contributing to establish it as a respected, mature medium.”
There you go. That is part of it. The rest is:
- Making books that would never existed, if it wasn’t for us.
- Using our knowledge of the medium, to help photographers to use and realize the full potential of the medium.
We are active, so, of course, it’s a form of activism, as the word indicates. We strongly believe in the photo book as a medium. We think it’s as capable and important as, say, Film or Literature, we want to see it up there with these media. We want to see more democratic – not so expensive – photo books, reach larger audiences. We want the photo book to be the most respected medium, inside the photography world.
I do identify with my environment, if we consider the photo book community: authors, publishers, shops, distribution companies, designers, critics, and collectors. It’s a very tight, small community of people that share their love for photo books. There is truly a feeling of community, and it’s a community that is living exciting times, with many very good books coming out. If my environment is the Photography world in Portugal, then I don’t identify at all. I feel that, in general, curators are not doing their job, and they have a very poor understanding of what photography is. Most of the top players in Portugal making decisions about photography are not really photography people, just people that are interested in holding positions of power. There are, of course, a few honourable exceptions. Back home, I identify with a growing group of Portuguese photographers that is doing very good, consistent work, which, hopefully, will soon be recognised.
Finally, let me say that doing photo books, working together with other photographers, designers, etc is great fun and a very good learning activity. It ‘s a good rest from the usual solitary work of a photographer.
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?
André Príncipe: I think that the “increased complicity between “curator/author/graphic designer/printer/publisher/distributor” is the result of the fact that the photo book as a specific medium is now living a golden age of excellence. It has reached adulthood, it is now mature and in full power. Before, it was kind of a secret society, with little cells trying to exchange operative knowledge. Parr and Badger’s History, is, of course, part of it. It was very important for the medium to have a history, which is accepted, by the majority of people. Others Histories of the Photo book are already being done, and more will come. But, it’s more then that. The whole process of doing photo books is now optimized. You have graphic designers that truly understand what a good photo book is about, you have more and more photo bookshops, authors working specifically on books, etc. It´s like film in the 30s, when we saw the appearance of a new generation of writers, actors, technicians that had a perfect understanding of film as a medium, and they didn’t have to adapt their knowledge of other areas, such as literature or theatre.
I don’t think print is dead, because there is nothing that can truly replace it. Seeing photos on a slide show, or online will always be different than the experience the book has to offer.
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?
André Príncipe: Daido Moriyama. The way he makes books, from big companies to fanzines, and self-published, from 16 pages to 4 volumes sets, always with an excellence and justice of vision, that redefines not only what photo books can be, but also photography.
Manystuff: Could you please introduce one of your upcoming project you are now working on?
André Príncipe: Among other projects, we are working on a Photo book by Portuguese photographer António Júlio Duarte, which we are quite excited about. The all book was photographed, at night, with a 6×6 medium format camera and a flash, on the lobbies of Macau´s casinos, in the last few years. There are no people in the book. What you have is a science-fiction like atmosphere, where the strangeness of light and objects, the absurd luxury and labyrinthic nature of the space contribute to an oniric feeling, like you were floating around, like a ghost. Did I mention that the photos are very good? The book has many layers, a documentary view on the reality of the casinos in Macau today, and a very personal, poetic vision, of how to relate to the world and photography.