Sunday, September 7, 2008
The Beauty of Fetish - 10 Year Anniversary
Back in 1997 I decided I had shot enough quality work to start pursuing publishers about doing a book. I had saved up some money and thought I'd spend a year or so submitting my work to various publishers. Edition Stemmle had always been my favorite photography publisher. Their books were always spectacularly designed and were printed on the most luxurious papers imaginable. Their catalog of artists included many of my favorites, such as Ralph Gibson, Irina Ionesco, Nobuyoshi Araki, Kristin Capp, Ferit Kuyas, Lewis Hine, Tony Ward, Andreas H. Bitesnich, Skrebneski, and Andy Warhol. So it was them that I approached first.
I don't remember what exactly I sent them but all I know is that a week later I got a fax from them saying that they were interested and wanted to see more work. So excitedly I sent them a huge box of prints. Within a few weeks, pre-production and design of the book started. Although based in Zurich, they arranged a meeting with me in New York at their US distributor's office. I remember laying all my images out on a huge conference table in a swanky room with floor-to-ceiling windows which looked out over the World Trade Center which was across the street. Because it was my first book, and I was star-struck by being with my favorite publisher, I pretty much let them have their way with the book. My biggest regret is allowing them to reproduce the book images from small 8x10 prints. That's why a lot of the images in the book are slightly fuzzy. Most people say they like that quality assuming it was part of my style. Only I know just how crisp those images actually are. I also let them come up with the title of the book which I really didn't care for and still don't. I really didn't want the word 'fetish' in the title because I thought it would pigeonhole me into that genre, which it ultimately did. But that's okay. The one big redeeming factor was that they were able to get Vicky Goldberg to write an intro to the book. For those of you who don't know her, she is the photography critic for the New York Times and is highly regarded for her essays and books about photography.
"The Beauty of Fetish" was released in September of 1998 in separate English and German versions. I still don't own a copy of the German version so if anyone out there can hook me up with one, please let me know! It sold very well and actually became one of Stemmle's best-selling books. It even made New York Daily News Ten Best Photography Books of 1998 list. Because of the success of the book, two years later Stemmle wanted to do a new book but this time focusing on the work I had just shot after having moved to Los Angeles from Chicago a few years previous. But more info about my second book later. Eventually Stemmle went bankrupt as a result of a domino effect when one of the world's largest book distributors went bankrupt as well and couldn't pay Stemmle all the money that was owed them. Of course that meant that us artists never got most of the royalties promised to us. In the end however, the prestige and validation of having been published by one of the most respected photography publishers was worth way more than money. Today I have a small amount of personal copies which I'll always hold onto and cherish. On eBay, copies of the first book go anywhere from $150-$500 of which I see no money. Oh well...