In preparation for our upcoming workshops with dienacht publishing + magazine, we asked Founder, Calin Kruse, and Editor, Yana Kruse, to tell us a little more about their work, and the importance of photobooks.
HAYP/IN SITU: Tell us how dienacht publishing started and what it’s about.
dienacht: We showcase carefully selected photographers through a limited circulation of beautifully produced books. dienacht started with “dienacht magazine” in 2007, a photography magazine featuring, as we put it, “timeless” photography work, not necessarily most recent or most popular.
Some years later it grew into “dienacht publishing” with the first book Dead Traffic by Kim Thue (2012) as a natural process and desire to feature a large body of work in printed form. Now there is also a “dienacht °Lab”, an education platform offering mentorships and workshops on photography and photobooks.
dienacht means “night” and we are indeed interested in everything hidden, shadowed, unknown. We seek to find and reveal in the form of photobooks. That’s why we like to discover the new and unknown, which adds too our excitement of holding a Workshop in Armenia (first time!) this October.
HI: How did the concept of the magazine change/develop over the years, and how does it differ from the photobook?
The magazine was always very personal to Calin, so we guess it has changed with his taste. But the concept hasn’t changed – the idea is still to show a mix of photography portfolios of different genres and also art from different fields. A book has more space to show more works, and also find a language through different materials. A magazine “hosts” different series and offers limited space for a limited number of photos.
HI: How are you coping with the quarantine, personally and professionally?
D: Well, it seems to be a challenge for everyone on the planet and for us at dienacht too. All our plans for the upcoming months have been either cancelled or postponed. We were planning to visit artbook fairs in Shanghai and Tokyo and hold a number of Photobook workshops, including the one in Yerevan. However, in this dystopian time we’ve just released the new book by Latvian photographer Arnis Balcus Myself, Friends, Lovers and Others, which is a kind of portrait of the generation, probably the last one before social networks and over-conscious self-presentation. We’ve also launched live streamings with photographer and photobook makers on our IG account. And together with HAYP we also came up with a way to get in touch with photographers in Armenia before our major Workshop (postponed till October) via online Portfolio Review Session. So, life goes on!
HI: What is in the book format that makes it special for you as a photographer? How did you get into making photo books?
D: It depends, not every project needs to end up in a book, it is important to find the right “language” for each project – this can be an exhibition, a projection, an installation… or a book. It is the last step to give a project a shape, and not only in terms of editing and sequencing. The materials you use, the size, papers, binding, cover, all these things shape your project. Finding a “language” for every project was the idea for making photobooks from the very beginning.
HI: How do you choose/discover photographers for your publishing projects?
D: We travel a lot for art – to photobook fairs and photo festivals around the world where me meet people and see works that might resonate with us. The Portfolio review sessions and private mentoring sessions we offer can also be a way to show the work to publishers and curators. Photographers are also welcome to submit their works to our “online portfolio” on the website and just to share their work via e-mail. We usually have no more than 6 Photobook Workshops a year, where we might also get inspired by the project and dummy to turn it into a real photobook. We’ve published this way quite a few photobooks lately and there are more to come.
HI: After mentoring so many photographers, and giving portfolio reviews, what is the most common mistake photographers do?
D: Many photographers tend to be too attached to their work, which really can be limiting in terms of seeing broader possibilities of the work. That’s why feedback is crucial. And openness to consider a fresh approach, too. However, a photographer should try to find a mentor that can really understand or resonate with their work, not just any good professional in photography (since everybody has their own preferences). It shouldn’t be a wide circle of friends either, they are not your real public.
Another thing that happens a lot, is that many photographers come with archival materials, which are not theirs. It isn’t necessarily a mistake, and it can definitely suit a certain project, but we think now there’s an overuse of it, just because it’s easy – you don’t need to do it yourself.
HI: What is, in your experience, the best way for a photographer to be picked up/noticed by a gallery or a publishing house?
D: Being active in general, we’d say could be one of the best ways to be noticed by a gallery or a publisher. Being part of the community, visiting talks, festivals, communicating with people from the field, getting feedback on your work through portfolio reviews and workshops, researching the field is by all means helpful. Many photographers also find it very handy and “effective” to actually present their project in a book format as, firstly, you can easily send it by post to any institution or professional you like and, secondly, it gives the work a certain degree of coherence and also shows a potential curator or publisher a vision on how the work can be presented. Not every project actually needs to end up as an exhibition or – similarly – as a book! Or there are projects that work much better in the book format and worse as an exhibition.
It is also important to pay attention that your work should suit the gallery or publisher you want to work with. Not being exactly the same (because we don’t want to publish twice the same project), but speaking a similar language to what we [the publisher] published before. It means that we have a public for your project, while also showing that you care about who you want to publish or exhibit with. We get so many applications with fashion photography or architecture. It only proves that these photographers never dealt with what we do or took a look at our website. It doesn’t make a good impression.
HI: What advice would you give yourself as a young photographer?
D: Nothing. Or: find what your difficulty is, and find solutions for it. There are too many advisors and too many wisdoms for one’s future out there. Everyone should go their own way. All we can do is guide or help out with what is now.
HI: Your advice to photographers who don’t have access to high quality materials, equipment, or printing?
D: We print books in absolutely different ways: pricey offset and very cheap, for instance Riso printing. It [Riso] is a sort of copyshop type of printing (used mostly in illustration) that can work great with grainy images, adding a certain roughness and freedom to them. It all depends on the project. You don’t necessarily need a fancy design shop to find amazing block paper or cover material, you might find one at the local food market- it happened at a dienacht workshop in Mexico. Calin also very frequently wanders around construction markets and finds cool materials (and much cheaper, as you can imagine, than in a proper design/paper shop). So, just check your attic and local small markets and stores for unexpected treasures!
HI: What are 3 of your favorite photo books ever made?
D: It’s always the last 3 books we bought. Now that would be: Continuum, by Paul Cupido; Sleep Creek, by Dylan Hausthor & Paul Guilmoth; and Widening Circles, by Charlotte Thömmes.
HI: What are 3 favorite books you produced as dienacht?
D: We can’t pick three favorites, each one has a special meaning. But here are two that were turning points for us:
Noctunes by AM Projects was our first big success (and a huge risk). Wild by Ren Hang, since it re-contextualizes the photographers’ photos (and because his photos are just great). And always the last published book, it’s like a newborn baby.
HI: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us that we haven’t asked?
D: Be brave!
HAYP/IN SITU is hosting an online Portfolio Review Session for Photographers working and living in Armenia on April 20, 2020. Limited spaces available. Deadline for application is April 14. Learn more here.
In the fall of 2020 (or pending the subsiding of current travel and socializing restrictions from COVID-19), we are hosting a Photobook Masterclass workshop with dienacht in Yerevan, Armenia.
Our collaboration with dienacht publishing is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Goethe-Centre in Yerevan, and the JHM Foundation.