Jeff ‘Errata Editions’ Ladd interview – Part Two

Errata Editions – http://www.errataeditions.com/ – was founded in 2008 by Valerie Sonnenthal (Publisher), Jeffrey Ladd (Creative Director) and Ed Grazda (Editorial Director).

The Errata Editions books have been donated to the ICP Library by Frank Arisman.

Series 3 – Books on Books #9-12 -Published Spring 2011
#9 Paul Graham – Beyond Caring                                                   TR145.G732 2011
#10 Zdenek Tmej – Abeceda Dusevniho Prazdna                        TR145.T541 2011
#11 Alexey Brodovitch – Ballet                                                        TR145.B761 2011
#12 Laszlo Moholy-Nagy – 60 Fotos                                               TR145.M65 2011

MC: The books in your series will never be reprinted in their original form due to the restrictions of the photographers themselves – So do you have to obtain some kind of a waiver from the photographer or foundation or the rights holder?

JL: Of course. I am a strong believer in the issue of copyright and that copyright should be upheld. I go through great lengths to clear all copyrights with the interested parties. That is not limited to the photography either but also extends to any original texts which might have been in the original. Any given book might have two or three rights issues that need to be cleared.

MC: Have you had any major problems with copyright so far?

JL: So far I can proudly say that I have had only two artists turn me down; one because they were thinking of doing a regular reprint, and the other required more of a royalty to do the book than we could afford.

MC: How do you choose which books to produce? Obviously, some photographers are bigger names than others and therefore will sell better than others – does this influence your choices at all?

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JL: In each set of four books I try to feature two books we can relatively depend upon to sell well and two that we figure will need to build a reception. I am not always the best guesser as to which is which but so far we haven’t gone bankrupt.

MC: Are your sales expanding or contracting at present?

JL: Obviously the recent economic downturn has affected sales but I notice that mostly with the limited edition sets we sell directly.

MC: Do you blokes have contracts with your contributors?

JL: We have a basic one page agreement that is fairly transparent and straight forward. We pay our royalties upfront as an advance.

MC: What will be the impact of electronic storage of books and information (images)?

JL: One question I received most often after I stared the series was “why not just digitize the books and put them online?” I understand in this day and age of digitizing everything the desire for ease and convenience but from my discussion of this topic with the living photographers I am working with, almost none of them are interested in digitizing their books. So the assumption that it would be easy to do (“just scan it”) is incorrect.

The second part of this issue gets to the question of what business model to follow? There simply isn’t one. Once you offer, say, a downloadable book as a PDF for instance through a pay site, you cannot control illegal distribution that is sure to take place. Look at the music industry and what happened as soon as music was digitized. We are a book business. If you want our content, you’re going to have to buy a book. It is the only way we can sustain the costs of what we are doing which extend far beyond the printing costs.

MC: Is the book a better medium for showing photographic work than the gallery?

JL:  “Better” is a tricky word so I would say “preferable” in my opinion. I love the relationship I have to books. They are at arms reach, I can sit with one, I can enjoy it at my own pace without external distractions. I feel the institution surrounding me when I go to museums or galleries. There is a different hierarchy present which makes itself felt. There are guards to protect it from you, the work is hanging at eye level and thus deemed “important” whether you respect it or not. I find those environments weigh on my perceptions much more than a book in my lap. It is a comfort level that I have grown accustomed to with books that make them the preferable medium. That said, Jeff Wall or Andreas Gursky don’t really work in books so it is not for every kind of work.

The New Series

MC: Will the books always come in a four book series?

JL: We can afford to do four books a year right now. I am not sure if this will change because to do more would be twice the work and I am not sure I could handle that will all of my other personal concerns (photographing and writing).

MC: What is your favourite from the new series?

JL: I like them all of course but I was very happy to feature both Ballet and the Zdenek Tmej book The Alphabet of Spiritual Emptiness. Both of those are nearly impossible to get a hold of a copy until now.

MC: Is there a pattern to the books you select?

JL: It is my hope that the series will reflect the rich diversity of the photographic book considering practice, ethnicity and gender. That is my goal but easier said than done. For instance, I have been having trouble in finding equal measure of books by women to feature. Many of the great ones are still in print, have been reprinted, or, in the case of some, are still available fairly cheaply.

MC: Is the decision making a group effort or is it an autocratic Jeff Ladd decision?

JL: Errata Editions is three people so we discuss everything. That said, since I am inquiring about the permissions, figuring out which books will “work” in the series, and doing the planning it winds up that many of the choices fall on me.

MC: Do you have big arguments/discussions long into the night when you make the selections?

JL: Not arguments but we do have clearly different tastes when it comes to books. Ed Grazda has a huge interest in Latin American and political books from the 60s so his choices are important but at the same time, every suggestion needs to be carefully considered so as not to risk the project economically.

MC (Big question): Can you discuss the blogosphere in relation to photobook culture – you write about books, as well as publish them. This is outside any traditional venues of journalism or institutions – can you discuss the particularities of the internet and its accessibility in its relation to book culture? Also the audience it engages? [As an avid reader of your blog I am often shocked by some of the comments – they really do get out of hand at times – I don’t quite understand the venom or fury as it’s such an even-tempered site. Your selections are always spot-on and what you say is always an interesting read even if I don’t always totally agree with it. I can only put it down to jealousy – some folks are such dicks].

JL: I started trying to write about photobooks on my blog 5B4 Photography and Books simply to understand my obsession with them and what they mean to me. I had never written before and it was a way for me to exercise my mind when I wasn’t photographing.

As for the comments and tempers, it is a forum for anonymous people to express what they wish (although controlled by me through moderation). People can be very cynical when it comes to digesting someone else’s opinion especially if the forum is rather popular. I have been accused of favoritism towards friends or of “promoting” what some might think to be sub-par books because they were sent to me, etc. The fact is that I have pissed off most of my photographer friends because I DON’T feature their books on my site. That is why I have mostly stopped excepting free books from people unless I really think there is a good chance I will like the book. I don’t like feeling obligated and I certainly don’t like feeling bad if the book doesn’t appeal to me. I simply feature books that I like for whatever reason.

MC: What does the future have in store for errata? What is next?

JL: We will be continuing the series for as long as we can. Presently we are taking the next step in the project by trying to obtain a 501 (c) 3 status. The idea is that through tax deductible donations and opening us up to grant funding opportunities we can create an arm of Errata which distributes books for free to libraries and other institutions, schools, which do not have the budgets to buy our books. I think it is important to get Errata books out of the “photobook” world and into the hands of a larger audience interested in learning aspects of history through photography and photobooks. When we do books like Koen Wessing’s Chili September 1973, or David Goldblatt’s In Boksburg, it confirms to me that this series could be seen in that larger context.

MC: What would be your dream for Errata Editions in the ideal world?

JL: That small publishers, independent bookshops and printing presses can survive and prosper. I don’t think we need to mediate our lives through turning everything tangible into ones and zeros. For me, the book form is not dead nor is it broken. My ideal world recognizes the simple beauty in the gesture of a turning page.

Series 1 – Books on Books
#1 Eugene Atget – Photographe de Paris                   TR145. A83 2008
#2 Walker Evans – American Photographs               TR145.E93 2008
#3 Sophie Ristelhueber – Fait                                      TR145.R57 2008
#4 Chris Killip – In Flagrante                                       TR145.K55 2008

Series 2 – Books on Books
#5 William Klein – Life is Good…New York!           TR145 .K54 2010
#6 Yutaka Takanashi – Toshi-e                                   TR145 . T351 2010
#7 David Goldblatt – In Boksburg                              TR145 .G651 2010
#8 Koen Wessing – Chili September 1973                TR145 .W471 2010

Series 3 – Books on Books
#9 Paul Graham – Beyond Caring                                                   TR145.G732 2011
#10 Zdenek Tmej – Abeceda Dusevniho Prazdna                        TR145.T541 2011
#11 Alexey Brodovitch – Ballet                                                        TR145.B761 2011
#12 Laszlo Moholy-Nagy – 60 Fotos                                               TR145.M65 2011

About matthew carson

Librarian & Archivist at the International Center of Photography
This entry was posted in Interviews, New Acquisitions, Unpacking the collection and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Jeff ‘Errata Editions’ Ladd interview – Part Two

  1. Robert Blake says:

    Bravo! Elegant and a gift to enthusiasts and professionals alike. Errata reverses the extinction of audiences for important contemporary reflection of obscure or out of print marvelous works. I applaud the care and effort required.

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