Publisher’s Spotlight: Deadbeat Club
This month is all about books on Lenscratch. In order to understand the contemporary photo book landscape, we are interviewing and celebrating significant photography book publishers, large and small, who are elevating photographs on the page through design and unique presentation. We are so grateful for the time and energies these publishers have extended to share their perspectives, missions, and most importantly, their books.
Established in 2011 by Clint Woodside, Deadbeat Club is an independent publishing group & coffee roaster located in Los Angeles, California. Rooted in contemporary photography, their ethos on small run, limited edition publications carries into their small batch signature blend coffees.
Each Deadbeat Club project is selected with the expectation of collaboration and a longstanding partnership. Working closely with photographers and artists around the world, making sure their original vision is never compromised, they produce a body of work that they are proud to share with their community.
Their extension into coffee is another way to facilitate community and enhance the photobook experience. Each bean is chosen for taste as well as its positive impact on the local farm community, with quality & traceability at the forefront. Roasted without natural gas and without harmful emissions, they aim to make a positive impact with a good cup of coffee that feels good to purchase.
I have a few friends who have had great experiences publishing work with Deadbeat Club and I am happy to speak with Clint and get to know this local LA publisher. There is nothing better than a good cup of coffee to go along with a good book. – Tracy L Chandler
Today photographer Tracy L. Chandler interviews publisher Clint Woodside.
Follow Deadbeat Club on Instagram: @deadbeatclub
Deadbeat Club started out by making a bunch of zines for myself and friends. What I learned is that making zines with my friends as an adult is still just as fun as it was when I was a kid growing up in the hardcore scene. I also learned that a project like that can really help wrap your head around a potentially bigger body of work. There is something special about making “a thing” that is coming from a personal place, and sharing it with someone. We have always tried to hold on to that feeling with what we do.
What is your mission as a publisher?
As an independent publisher (and photobook collector), we really value small run, limited edition publications that are attainable, yet still feel special. And we’ve also brought that same thinking into our coffee roasting. In simple terms, we just want to make good stuff, bring people together, over books or coffee or both, and give them something they can engage with, appreciate and share.
How big is your organization?
As far as operations, we’re just two people – my wife Alex and me. Our unofficial third man is Nelson Chan, whom you may have noticed is often thanked in our books as Production Consultant. BUT, we really think of Deadbeat Club as a community and that informs a lot of decisions we make. We are constantly checking in with trusted friends – photographers, publishers, printers, book shop & gallery owners, coffee lovers, followers – and we try to keep things fresh and interesting for them. That said, we’re hoping to grow operations in the near future with a physical space for community, at which point we’ll certainly need to hire help!
What are the difficulties that publishers face?
Well, I don’t know if you have seen our tote bags or shirts … our unofficial slogan here at Deadbeat Club is “There’s no money in books”, so that’s a big one. And COVID has thrown a wrench into pretty much everything. I think everyone is dealing with supply chain issues, production backlogs, shipping challenges… Specific to Deadbeat Club, and even in the “before times”, our main challenge is taking a body of work and the artist’s vision, and translating that into book form. It’s a fun challenge, but laboring over editing, paper choice, print details, endsheets, etc… all of that shapes the final work and we want to get it right. Then, it’s often a challenge to get the word out – especially now with the future of book fairs in question. We love showing the books online and the ease of sharing special details through social media, but nothing compares to the experience of holding a book in your hands and flipping the pages, feeling that paper texture, and seeing the print quality – all those small but important decisions that can only truly be appreciated first-hand. Not to mention… the fairs are important to check in with our “audience” or the people who have supported us all this time. I get a pretty big recharge from fairs, and get so excited to make more.
Are there any publishing projects that have been particularly meaningful to you?
They’re all our babies! I really mean that. We are very lucky to work with established artists like Ed & Deanna Templeton, or Todd Hido who have become some of our closest friends since moving to Los Angeles. The trust they have in us to make their projects a finished object, we are very fortunate. At the same time… over the last few years, we have done mostly “first books” for a lot of people, and that’s been amazing. The excitement and drive we get from everyone we work with really is what keeps us moving forward. Now some of those artists, whose first books we published, are already slated for their second book with Deadbeat Club. That’s what this is… a family affair. And really, although each project is special, what ends up being particularly meaningful is the time spent throughout the whole process, especially once a book is finished and we’re able to share it on sort of a victory lap of book fairs and events. We get to travel with our artists-turned-good-friends to cities all over the world, from NYC, to Mexico City, to Tokyo, to Paris, Milan… all in the name of photobooks! We just got home from Paris where we did Polycopies, and on any given night we were at dinner with Vanessa Winship, George Georgiou, Maude Arsenault, Kovi Konowiecki, eating the best food, drinking beautiful wines, having a wonderful time and just constantly pinching ourselves.
What upcoming projects are you excited about?
We just delivered a new book by Jake Reinhart. I have known Jake for a long time, he used to send me his zines and I was always excited about his energy, eventually we did a zine with him, and I think it helped get his name out to a larger audience… and now here we are releasing his first book “Laurel Mountain Laurel”. This beautiful project is one part love letter to his home in Western PA where he was born, raised, and still lives, and one part wake up call to the damage caused by rampant capitalism in America, especially the industrial towns Jake and I are both from… but really, beyond.
In the coming months/ this year… we have work coming from artists like Vanessa Winship, Bryan Schutmaat, Alejandro Cartagena, Roger Richardson, Ave Pildas, Maude Arsenault, Ian Bates, Patrick O’Dell and plenty more… Will it all come out this year, I hope… but when its ready its ready.
We are putting on the finishing touches now, and will be shipping it out over the next week. I love shipping week… ha!
How many books do you publish a year, and how do you choose which projects to publish? Do you have a specific focus?
We don’t have a formula in any way. We generally average a handful of books annually, but each book is ready when it’s good and ready! In a single year we may publish books we’ve been working on for months, alongside a book we’ve been working on for years. We focus on projects that speak to us, that we feel we can execute in a way the work deserves, and that feel good and important for our community to engage with.
How can an artist get their work in front of you? Do you have any advice for photographers?
Email us! There’s a contact form on the site and you can submit work through there. And given that it’s just Alex and me receiving emails, we see every submission. Unfortunately, we don’t always have time to reply to each one, but we try! And if it seems like a fit, we’ll definitely reach out. The advice I often give to photographers is, “Prove it.” If you think your project is a book, don’t just submit a stack of photos; make an initial edit and prove it. What is your point of view and what are you trying to communicate to your audience? Then we can go back and comb through that stack of photos and see if there is even more we can use to help fortify your point of view.
What is the typical timeline of a project, from the beginning to the finished product?
I don’t know how to answer this without saying that it depends. That’s not a cop out; it just really depends. We recently did a zine with Michael Jang and from the time he reached out, up to delivery of the finished object, the whole timeline was a matter of weeks! We were just on the same page from the start so it was a really smooth and easy process – he loved the initial edit I put together, even including the placeholder title “A Funny Thing Happened On My Way To The Noodle Bar”! At the same time we also released “And in its place, another” from Kovi Konowiecki, and we initially met on that project back in late 2018. Some books just take more time than others, and that’s ok. Like I said before and have said many times, each book is ready when it’s good and ready.
How collaborative is the design process with the artist?
Very. There’s so much trust on each side of the table and we need to be able to work with each other. There are often decisions that need to be made, meeting in the middle, and we work closely with the artist to be sure that the work isn’t compromised. In the end, we both need to be happy and proud of the finished book. I have been known for my frank critiques, and sometimes it can come off hard on the work, but everyone that knows me knows that it’s because we are all trying to get the best outcome for a body of work… and sometimes you have to cut something that really doesn’t belong. But again… if they feel different, this is when I ask the artist to “prove it”… and I love it when I am wrong; it’s such a learning experience.
How is the financial side of the project structured between publisher and artist? Does the artist contribute to production cost?
We take very seriously our responsibility to the artist entrusting us with their work, and in turn, we also have enough faith in them and in the work itself to put our money where our mouth is. We generally ask for finished scans/files and oftentimes the artist already has those made. If not, they handle that and we take it from there.
What support do you give artists in terms of marketing or distribution? Do you attend book fairs?
All of it. We are currently our main distribution channel. As you know by now, we live for the book fairs and participate as much as possible. We tap our gallery and bookshop connections to set up shows, book signings, press, podcasts… whatever we can organize to help get the word out.
Is there anything else you want to tell us about?
If anyone has the inside track on retail properties in LA, we are looking! We are on the hunt for a community space centered around coffee & photobooks and the sooner the better.
Tracy L Chandler is a photographic artist based in Los Angeles, CA. Her work explores peripheral communities and her own personal story reflected through portraiture and narrative. Her photographs address themes of memory, belonging, seeing, and being seen. Tracy earned her MFA in Photography at the Hartford Art School in 2021 where she was awarded the Mary Frey Book Grant. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and institutions in the United States and abroad.
Follow Tracy on Instagram: @tracylchandler
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