Publisher’s Spotlight: Radius Books
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.
Radius Books encourages, promotes, and publishes books of artistic and cultural value for a wide audience. Their projects are distinguished in both form and substance: beautiful objects by important artists of all ranks. Through their publication, education, and donation programs, Radius Books creates and promotes an ongoing dialogue among writers, thinkers, and artists. Since their founding in 2007, they have gifted over 75,000 thoughtfully crafted books to libraries, schools, and art programs across the US through their Donation Program.
Today, photographer Lisa McCarty interviews David Chickey.
Follow Radius Books on Instagram: @radius.books
What is your mission as a publisher?
It has always been our primary mission to make sure that art books remain meaningful, relevant, and accessible. A big part of that mission is working very directly with the artists/writers/editors/curators in a collaborative way to create books as reflective of their visions as possible. Through our donation program, we make sure that over 300 underfunded libraries, schools, and arts organizations receive free copies of every book we publish. We also try to keep the price points well below industry standards, to ensure as many people as possible can afford to buy the books.
How big is your organization?
We have five full-time employees and a host of wonderful volunteers. We also work with a local community college to have at least one paid intern per semester.
What was the first book you published, and what did you learn from that experience?
During our first year, Radius published four books including:
Otto Donald Rogers
Johnnie Winona Ross
Judy Tuwaletstiwa: Mapping Water
Mark Klett: Saguaros
Are there any publishing projects that have been particular meaningful to you?
That’s like asking a parent who their favorite child is—which is an impossible question to answer. We spend a lot of time crafting every book, often over multiple years, and at the end of that process, they all feel really meaningful.
What upcoming projects are you excited about?
2022 promises to be an incredible year for Radius. We have new photo-based books coming up from Binh Danh, Meghann Riepenhoff, David Goldes, Barbara Bosworth, Richard Misrach, Wendy Red Star, and newcomer Céline Bodin.
How many books do you publish a year, and how do you choose which projects to publish? Do you have a specific focus?
We aim to publish between 15-20 books each year.
What is the typical timeline of a project, from the beginning to the finished product?
It varies wildly. Some projects can take many years to come together, while others can be completed in less than a year. This totally depends on the scope of the project and the components (essays, chronology, etc.)
How collaborative is the design process with the artist?
100% collaborative. As a designer and publisher, my role is to amplify the artist’s voice and vision. Whenever possible, the artist comes to Santa Fe for an in-person design visit. During that time we go through image selection, design, sequencing, binding, jacket/cover decisions, etc. We love our artists and do everything we can to make sure they are 100% invested in their project and its outcome.
How is the financial side of the project structured between publisher and artist? Does the artist contribute to production cost?
Since we are a nonprofit, every project is independently funded. Some have foundation or grant support from a university or other institution; some have collectors who wish to support their project; some create limited editions that we sell through our website and at art fairs. Each project is unique in terms of fundraising.
What support do you give artists in terms of marketing or distribution? Do you attend book fairs?
We work closely with the artists to help market their books, including mailing out press copies, organizing signings or Zoom talks, and making sure their books are available directly through us. We are also distributed globally by DAP/Artbook. We attend Paris Photo every year, and other smaller fairs on occasion.
What are the difficulties publishers face?
Where to begin? Sometimes it can seem like an uphill battle—from fundraising to skyrocketing shipping costs—but at the end of the day I am always grateful that I get to spend the majority of my time working with incredible artists, writers, and benefactors.
How can an artist get their work in front of you? Do you have any advice for photographers?
We have a page on our website that provides all the necessary information for people who would like to submit their work for our consideration. Our Board of Directors has a Publishing Committee that meets 6-8 times a year, and then we narrow down our selection from those meetings. We select projects on a rolling basis; we are now accepting proposals for 2023 and beyond.
What advice would you give to a photographer who is working on their first book?
Believe in your work and stay focused. Some of the artists we have published have spent many years looking for the right publisher. And the world of photobook publishing is changing radically — in good ways. For example, there are some new smaller publishers making incredible work, and self-publishing has become a way more viable option for artists looking to create their first project.
Lisa McCarty is an artist and writer based in Dallas, Texas where she is Assistant Professor of Photography at Southern Methodist University. McCarty has exhibited her photographs, books, and videos in over 80 exhibitions and screenings at venues including: Alchemy Film & Moving Image Festival, Amherst College, Cape Cod Museum of Art, Cassilhaus, Colorado Photographic Arts Center, Fruitlands Museum, Houston Center for Photography, Internationale Photoszene Köln, McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, Mimesis Documentary Film Festival, the Nasher Museum of Art, Noorderlicht Photo Festival, the New York Film Festival, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Visual Studies Workshop. Her books include Transcendental Concord (Radius Books), The Arboretum Aphorisms of Nathaniel Dorsky (San Francisco Cinematheque), & A Time of Youth: San Francisco, 1966-1967 by William Gedney (Duke University Press).
Follow Lisa McCarty on Instagram: @insta.lisa.mccarty
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