Publisher’s Spotlight: Yoffy Press
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.
The mission of Yoffy Press is to transform bodies of photographic work into objects of art through an innovative and collaborative approach to photobook publishing. They seek artistic partners who inspire them and projects that amaze them and then leverage their individual strengths to create an elevated, dynamic work of art.
Yoffy Pres values guide everything they do, because they are building something they believe in.
* They seek collaborators who are adventurous, passionate and honest.
* They develop positive partnerships rooted in trust, respect and transparency.
* They operate with a deep sense of pride and integrity.
* They create beautiful objects that marry design to content.
Today photographer Ashley Kauschinger interviews publisher Jennifer Yoffy.
Follow Yoffy Press on Instagram: @yoffypress
You have a varied career from gallerist, to non-profit founder, to book publisher. What inspires your movements through the photo world, and what brought you to book publishing?
I think all of my ventures (or adventures) have been inspired by a desire to do things a different way – by looking at the current landscape, recognizing places or systems that seem unbalanced and are negatively impacting photographers, and trying to think through new solutions. I have a strong desire to level the playing field in ways that will allow artists at all levels of their career to succeed.
I came to publishing in the same way. Many photographers I had relationships with and whose work I really admired were interested in having a book published. They were being approached by publishers who were asking them to pay a lot of money to produce their photobooks, and I wanted to create a publishing model that was more rooted in partnership, even from a financial perspective.
Puberty by Laurence Philomene is a self-portrait project which looks at the intimate and vital process of self-care as a non-binary transgender person undergoing hormonal replacement therapy (HRT). Shot over a period of two years, it combines surreal colors and mundane environments to document daily moments and slow, subtle physical changes occurring during Philomene’s transition. Looking at HRT as a process without a fixed end goal, Puberty challenges viewers to consider identity beyond binaries.
What is your process for selecting artists to publish? What DOs and DONTs do you suggest for photographers aspiring to publish their work?
I don’t have a set process for selecting artists. Sometimes I see work online and reach out to an artist, other times I have an existing relationship with a photographer and want to work with them on a project, and then sometimes I receive a blind submission or a recommendation that really moves me.
Photographers who want to get their work published should do research and look for publishers whose catalog is a good fit – aesthetically, thematically – for their project. Put together a PDF or publishing proposal that shows you’ve thought about how your work would function in book form and what would make it a compelling photobook project. Do not send a “dear sir or madam” email with a link to your website. In order for me to be excited to partner with you and work together for the couple of years it will take to design, produce, sell and promote your book, I want to see that you are intentional and invested.
This Is Bliss by Jon Horvath is a transmedia narrative project investigating the vanishing roadside geography and culture of a rural Idaho town named Bliss. The project considers how mythologies of place and happiness collide, and are frequently confounded, in a location with a complex narrative of booms and busts that reflects the complicated history of American Idealism and Manifest Destiny.
Yoffy’s mission statement mentions an interest in marrying design and content in all of its titles. What does this mean to you in the design process? How do the limitations of book publishing (here meaning more mass produced, non handmade objects) inhibit or enhance this process?
It’s important to me that all the photobooks I take on feel like they are uniquely concepted for the book form. I believe the way a person experiences a body of work on the wall should be different than the way they experience it as a photobook. With thoughtful, intentional edit and design choices, a photographic project can be elevated and expanded in book form, and I love that challenge.
Tell us about an upcoming title you are excited about, and how it came about.
First, I’m excited about all of my upcoming titles. Like, out of my mind excited. Each project feels like bringing a new baby into the world, and holding the finished product in my hands is the ultimate love. But to pick one. . . Jon Horvath’s This Is Bliss is very top of mind. I have been following this project for years and talking to Jon for nearly as long about wanting to publish it, and we’re finally close to the finish line. This project is also the second book I’ve co-published with Hans Gremmen and Fw:Books. Hans is a genius, and I get so much personal fulfillment being on the sideline during his design process and seeing how a project comes together in his mind. It’s endlessly fascinating and inspiring.
Wilderness of Mirrors by Chase Barnes is a photographic survey of an emergent cybernetic landscape. Shot in a variety of locations– ranging from the political spectacle of Washington D.C. to the National Radio Quiet Zone in rural West Virginia– the project visualizes contemporary mechanisms of control that employ technology, anxiety, and images as a means to destabilize and restructure belief.
Yoffy has a series of triptych books that bring together three artists under the banner of one theme. What inspired this idea and what do you think is gained by bringing three voices together?
I love collaboration, and I wanted to extend that beyond just the artist-publisher collaboration. I was at Offprint during Paris Photo several years ago, right before I officially started Yoffy Press, and I saw a lot of really interesting multi-artist book projects from international publishers that inspired me to develop the Triptych series. It has been such a gift to watch three artists – some who have long-standing artistic relationships and some who have never met or worked together before – inspire and push each other in this unique way.
Caress is part of Yoffy Press’ Triptych series and features Elinor Carucci, David Hilliard, and Mickalene Thomas. In each Triptych, three artists are given a word to inspire the creation of a small book of work. The books are sold as a set, inviting the viewer into the collaboration to make connections between the projects and the overarching theme.
In the tradition of your podcast, Perfect Bound, what is your biggest wrong turn and what did you learn from it? And what has been the best decision you have made for Yoffy?
Hahaha. Love this. I think my biggest wrong turn was not trusting myself enough in the beginning of my career and not setting enough boundaries for myself. I’m not going to get more specific than that, but I learned the importance of trusting my instincts, taking risks, and surrounding myself with warm, generous, and honest people. The best decision I’ve made was creating Yoffy Press and its business model in a way that is aligned with my personal values and running all of my decisions through a values-based filter.
Holding Time by Catherine Penebianco is a visual conversation between Panebianco and her dad. Every Christmas her father would pull out the same box of slides he has made in his late teens and early 20s and project them on the living room wall – making the family view them and hear the same stories over and over. By placing the slides in her current landscape, she creates not only a connection between his life and hers, but also a trail of memories, each with its own association for both of them.
Ashley Kauschinger is an artist that explores identity. She received her BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and her MFA from Texas Woman’s University. Her photographs have been exhibited and published internationally. Her work is in the collections of Vanderbilt University and the Sir Elton John Collection.
Ashley is also a curator, editor, and community member. Projects include being a frequent guest contributor on Lenscratch, an invited curator at The Light Factory, and founding the online photography mag Light Leaked.
Ashley previously taught photography at the University of South Carolina and Maine Media Workshops + College. She currently lives and works in Atlanta, GA.
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