Publisher’s Spotlight: Trespasser Books
The past weeks have been 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.
Trespasser is a Texas-based independent art book publisher.
Trespasser is a Texas-based independent art book publisher run by Bryan Schutmaat, Matthew Genitempo, and Cody Haltom. Bryan and Matthew are both graduates of the Hartford Art School MFA program where I recently finished my own graduate work. Throughout the course, I have found both of them to be generous with sharing their work, experience, and feedback with up-and-coming students and I am pleased to share more about their process in making Trespasser Books come to life. Having both published their photography through more established publishers, their small press is an example of how to take the reins into your own hands. – Tracy L. Chandler
Today, photographer Tracy L. Chandler interviews Bryan Schutmaat and Matthew Genitempo.
Follow Trespasser on Instagram: @tresspasserbooks
What was the first book you published, and what did you learn from that experience?
The first book we published was Good Goddamn by Bryan Schutmaat. It’s a short book, almost more like a really nice zine than a proper book. We decided we wanted to do more concise and unique books rather than get into doing proper linen-bound monographs. Plenty of publishers do that well and we’re interested in something a little different. However, that may change in the future. We have learned quite a bit from every book we’ve published. There’s always something unaccounted for or unexpected and as hectic as those events may seem, they’re ultimately a learning experience.
What is your mission as a publisher?
I can’t say that we have a mission. To be honest, we aren’t particularly enterprising. We just want to put out a couple books a year and show people great photography in beautifully edited and designed books.
How big is your organization?
There are just three of us, Bryan Schutmaat, Cody Haltom, and Matthew Genitempo. We share duties in many aspects of the business, but Cody handles design in large part.
What are the difficulties that publishers face?
The cost of printing is a big concern. Even with books that sell relatively well, it’s hard to profit. The price of domestic production makes profiting nearly impossible, so we often work with printers overseas. The time difference and the days it takes to receive proofs, samples, etc makes things really lag. On top of that, finding the right materials can be difficult when you’re working overseas. Cody may choose a certain stock of paper that may not be available to the printer and adjustments have to be made. We’ve learned to embrace it and just understand that the books will continue to adapt throughout the entire process.
Are there any publishing projects that have been particularly meaningful to you?
We love them all the same.
What upcoming projects are you excited about?
We have forthcoming debut books by Abigail Varney and Agnieszka Sosnowska. Both are going to be fantastic!
How many books do you publish a year, and how do you choose which projects to publish? Do you have a specific focus?
We’ve only put out a handful of books since we began, and they’ve been released really intermittently, but it averages to about a book per year. In 2022, however, we’ll have at least three titles come out. We don’t have any specific focus, though we tend to work with photographers who haven’t been published before. We’re not aiming to work with the huge names in photography. We like bringing light to new voices and keep our editions manageable.
How can an artist get their work in front of you? Do you have any advice for photographers?
We’ve mainly published our friends, but don’t think getting a book published requires those relationships or networking. All I can say is make great work. If the work is great then it’ll be published and there’s really no professional advice you can give that can compensate for accomplished work and the hours put in.
What is the typical timeline of a project, from the beginning to the finished product?
This varies far too much to say! We’ve recently had to become comfortable with not having hard deadlines. From editing, printing, shipping, etc. there’s a lot of hands involved and there’s inevitably going to be some unexpected things during the process that can slow it down. We just want to make sure it’s done right.
How collaborative is the design process with the artist?
The artist is involved every step of the way, but we have really strong opinions about design. There are so many ways to ruin a book with poor design choices and we try to steer clear of them. We also prefer to sequence the book in person with the artist. This is actually our favorite part of the entire book making process. It helps for everyone to spend a couple days in front of all of the pictures and just slowly put the puzzle together.
How is the financial side of the project structured between publisher and artist? Does the artist contribute to production cost?
Artists have funded their books in the past. They’re reimbursed as soon as the money comes in, and profits are shared. We’re aiming to transition to a model in which artists pay nothing.
What support do you give artists in terms of marketing or distribution? Do you attend book fairs?
We haven’t done book fairs because our books so far have sold out somewhat quickly and we wouldn’t have inventory to put on the table. But fairs are something we’ll probably do in the future. Otherwise, it’s just social media promotion. Despite how annoying instagram can be, it has a huge reach which is helpful. We also reach out to independent bookshops for wholesale orders. We depend on bookshops massively.
Is there anything else you want to tell us about?
I just want to emphasize that not every book needs a publisher and self-publishing is a completely valid and legitimate way to make a book. If you believe in the work and you want to see your book realized, then go make it. If you don’t know how to do something, reach out. The photobook community is surprisingly small and there are plenty of helping hands.
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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