Publisher’s Spotlight: Disko Bay
These past months we have been focusing on 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.
Disko Bay is an independent photobook publishing house based in Copenhagen, Denmark. They focus on talented photographers and Fine Art photography and are dedicated to exploring the possibilities of photography on paper. Disko Bay works closely together with photographers, designers and print makers to curate and craft unique books in very limited print runs. Our aim is to promote Danish photographers on the international scene of photography and in the world of photobooks. Disko Bay was founded in 2018 by Stinus Duch as the first publisher in Denmark to focus exclusively on photobooks. Aline Smithson is in conversation with founder, Stinus Duch.
Follow Disko Bay on Instagram: @disko_bay_books
Follow Stinus Duch on Instagram: @stinusduch
Stinus Duch: The first book I published was Drenge. Frederik Danielsen the photographer had just finished a photographic pre-school in Copenhagen and was only 21 at the time, and I had just started thinking about starting my own publishing house. We met through my friend Jacob from Spine Studio who kept pushing me to follow my publishing dream, and here was this young guy with a perfect project. I just went for it! Frederik and I met and I instantly fell in love with the project. Frederik had followed these young kids from his home island Als watching them grow up from boys to young men. The project had so much love in it and was just made to be a book.
What is your mission as a publisher?
First off, it is to make up for all the years we have been lacking a photobook publishing house in Denmark. There are so many talented artists here with amazing book projects just waiting to see the light of day. Second it is to facilitate the creation of these beautiful and unique works of art and to tell stories, intrigue and wonder. I have been smitten with the photobook bug bad and I can’t seem to find anything else I want to spend my time with… maybe my daughter and girlfriend, but that’s it!
How big is your organization?
It is mostly a one-man operation, but I get a lot of help from the people around me. I had an assistant for a year who still helps out from time to time and I work closely together with designers, usually my great friends over at Spine Studio, and the printmakers at Narayana Press to make everything come to life.
What are the difficulties that publishers face?
That’s a tough question because there are many difficulties you can beat yourself with, but there are also opening up new possibilities all the time. It’s expensive to produce books (now more than ever, with the paper prices skyrocketing), it’s hard to reach an audience etc. etc. But things are moving in the world of photobooks, especially international, where there’s a public around it – festivals, awards, buyers, and collectors. In Denmark, we are lacking some of these initiatives. And Instagram is wonderful tool for inspiration, and for us to show our work. Difficulties shift. Right now, it’s paper prices. Last year it was Covid, sometimes it’s money or time or both. Buy most of the time it’s god damn fun to make books and rewarding (not in terms of profit), giving and heartbreaking.
Are there any publishing projects that have been particularly meaningful to you?
Every project I make still feels new and exciting and very meaningful. The last project that I felt for personally must be Siggie, a small polaroid book by Lisbet Nielsen we did last year. When I saw the images for the first time my girlfriend was pregnant with our daughter and the images just hit me. There was a sensibility and connection in the work that I haven’t felt before. I was also vey excited about Unprofessional by Matilde Søes Rasmussen. The book just landed such a great place and felt so complete when we released it. It was a joy to see it flourish out in the book world. And when we got nominated for the Arles Photo-Text Book Award we were so happy and honored and stoked. It was a first for all of us. It really meant a lot.
What upcoming projects are you excited about?
Difficult question because I get excited about all the projects. I am however looking very much forward to working with Ditte Haarløv Johnsen on realizing her 20-yearlong project Maputo Diary an intimate documentary diary from the Mozambican capital and André Viking’s personal family project Hallo “Soul Mate”. Both are hopefully (fingers crossed) coming out later this year. And of cause the book we are working on right now, Keepers of the Ocean – a sequel to Flesh by Inuuteq Storch, with images from his hometown Sisimiut in Greenland.
How many books do you publish a year, and how do you choose which projects to publish? Do you have a specific focus?
It is very difficult for me to know how many books I end up publishing a year. I usually count on four but sometimes we are delayed and a project takes longer time to finish and we end up postponing. I will not finish a book in a hurry just because of a stupid deadline. The book editing process is so delicate and sensitive and you cannot rush it. I find project a lot of places. Right now, my focus is on Danish photography and on pulling all these amazing projects out in the light. Usually people come by my studio and show their work and we take it from there.
How can an artist get their work in front of you? Do you have any advice for photographers? • What is the typical timeline of a project, from the beginning to the finished product?
As mentioned before I have a specific focus on Danish photography right now, so that limits the field a bit. I don’t have an open call or submission process but if I find a project interesting I usually invite people over for a meeting. If you would like to get your book published make a PDF with a selection of images, make a dummy and a short and on point text about the project and start sending it out to publishers and ask if they would look at it. I have a scary long timeline from the beginning to the finished product. Usually a couple of years. That’s one of the things I would like to speed up a bit. But it’s difficult being a one-man band.
How collaborative is the design process with the artist?
I work very close with the artist and designer in the design process. Our latest book ‘The Vulgarity of Being Three-Dimensional’ by Tine Bek was a dream project in that regard. We tried out so many different things and the book ended up a place that none of us would have been able to go alone. I loved working on this book because the process was so playful, intuitive and hands on.
How is the financial side of the project structured between publisher and artist? Does the artist contribute to production cost?
One of the reason a project takes so long is because we are depended on funding for the production cost. Sometimes the artist has a grant or other funds they contribute with but it’s no requirement at all.
What support do you give artists in terms of marketing or distribution? Do you attend book fairs?
I support my artists as much as I can. We work with two amazing distribution companies Idea Books in Amsterdam and Citizen Edition in New York and we also attend book fairs every year, always Polycopies in Paris during Paris Photo and sometimes Unseen, Arles or others. Book fairs is a great way to show your books to a large crowd in a few days. We are also doing artist talks, events and workshop from time to time. I will never forget Mathias’ (Unsettled City) face when he met his idol Krass Clement at a talk between the two in Copenhagen. An experience for life.
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