Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reactions to an evolving thread

Wow! Trent Parke has a new book? I've gotta check it out. [Click the link and...] Hmmm, only a few spreads from the book are shown online. I don't know. It looks sort of strange. It definitely isn't street photography. Not sure what it is exactly, more of a photo fairy tale. On the other hand, it is Trent Parke and it is fairly cheap. Hmmm, I don't know. Gotta think about it.

All these people are ordering the thing sight unseen? Do they know something I don't? Hard to believe they like it that much just based on what's online.

Hmm. At this rate he's probably right. I should just order the thing. What's eighteen bucks? [Click the link, load LBM's order page and...] Nah, I just can't do it. If I saw this book in the kid's section at a bookstore and it wasn't by Trent Parke, would I buy it? Probably not. Is it just the name on the cover then? Is that it? If so, that's like buying a handbag just because it's covered with LVs. Incredibly decadent. I suppose it's like buying stock in Parke and Soth. Good investment probably, but still...Gotta think about it.

Blind faith. But isn't that how the art market works? Maybe that's why I'm reluctant. This just seems so frothy and speculative, just like the art market in general. Are people even reacting to what's in the book or just buying it on the chance it will be collectible?

There's someone who's honest about his reasons.

That settles it. Definitely not buying it.

This is a friggin feeding frenzy. Can't figure it out. Should I post a comment? I'll post a comment.

Do I look like an asshole now? I look like an asshole. Oh well. I wrote from the gut even if it was sanctimonious. Although I did sort of give the impression I had bought the book. Was that dishonest? I should just buy the thing.

Fuck. Oh well. That makes my decision easy. Now I'm even more curious what it looks like.

Fun? Awful? Doesn't tell me much. Won't someone comment on the book itself instead of various shipping issues?

Does the book even matter? Soth could've sold 1000 paperweights if they had Parke's name on them. Just being spiteful now.

Christ! What is this, a Dot-com IPO or a book of photos? I suppose I shouldn't be so cynical. It's tough to sell 1000 books, so kudos to Soth and Parke for a job well accomplished. Still, the whole situation leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Flipping commodities is just so fucked up on so many levels. Does photography need to get dragged into that world? Or maybe it's always been an inhabitant.

Cynical bastard. Yup, you pegged me.

After selling out in less than 3 days, Trent Parke's Bedknobs and Broomsticks can now be found online at prices ranging from $200 on up. There is a brief review of the book by Tom Leininger in the recent Fraction Magazine 17.

The original unabridged Flickr HCSP thread about the book can be found here.


Rowan said...

I bought this book sight unseen for a couple of reasons. One, I like Parke's work very much and this was an opportunity to own a book by someone whom I admire (and who, let's face it, doesn't release that many books - I read somewhere that this was his first in 10 years).
The second reason that I bought it unseen was that I was fairly confident that if it did turn out to be total dog box, I could simply sell it on and not lose any money.

I like the book - the dreamy imagery is great, especially the spider web. I didn't think it was going to be street - it seemed fairly clear that it wouldn't be.

Just for clarity, that's me up at the top - monkeyfinger.

benrobertsphoto said...

a mildly amusing, but ultimately dissapointing blog post.

shouldn't we be celebrating the fact that people are enthusiastic about photography and innovators like soth and parke, instead of taking cheap potshots at people who are genuinely excited about the work these (and other) photographers are making?

Rowan said...

I would like to say however, that I really wasn't looking at this as an investment opportunity. Knowing that it might be worth some money only makes me want to keep it.

Adam Chidell said...

I have rarely had as visceral a reaction to photography as when I first saw Parke's work. Literally heartbeat-raising, exciting, thrilling, etc...

So yeah, when I saw one of his books for sale at a double-digit price (one I can afford) I jumped at the opportunity.

I am all for cynicism normally, but really believe it's misplaced here.

Also, if some photographers make a quick buck buying these cheap and selling them expensive - so what?

I'm not going to do it myself, but it's not like we're oil traders. Most pro photographers seem to be on the breadline (or thereabouts).

Anonymous said...

I'll admit that I'm not in the loop for current trendy photographers and have never heard of Trent Parke. But I know one thing now, that I will never buy one of his books just out of principle.

John Goldsmith said...

Trent Parke has been a huge inspiration for me. Huge. I've enjoyed nearly everything he has produced. I can say nearly the same for Soth, who is one of today's most creative individuals and I regularly follow his blog and NY Times articles. I like Soth's video productions so I had every reason to believe that I would also like his creative endeavor of teaming with Parke to make a little book.

So, while this is not about the money, why not take a small risk of $18? In contrast, I also bought "10" and "PUBLICATION" mostly sight unseen. Why? Because I know the work of these photographers even if I don't know exactly how it will be produce. And, given, Nick Turpin's thoroughness, I had confidence that I would be buying solid publications. I was not disappointed. . Furthermore, I have made a resolution this year to invest in the ideas and the creative people who inspire me. That's party why I bought "10" and "Bedknobs & Broomsticks."

But like Ben Roberts said, while I find your post mildly amusing, I don't appreciate the cheap shot. I think a bit of faith is in order for me and the HCSP community as we've already done our homework.

In short, many of us know the photos and productions of Parke and Soth, so what could be better than seeing them both the same bed, so to speak?

thechrisproject said...

I buy most of my books sight unseen, based on what I know of the photographer and reviews from people whose taste I trust.

If I lived in a city where I could peruse photography books, I'd probably look at them before buying.

Anonymous said...

There is a general sentiment in the thread that by ordering the book you scored on some sort of easy investment. If you bought the book because you wanted to see the work of a photographer you liked, good on you. If you bought three copies for some sort of quick turnaround, then you're a jerk.

I appreciate Soth for being a good artist, and he's also being a good businessman by limiting the editions. But if you're just buying the work to flip a quick buck, it might be worthwhile to take a good look at your life and really figure out what you're about, and if you like it.

It reminds me of the people who turn up early for garage sales to pick over the best stuff to sell on e-bay. For some reason they always weird me out a little bit. I find them creepy and sad.

Paul Russell said...

I thought the overriding sentiment in that thread was enthusiasm about the availability of any sort of Trent Parke book that people could own. OK, there was a bit of naked greed as well. If anyone is now feeling guilty about having a few copies, feel free to pass on your spare copy to me, as I have none!

Anonymous said...

Cheap or not, the shot seems accurate.

John Goldsmith said...

@Anonymous. While I have no idea who you are, I have a feeling that people who are familiar with HCSP understand that it is made up of passionate individuals who live and breath photography. While that thread may seem accurate to you, it is only a snapshot of the members' desire to embrace new work and interesting projects. For one who admires Trent Parke but does not own any of his books, this was an easy decision for me and I'm guessing others.

And for a reality check: $18 makes for an inexpensive book. So, I don't know what all the hub bub is about.

Incidentally, I used to collect football cards. Did I mention that along with collecting, I also enjoyed the sport? Yeah...

J. Karanka said...

I think it was great to see a photobook selling at the speed of a limited edition Nine Inch Nails EP or similar. I did get a couple because I know people locally who wouldn't have chance to buy one online. And then, if they didn't want them I can always make a killing in ebay.

Arty McFly said...

Does "No brainer. Bought" translate as "Bought by someone with no brain"? ;)

18 dollars might not be much to others, but it is to me. It's about 9 rolls of film for a start. Each to their own. At least someone is making money from their photography.

Phill said...

I bought this book for two reasons.
Firstly, I admire Trent Parke's photography and secondly, I saw this as an affordable way to own some of Trent Parke's work.

Am I glad it's turned into a nice little investment? You betcha.

But for 18 bucks I would have bought it if there were 100,000 printed.

I don't think anyone was under the illusion that this was a street photography book or Dream/Life 2 and LBM were very clear on their site as to the size of this book.

I too like the book. The imagery is beautiful and the almost free verse narrative is fun.

CarlM said...

The preview of the book was sparse, but I ordered on the strength of what was there.
It was good to see a photobook selling quickly, I bet there is a LOT of publishers/photographers who wish they could sell with that ease.
It's also only worth $200+ if you want to sell it!

Blake Andrews said...

I'm sorry if anyone thought I was taking a "cheap shot". My only intention was to write my immediate honest reactions to what I saw. Take it however you want.

I'm sure many people bought the book because they were curious about the photos and many wound up liking their purchase. I think there was also a strain of buyers (maybe bookshops?) looking for an investment opportunity. These were the ones I keyed on in the post. A bit of selective storytelling? Of course.

I'm not sure who anonymous is but it would be great if you and other anonymous posters stepped forward to make this a more informed discussion. I knew I was going to take some heat for this post. I could've done it anonymously. But part of making things interesting is you attach your name to stuff and take your licks.

So, what does anyone who bought the book think of it?

B said...

"shouldn't we be celebrating the fact that people are enthusiastic about photography and innovators like soth and parke"

Of course we should.

But there are also some people who are noy buying the book because they're enthusiastic about photography. They're enthusiastic about seeing their $18 "investment" increase by an order of magnitude within a few weeks/months.

It's not a cheap shot, and it's a good point. At what point does it stop being about the photos. Would a print run of 100,000 have made people more or less enthusiastic.

A. Nonnymuss said...

I was the first anonymous poster in this thread and since I never use my real name online I'll use an alias. I don't know who the 2nd anonymous was but since it seems to bother people might I suggest removing it as an option.

MR PJH said...

I've been reading all the fuss about the book and all I can say is that I bought sight unseen because it's by Trent Parke and he rarely releases anything. All of his previous releases (Dream/Life, Seventh Wave, the Magnum Christmas cards and the small Midnights booklet) have been excellent and luckily I bought all at the original low prices.

To me the equation Parke + Soth = BuyBuyBuy makes sense.

David Solomons said...

I'm going to freely admit that I too got caught up in the buying frenzy as I didn't want to lose out on the opportunity of something that might be great. $18.00 isn't a huge amount of money and I thought it was worth a punt, knowing it was by Trent and it would most likely be very good. Would I buy another one in the series?, probably not but then again I don't think the book was intended to be anything other than what it is, a children's book and a very nice one.

Phill said...

Would a print run of 100,000 have made people more or less enthusiastic.

As I said in my post, I would have definitely bought it if the print run was 100,000.

Collecting photobooks has become of a minor hobby in the last few years and if I can get a book from a photographer I admire for 18 dollars, I'd be kind of foolish not to go for that wouldn't I?

And yes, as I said, I really like it.

The comments over at Flickr about it not being a "street photography" book are ridiculous.

When was Trent Parke ever only a street photographer?

J. Karanka said...

Well, limiting editions does make me think about buying faster. Some books turn up every now and then, but what if they just go at a ridiculous price suddenly? In this sense I previously quickly bought Larry Sultan's & Mike Mandel's Evidence (that I do like) just in case its price might skyrocket after Sultan's death. Imagine how sad! But if I had not bought it then at the discounted amazon price it had at the time, I would have to just not buy the whole thing as it is going now for $185 used.

Hum. Actually, I could sell it and get my money tenfold...

Anyway, sometimes you just have to jump on your sofa and shout 'buy buy buy!'.

Lilly said...

I buy books only for my personal enjoyment and never for investment. I'm finding the increased interest in photo books as an investment to be unfortunate, since it means that there are a lot of great books out there that I'll never be able to see in person. What I don't understand is why Parke would sell it in such limited numbers and so cheaply when he knows it's going to go way up in value and others will make a hefty profit. If he's not interested in making money off of the books, why not do a much larger run so more people can enjoy them?

Anonymous said...

Oh the guy shooting with a leica trying to make me feel bad for $18 I spent on a photo book he has not even seen. But surely mr andrew always buys the right things for the right reasons...

John Goldsmith said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

John G. is right. First of all you're a bully and second since your own photos are lacking You have no right to point fingers at others. I love my Trent Parke book no matter what you say. I won't be reading B again.

John Goldsmith said...

@Blake, For the record, the comment posted by Anonymous (August 8, 2010 5:12 PM) is not me. It is a troll. Please delete this comment as the words are not my own and they are completely untrue. I find your photographs inspiring and I enjoy your blog, just not this post.

Thank you and all the best.

John Goldsmith

Blake Andrews said...

No problem, John. Comment deleted. As if all the anonymous comments weren't strange enough, it's very odd that someone would impersonate you.

H. Arche said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Some over at hcsp are arguing that is post is a little unfair and it is incorrect to point out a whole group as being responsible for buying up the books. I agree with them in part, but i also agree with you. I know of two hcsp admins who bought up four books each. Are they thinking about future price increases? To question there intentions is morally questionable in itself.

I purchased one book and so what if it goes up in price and i can make a quick dollar? Unfortunately as it stands we are all part of a consumerist society and making money is the necessary evil to survive in this world.

hcsp is a group dedicated to improving and exchanging educated views on photography. we are not your normal flickr group - some of us meet in social situations, so it is not pure anonymous posting.

i hope that you can see our point of view and this may shape your future threads in a fairer light for us.

also, soth isn't happy with this post. but so what? i believe in democracy so i'm glad you posted as it raises an interesting discussion. i guess soth has more economic concerns with a post like yours as it may adversely affect future sales of books he plans to publish. it may put people off buying them, or alternatively it may be good for business. time will tell.

keep up the good posts blake. it is always good to see a blogger ruffling a few feathers. well done again.

Peter Lowstein

H.Arche said...

The actual H.Arche speaking-

I did not write the comment above dated Aug. 11, 11:24 pm. It is the work of an identity hijacking troll, and the sentiments expressed are contrary to my own.

Having joined HCSP only three weeks ago, most of the thread in question developed before my time. I knew nothing about Trent Parke's book, and the surrounding issues, until after the fact. I simply don't have a dog in this fight, and haven't followed the discussion at all.

Had someone at HCSP not notified me in a personal message, I would never have ever known that a post was falsely put up in my name.

The troll who did this has very aptly proved his own point by "bullying other photogs who don't agree with (his) point of view."

Blake Andrews said...

Just so no one thinks I'm censoring comments, here are comments I've deleted because they were written under false pseudonyms. I don't know who would write as someone they weren't, or why. It's so absurd it would be hilarious if it didn't defame people. And I actually think the comments are well reasoned. Hey trolls, if you're too embarrassed by your own thoughts to claim ownership of them, why not post as a fictional person next time?

8/8/10 under the name "John Goldsmith‬":
To follow on from my initial comments, I am coming to suspect that your whole post was tongue in cheek as others have pointed out. So, I take back some of my original comments. Having said that, I do think that you underestimate the power of HCSP as a collective whole. We were recently mentioned in the British Journal of Photography and have been named as one of the most prominent forces in the internet photographic community today. So, to disregard us is foolish to say the least. Our opinions have far reaching consequences and can ultimately make or break a young photographer.

I have just looked at your portfolio again and I must say that you do come up short compared to your compatriots. Your street photography is flat and uninspiring at best and it is a wonder that you have such a large voice on the internet. Perhaps in future you can back up your opinions with the pictures because unless your R .Adams or S. Sontag that is what people will judge you on. So, in consequence you are a copout...

8/11/10, written under the name "H. Arche":

Blake I thought that your original posting was quite tongue in cheek, loosely based satire.

Also, so what if you have drawn criticism from some of those over at HCSP!! I would be almost tempted to ignore all of the HCSP members who don't see otherwise. With the exception of a few individuals the group as a whole has gained a very poor reputation in the wider internet community for bullying other photogs who don't agree with their point of view.

This has nothing to do with sour grapes or their tough policy of inclusion/exclusion in the pool, instead I am referring to their methodology they employ to enforce that policy which I think is not justified.

I don't intend to name people, but anyone with any common sense who has been following their 'chatter' for want of a better word, would know which admins and long standing members are guilty of this.

I admire your post as you stood your ground even if it earned their widespread condemnation. About time someone had the courage to say enough is enough.

Keep up the educational posts. Thankyou.

Tiffany said...

A Soth video relevant to this post: