In the fourth instalment of our interview series with the 2018 Unseen Dummy Award jurors, we speak to Tim Clark, Editor-in-Chief and Director of 1000 Words. Founded in 2008, the publication focuses on exploring the possibilities for photography whilst stimulating debate around current modes of practice, discourses and theory internationally. Here, the curator, writer and editor reflects on how books outlive exhibitions, staying up-to-date on the latest publications and the qualities he looks for in photobook dummies.
1000 Words offers an extensive section of photobook reviews. What is your view of photobooks’ place within the magazine, and how do you decide which titles to feature?
The photobook is absolutely at the core of the magazine. Most of our published features come about in response to new photobook releases, more so than reviews of temporary exhibitions. Books always outlive exhibitions, and as the magazine is released quarterly it’s quite liberating to not have to create such time-sensitive editorial around an event that may only run for six weeks or less.
Books find their way to me in many different ways. I attend festivals and fairs, often visit my local bookshop (Donlon Books on Broadway Market in east London) and have figures and friends that always suggest new books to me. I also follow photographers and artists whose work I admire on social media, the magazine’s inbox gets flooded with loads of great PDFs and new releases from publishers often appear on my desk. These are just some of the ways I try to keep abreast of new developments within the photobook field. For me, it’s important to seek out and support relatively lesser-known and new independent publishers through our magazine’s coverage, especially those from regions beyond the United Kingdom and the United States.
What are the important factors you take into consideration when evaluating a photobook dummy?
I’m mainly concerned with the strength of the body of work and the ideas that it communicates, preferably in the form of a cohesive series that has been well edited, sequenced and assembled. This is more important to me than an overly-designed book object that has all sorts of bells and whistles, which quite often mainly serves to compensate for a lack of original photography or any meaning it might produce.
As an editor and writer, what do you find most appealing about dummies?
Something I particularly relish is access to the creative process at this stage, both from the point of view as a writer and editor. It’s such a privilege to be in conversation with an artist as they grow and mature a project, finesse it into book form – if that’s the desired outlet – and possibly help shape it through some suggestions in relation to the narrative, structure, edit or even haptic qualities of the real-time book project.
How would you describe your photobook collection?
I wouldn’t say that I ‘collect’, as I have no real guiding principles other than my own tastes and interests, which despite being quite broad are often tied into research for the magazine that I’m working on. I have amassed quite some number of photobooks over the years though: the shelves groan!
Thank you, Tim!
Learn more about the Unseen Dummy Award 2018 here.