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Photographers, naturally, want an audience for their work. This want often manifests itself in the desire to publish. However, publishing is a challenging world to navigate. I won't be the one to say traditional publishing is anachronous, or even evil incarnate, as some have suggested. I have one book traditionally published and another on the way. Traditional publishing has its place - its purpose. Having said this, I also believe that self-publishing is a legitimate and viable route, especially for visual artists. Art, when published, should take on a form beyond that of mere representation, that is, the art book is a "thing" aside from a representation of a thing. When one creates their own artist books this enhances the idea of the book as a work of art in itself.
Enter Chris Leskovsek. Chris recently published a series of six photo zines (as he calls them) showcasing his fantastic "Observations" series of street photographs. The little zines are of fantastic quality and, although commercially printed, posses a certain "homemade" charm. These little books look and feel like works of art - like collectables - which, of course, is exactly what they are. Printed in small editions and hand numbered and signed, these self-published photo zines are the epitome of artist self-publishing at its very best.
Chris Leskovsek possess a unique photographic signature. It's not without roots (one can quickly see the influence of Moriyama, for example) but it is still unique enough that we don't merely feel like we are looking at "copies". The photographs in this collection are part of the Japanese school, but they are also fresh and serve well to disrupt and enrapture.
Accompanied by a full-scale exhibition in the New Zealand, the Observations project is a textbook case of a perfectly executed artist self-publishing endeavor. From the initial vision, to the final zine in the series and accompanying exhibition, Chris followed this project through from start to finish and never lost sight of the ultimate goal - building a permanent home for this collection of photographs. As a result of this resolve, the project is a tremendous success.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges in a self-published artist project is remaining dedicated to the vision and following it through. I have seen countless self-publishing ideas or "beginnings" with great potential. On the other hand, I've only ever seen a smattering of successfully completed projects. This is one of those rare moments.
Although not all volumes in this series are currently available, I do recommend anyone pick up one of the remaining issues to add to their collection of artist books. Here's a small sampling of the great images you will find in this series (photographs are reproduced with a mobile phone from physical books, therefore original prints will be of much superior quality).
Chris Leskovsek is a Chilean-born photographer who is currently based in New Zealand. More about his Observations series may be found on his website at www.ChrisLeskovsek.com.
Michael Ernest Sweet is an award-winning Canadian writer and photographer. Visit Michael's blog to read more of his photography related articles and interviews.