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Article: Giraffes and Scarecrows

Giraffes and Scarecrows

Giraffes and Scarecrows

As with most things RRB do, it started with Peter Mitchell.

Our first photobook, back in 2015, was Peter’s “Some Thing means Everything to Somebody” (it was meant to be our only book, but that’s a different story). I had done lots of publishing before but never a photobook. We wanted to do the book without any subsidies and try not to lose money. Not easy on a print-run of 1000 copies. So I had the bright idea of a special edition - but Peter didn’t like the idea of an exclusive edition, not at all. And he can be pretty stubborn too. In the end we compromised: every copy had a real Mitchell print in a little bag, with Peter’s initials too. Very democratic, and Peter was happy though his fingers were a little bit sore. Quite a few buyers missed the print, neatly tucked in inside the front-cover flap. In fact we did 4 different Scarecrows, 250 each, none of them in the book. Take a look if you have a copy. Buy one if you don’t, it is still a bargain. We also did 50 copies with a bigger print which helped us to finance the book.  

I like small prints with books, and not only because they can make a book viable. The Continental tradition was to do a nice box with a bit of extra design and charge another 300-400 Euros which was not a model (speaking as a bookseller now) which seemed to work very well. They were aimed at the “Collectors”, that rarified breed, quite elusive, who can afford to buy expensive prints. Martin Parr told me categorically that there was not a market for cheap prints (that was before the big success of the Magnum cheap print sales which clearly proved that he was wrong for once).

The market for photobooks is still small (growing but still really minute) which means that if you’re working without subsidies your books will be quite expensive, so we’re keen to offer something in return. Which brings us to that Giraffe, one of John Myers’s most iconic images.

As some of you know, we’re going to publish John Myers “The Portraits” in April (we hope that there will be more Myers volumes in the years to come). Obviously we think this will be a brilliant book, but no doubt one of the reasons the complete portraits haven’t been published before is that the potential market for John Myers in spite of his cult-status is small, yet the costs of cleaning and quality-printing all the images are large. Our solution is to print 400 copies only, at £75 each (there is also a more expensive edition of 50 with a larger print). But each copy will have a real John Myers 5x4" silverprint of his famous Giraffe (soon to be even more famous). With the Giraffe the £75 looks a lot more reasonable and it will help us to break-even - we hope. It will have also paid for all the scanning and cleaning which means that if any trade publisher or museum is interested in doing a cheaper edition in the future they can get in touch!