Photographers in Publishing is a series of interviews, gathering insights from those who balance both making and publishing photography.
Interview by Álvaro Martínez García
For this weeks Photographers in Publishing interview I talked to Iain Sarjeant. Through his publishing company Another Place, he further explores his interest for landscape and the world we live in, an organic extension of the subjects he deals with as a photographer. Sarjeant is a prime example of ‘doing what you love’, which means an exceptional commitment to his publishing company, a one man venture where he is involved in every stage of each project he publishes.
Álvaro Martínez García: What is your background in photography?
Iain Sarjeant: I came to photography through a love of being outdoors. Walking, exploring, initially photography was for me a way of recording my experiences, but it developed into a need to use photography to explore my relationship with places, and express my way of seeing the world around me.
While developing my personal work, I was earning a living as a self-employed photographer and graphic designer, undertaking a range of commercial contracts and commissions. I still do commercial work although the publishing now takes up a lot of time!
ÁMG: You often explore the collision between landscape and human intervention, which I suppose is borne of that love of being outdoors. However to my mind, this collision becomes a sort of harmony when threaded through a considered photographic body of work. Can you talk about your interest in this subject and why you use photography to explore it?
IS: Initially, much of my photography revolved around wild places, the natural landscapes of the Scottish Highlands where I live. Over time, when I began working on longer-term personal projects, I became increasingly interested in our relationship with the land, how the human and natural interact in the landscape. As a way of developing this interest, around 8 years ago I started working on a long-term project called Out of the Ordinary – I viewed it as a journey through everyday Scotland. Scotland’s iconic natural landscapes have been much photographed, and I wanted to focus on more common locations, the places we all walk or drive past every day. My method of working was fairly spontaneous. Wandering, exploring, observing – I liked the element of chance, stumbling across scenes that often looked very different the following month, day or even hour. This project has taken me on quite a journey, both physically and photographically – and is just coming to a close now. Releasing the work in book form has also reinforced for me how important the editing stage is in creating a body of work.
ÁMG: What led you to create Another Place Press?
IS: Since becoming active online (around 10 years ago now), I’ve built up considerable networks with other photographers – which has been valuable given my remote location. I’ve always viewed the online world as a place not only to share my own photographic work but that of others which inspires me. With that in mind, about 5 years ago I started Another Place – a blog specifically showcasing other photographers who were producing work which explored our relationship with ‘place’. I shared a new feature or body of work every week, alongside occasional interviews. The site had great support from fellow photographers, and quickly developed a large following with many submissions received for features.
As I had a background in design – before becoming self-employed as a photographer I had worked for 12 years as a graphic designer – I came up with the idea about 2 years ago of publishing a few of the projects I featured on Another Place as small limited edition photobooks, and so Another Place Press was born.
ÁMG: Has your work with APP influenced your personal work, and vice versa?
IS: While my personal taste does affect the way I develop Another Place Press, I also try to publish projects which are quite different in style from my own work – such as Al Brydon’s Based on a False Story, a fantastic body of work where Al re-exposed film found in a drawer from 10 or 15 years ago, a sort of conversation with his former self.
The process of collaborating with photographers to prepare any body of work for publishing is always a fascinating and rewarding exercise, highlighting other artist’s approaches, and challenging your own way of working.
ÁMG: What criteria do you use when deciding to take on a new project for APP?
IS: My aim with APP is to publish both well-known photographers and those just starting out, I’m interested in trying to support photographers at any stage of their career.
In terms of decision making, first and foremost of course is the quality of the work, how cohesive it is as a series or project. I’m aware of course that this is just my opinion, but I’m looking for both strength of individual images and the way that they work together. And while I am not looking for lengthy explanations about the work, it is important that the photographer can clearly and succinctly explain the idea behind the body of work in a short statement.
ÁMG: Are there any risks when the personal taste collide with your role as an editor?
IS: I think with any venture like APP, run by a single person, personal taste is a factor and does come into publishing choices. I need to love a project to feel a passion to want to see it in print. In terms of subject, it is very much led by the themes of the original Another Place website, work that explores our relationship with ‘place’. But I encourage as wide an interpretation of this theme as possible, and try to publish a mix of photographic styles and subject matter.
ÁMG: What’s your tip for an aspiring photographer, regardless of the genre?
IS: Every photographer is different and we all constantly have much to learn, so I’m not sure I necessarily feel qualified to be offering advice. That said, I suppose my main piece of advice would be don’t hurry a photographic project, be patient and allow it the time in needs to develop properly. Choose a subject you are really interested in and see where it goes, be open to a change of direction. With my editor hat on I see many submissions where the basic idea is a good one but the work not quite developed, or the work presented is very strong but lacks a cohesive idea, so take your time. Don’t be in a hurry to submit the work everywhere before it’s ready. Patience is the key!
ÁMG: What are your aspirations in photography, both personally and for APP?
IS: When I started APP it was important to me that the books were affordable, to reach as wide an audience as possible, and this will continue to be an key principle going forward. For now I want to continue with a similar range of books. I have some exciting collaborations coming up in the next 12 months, including Brian David Stevens, Amanda Harman, Terry Ratzlaff, Cody Cobb and Missy Prince. I also have a few ideas for developing APP in new directions, but these are at early stages – watch this space!
In terms of personal projects, there’s no doubt it’s challenging finding any time for them while working with APP. I always tend to have always have a number of projects on the go at one time, but I’ve just started a new long-term project based around the North Sea. I’ve found that my way of working is very much to keep creating work and see what gradually develops, being open to new ideas and directions as I go along, and also editing and playing with images as part of that ongoing process. So, I’m travelling the North Sea coast whenever time allows and enjoying seeing where it takes me!
ÁMG: Best of luck with your new project, we look forward to the result.
Another Place Press’s recent release, Gap in the Hedge by Dan Wood, has been gaining wide attention including positive reviews from the Martin Parr Foundation and Ffotogallery. You can check it out here.