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Graduate Photography Online 2015: This Year's Selectors

Making a selection from this year's MA/MFA submissions will be Co-founder of photography and visual arts publishers GOST - Gordon MacDonald, here he outlines some of the qualities that make for a compelling photobook project.

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Spacer Gordon MacDonald


GOST Books

What is your core role in
the job that you do?

I work with photographers and artists to realise bookworks. I edit, oversee the creative aspects of a project, help to fundraise and generally project manage the publishing from first meeting to book launch and distribution. The core of my job is to make sure that everyone is happy with the end result, that we make the best book for the work being published and the best opportunity for the artist we are working with.

How do you decide on what makes an interesting photograph or photographic project?

I look at photographs and try to figure out if what has been created by the artist or photographer is viable as a book project. Some great projects and works do not make any sense as books, just as some projects which make great books do not work in exhibition. Outside of that, I have to feel that there is a fundamental honesty about the work I am considering, even if it is a work of fiction. There is a point between the idea and the technique that I look for - though sometimes a good idea necessitates poor technical output. It just has to make sense, be believable and appeal both visually and conceptually. It's quite a lot to ask of a photographer, so we turn down 90% of the projects we are offered.

As regards the artist's statement, what is important for you to know about the work?

I look for writing that is understandable to as many people as possible. I enjoy the complexity of an idea or project being expressed in a simple, readable way. I also like some room to be left for my own ideas to percolate through the work.

What advice would you have for someone interested in working in your area of photography?

I don't really think that I would advise anyone to work in this area. Most people who work in photographic publishing are extremely driven, so my advice, or anyone else's, is the last thing they would want. If someone really wants to work with publishing photobooks, I would advise them to work out a good business model before starting an independent publishing company. I would also advise them to consider defining a second income before starting.

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