The world of photo books is changing. Over the past several years a shift has occurred from viewing a photo book as simply a vessel for photographs to be displayed to the idea of a photo book not only functioning as a vessel, but also as a complete object that balances the importance of its contained images with concerns more associated with artist’s books. This is in part due to technological advances within printing that have allowed smaller publishers to not only break through the larger market, but to also reshape it. This newer trend in photo book publishing now allows small publishers to focus more on the photo book as an object, creating both large and small editions of beautiful book-objects.
Roma Publications is a small photo book publisher based in the Netherlands. They describe themselves on their website by saying,” Roma Publications is an Amsterdam based art publisher, founded in 1998 by graphic designer Roger Willems, and artists Mark Manders and Marc Nagtzaam. It is used as a platform to produce and distribute autonomous publications made in close collaboration with a growing number of artists, institutions, writers and designers. Related to the content, every issue has its own rule of appearance and distribution, varying from house to house papers to exclusive books. The publications so far are in editions between 2 and 150,000 copies. Occasionally, Roma also curates exhibitions.” I initially learned of Roma Publications through their working with Belgian photographer Geert Goiris. His work and subsequent book Proliferation from 2014 is described by the publisher as,” Published to coincide with the exhibition of a series of photographs by Geert Goiris at the Mauvoisin Dam (Valais, Switzerland), this sublime series of 30 images suggests a timelessness and contained restlessness through its potential narratives of place and collective memory. Labyrinthine trees, strange rock formations, contemplative figures, man-made objects and wide mountain landscapes work together to instill a sense of serenity on the observer, yet one that evokes a certain tension, a primal longing generated by the environments Goiris portrays.” The book helps to convey narrative through its attention to such ideas as sequencing, image layout, variety of treatment, conceptual consideration, and its beauty as a book-object. As opposed to exhibitions of the work, the book form helps to accentuate the feeling of being lead on a journey through what could be seen as incoherent places and subject matter, but by being constrained to seeing only one to two images at a time and in a very specific sequence, the images are unified, offering a sort of juxtaposition of fact and fiction. Something I really appreciate about this book is that it initially offers only images, allowing the viewer space to formulate their own interpretations of the work, but at the end is an essay as well as an index of all included images with titles and Goiris’ own descriptions of various lengths. Published in a small edition of three hundred and including a signed Lambda print, Proliferation has been out of print since I first learned of it a few years ago. Initially valued at around sixty-two US dollars, the few remaining new copies being sold on the Internet now fetch upwards of four hundred. Below are selected spreads from within the book, the included Lambda print, and a view of Goiris' exhibition of Proliferation at the Mauvoisin Dam in Valais, Switzerland.