JH: With my first book, What We Think Now (2006), I was working against a deadline which was the opening for my first solo exhibit, at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside, alongside exhibits by Alec Soth and Lise Sarfati. Having already worked a year at Twin Palms, I knew the amount of time that goes into the submission process, and subsequent process of publishing a book. This was time I didn’t have. So, given my contacts with Twin Palms’ printers, I decided to publish the book myself. In retrospect, I’m glad I did. It was a learning experience I would’ve never had without taking that gamble.
The downside was that I never found a distributor. I contacted a few, and we discussed the prospect of working together, but their terms would have made it difficult to recoup my investment in the print run. Ultimately this meant that I did everything myself: generated every invoice, packed every book, called the bookstores three months later when I still hadn’t been paid. Fortunately the latter wasn’t a common problem!
MM: Why did you choose to produce the books in the format you selected?
JH: Originally, I was going to print the book as a hardcover, but later decided to print softcover. The book is about young people’s take on the war, and so I wanted young people to be able to buy a copy without thinking twice, which is why I ultimately chose a format which was more economical. I was really happy with the outcome—people often comment on the quality of the printing—and while high production values are important, I was more interested in publishing a book that made a compelling statement, rather than publishing an art object too precious to be handled by the guests.
MM: Who designed and printed the catalogues? How many did you print?
JH: I designed the book myself: creative autonomy was the big perk of self-publishing. Samhwa in Seoul printed a run of 1,000, which was essentially the minimum. Two years later I have 100.
MM: How would you recommend a photographer get funding for his or her project aside from personal funds? Do limited edition prints help?
JH: I’m the last person to answer this question. In fact, I could take a lesson or two on the subject, as all my ventures have been personally funded. The execs at Bank of America send me postcards from Jackson Hole, Hawaii and Iceland . . . I’m going to be offering a limited edition for Everybody I Ever Met in L.A., so we’ll see . . .
MM: Who is your favorite photographer or one who has impacted your life and work?
JH: Duane Michals was an early hero. His use of text and image was a big influence, and judging from my work today, still is. Three days after I started working at Twin Palms, Duane showed up to start working on his latest book with us, The Adventures of Constantine Cavafy. He and I sat side-by-side in front of my computer, all day for a couple of days. The heart-in-the-throat deference lasted five minutes. He insulted the shirt I was wearing, so of course I had to point out his choice of pink socks.
MM: In your personal work, are you influenced by other mediums other than photography?
JH: Of course. I think I’m influenced by everything, so it’s hard to list all of my influences, diplomatically.
MM: What blogs do you read? Magazines?
JH: No blogs, except, um, yours. The New Yorker comes to my house once a week and I look at the cover, and toss it onto a stack on my shelf, and then feel very anxious about the growing tower. When I have the time, I read fiction mostly. I studied English literature in college, so it’s a habit I still haven’t kicked.
MM: What is your favorite book, photo or otherwise?
JH: My favorite is always the latest. Right now I’m reading The End of Alice by A.M. Homes, about an incarcerated pedophile and his correspondence with a 19-year-old paramour, home from college for the summer. And I just saw Chris and Don, the documentary about Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, which gave me hope that I might not spend the rest of my life with a pug named Gladys. If I had a pug named Gladys . . .
MM: Do you have an odd or funny photography related story?
JH: Two weeks ago I went down to Memphis to meet with William Eggleston for the signing of the remaining 1st editions of 5x7. It was a really hot, humid day, and I was hard at work opening towers of boxes and pulling out stacks of books, and he, very hospitably asked if I wanted some water, 4,000 year old spring water, he specified. Of course I did, but ironically, it was served in a tiny Dixie cup, the sort you might get at the dentist. Later, he dropped an Alka-Seltzer tablet in his cup of water, and casually sipped, as though it might have been an espresso, between signing books.
MM: Do you like man boobs?
JH: Only on myself.