spreads from Paul Herbst, My Shit is Gold
I usually try to keep up with all the small book publishers out there, but this world is ever-expanding. One great one that I missed was Morel Books. Luckily, Aron Morel emailed me a few months back about his new book on Jonnie Craig. Morel is pushing the bounds of the zine publications and branching into the addicting world of photobook publishing.
MM: Who are the founder(s) of Morel Books? When was it founded and why?
AM: Morel books was an idea I had been fumbling in my idleness for ages. It just had to leap out of the causeless chaos of cranium and into the tangible magic of book! Books are a fascinating form of tangible information. They can come in any size, format, texture, substrate, weight, print-run etc. --the forms are unlimited as long as you can still define it as a “book”. This gives the "artist" the ability to present their work within a context which they feel is the most appropriate to suit their means. Further, the relationship between the book and the viewer has many variables. The viewer can choose to flip through the book consecutively, backwards, randomly, at their own place and within whatever setting/time they choose. At times, I prefer books to gallery shows-- though seeing original prints is always a wonder.
I suppose to overcome that let down, we arranged some of our books come with an original print, etc. On the other side is the desire to mix great artists. We work with young upcoming artists i.e. Jonnie Craig, Paul Herbst, mingling them with the like of Ryan McGinley, Gerard Malanga, and Stella Vine. It’s a "democratic" vision, as long as its good work, it works without any prioritizing.
MM: Why did you choose to self-publish? Have you had any experiences with publishers?
AM: Why? To busy idle thumbs and escape the devils ennui! And I suppose I’m obsessed by artists books.
spreads from Stella Vine
MM: Who designed and printed the zines/books? How many did you print? How do you choose how many to print?
AM: All the books work differently. Most of the books are designed in house (not all), with close communication with the artist. I think it’s fundamental to get what the artist wants. Production wise, I suppose one of the fun parts is finding different production methods. I’ve done my fair share of binding etc. I find it meditative and it’s good to have your hands in all aspects of publishing! I try to keep the print-runs really low but still cheap, I think it’s great when someone can pick up a modestly priced book that might become collectible-- like the Jonnie Craig zine “Nothing in particular” was only a 50 print-run offered as a gift with the first 50 books sold. I only have one (I think it’s the same case with Jonnie), I’m even seeking them out from old friends myself.
MM: How would you recommend a photographer get funding for his or her project aside from personal funds? Do limited edition prints help?
AM: Beg, Steal, or borrow. Work the graveyard shift and use whatever wit you can, be it limited edition prints or extortion and trafficking.
MM: What was the budget for the book and did you come close to this number when the project was finished? Where there any unforeseen complications with the project that you did not anticipate?
AM: Budgets etc spoil the magic of books, all books have a budget, it’s just about getting the most out of it.
MM: Do you have other advice for photographers seeking to self-publish?
AM: Don’t be too ambitious with print-runs, create a network, and try to get your work online.
MM: Who is your favorite photographer or one who has impacted your life and work?
AM: No such thing, too many genres, styles etc… I collect found photographs; they seem to be inspirational and nameless enough.
spreads from Gerald Malanga, Someone's Life
MM: In your personal work, are you influenced by other mediums other than photography? Which ones and why?
AM: When it’s not photography, there’s a lot of poetry--mystical stuff, urban drunken visionaries Attar, Rimbaud, Cummings, Orhan Veli… I’ve tried for years to combine them, but it always ends out cheesy. I suppose only Blake managed to mingle vision and verse in his illuminated books, and I guess his success can be attributed to his brother instructing him on the method from beyond the grave.
MM: What blogs do you read? Magazines?
AM: I have a huge list of blogs… There are a bunch of highly influential curators working online! I think their use of the medium is fantastic and I’ve never really bought any magazine.
MM: What are some of your future projects?
AM: At present we’ve just release Ryan McGinley’s Moonmilk. We’re also working on a poetry book, A Season In Hell by Arthur Rimbaud, with illustrations from Patti Smith as well as a selection of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe. This is gonna be a tiny print run! Zine-wise, we have a Jerry Hsu, Gavin Watson, a possible Daido Moriyama, coming up, as well as London Art book fair, Published and be Damned, New York Art Books fair.
MM: The Ryan McGinley book was highly successful, selling out within a couple of weeks from its release date. The popularity of McGinley and the increased price of his out-of-print books are two of the reasons the book was so successful, but will you elaborate on how you marketed this book? Did you market it any differently than any of your other titles? All our books are treated with an equal approach be it a zine or a Mcginley book.
AM: Ryan's new body of work had already received much attention as it is a brave and beautiful departure from his previous work, -so the word was already out there. We still kept the book in specialist retailers, a limited print run, and at a modest price -in spite of the knowledge that it will be heavily sought after! I suppose the only thing we actively did, is not allow one retails to order too many books, as it is nice to give eager admirers worldwide an opportunity to access the book!
**I had hoped to publish this interview before the Ryan McGinley book Moonmilk was released, but time was not permitting. Now, this new Morel Book publication is out-of-print. I would keep an eye on Aron Morel and Morel Books. Follow him on twitter or email mail@morelbooks to be on the mailing list.