Interview with photographer and publisher Erik van der Weijde

Erik van der Weijde from This is Not My Son

A little after I started this blog, I added an entry about the photo zine which sparked some debate at work about the true nature and definition of a zine (maybe I will discuss this more later). This post also brought my blog to the attention of photographer Erik van der Weijde. He emailed me about his website 4478 zine where he lists and sells all his printed materials and since that time, I have become a huge fan of his work. Erik's newest publication, This is Not My Son, is only printed in a small edition of 100 copies and 10 limited editions (this version is already sold out). Here Erik discusses this and other projects.

MM: Will you tell me the history of 4478 zines? Where did you get the name?

EW: I started making and distributing my own zines already in art academy, somewhere in 2002 I guess. When it became a bit more serious, around 2004, I started numbering them, but the main title always was ‘foto.zine nr.1’. And then you had first, second etc. issue. This name I used, because it was like a zine, or fanzine, but with only photographs, and as each issue had a different graphic design, I then came up with the nr.1 thing. I have a collection of porn mags from the seventies and eighties, but only their first issues. They have such a great ‘non’-design what inspired me. Often they would stop existing or went on with a new name after the first issue. I liked that. As a name for my publishing company I also wanted to use a number. And of course it had to be a bit mysterious, like many of my zines, which lack of any explanatory text. So I have this collection of pictures of the Mt. Matterhorn in Switzerland; postcards, books etc (I love the Alps) because this is graphically such a beautiful mountain and its height is… 4478 meters. It’s my homage to the Matterhorn, actually.

MM: You seem to have a interest in photographing architecture and particularly German and Brazilian works? Why does this interest you?

Well I live in Brazil, though I’m Dutch and I’ve been going there since 1994. So it’s kind of my second, actually first now, home. As a child I’ve spent many holidays in southern Germany, my grandmother is German and it was my first ‘exotic’ place to visit. Good old (holiday) memories, what for me photography is all about. I like modernist architecture a lot, because it was, and often still is, so different. Where this architecture is still sort of a witness of history, it gets even more interesting for an artist. The State architecture of the Nazi’s often still in use, I recently found a former transformer house, for the Nurnberg Rallies, which is now a Burger King. That’s exactly what I look for. And as for Brazil, Oscar Niemeyer is just a great architect, who had the opportunity of a lifetime, to build almost a whole capital. An artist’s dream, I guess. I think I’d really like to be an architect, that also might be a reason for the photographs…

Erik van der Weijde from Siedlung Special Edition

MM: Your new book is titled This is Not My Son? What is the project about?

EW: Basically it’s about my son. My beautiful eight years old boy, of whom I take pictures since he was 5 seconds old. I have all these great pictures of him, but then I started wondering if it was work, or just a father photographing the family. And I started questioning my role whenever I took a picture of him: Am I a father photographing a son? Or an artist photographing a model? And he, was he posing for his father? Or just to be in a picture? But in the end it’s all just great pictures and why shouldn’t I use that in my work? As he’s such a big part of my life and who I am. So in the book it’s not my son, but pictures of my son…

Erik van der Weijde from Archivo

MM: Although you published your book Siedlung with Roma Publications, with your new book This is Not My Son, you published it yourself. Why did you choose to self-publish? What are some of your experiences with publishers?

EW: Well actually it’s published by the Swiss publisher Rollo-Press, in collaboration with 4478zine. I was thinking of publishing it myself and looking for a way to print and then came across this great publisher, who prints almost all publications on an old Risograph machine. And that was just the look I was searching for. So I approached the one-man publisher Rollo-Press and it sort of clicked and we took it from there.

MM: Who designed and printed this book and your other zines/books? How many did you usually print? With the project This is Not My Son, why did you choose to do such a small edition of this book? How do you choose how many to print?

EW: This book was designed by me, as all of my books, because it’s a big part of the work, of the projects. I’m not a graphic designer, but I don’t want my books to have a too graphic graphic design, if you know what I mean. Usually I print about 400 to 500 copies, mostly in Brazil, but for This is not my Son I wanted something more personal, handmade and exclusive. So together with Urs Lehni, who’s a graphic designer and the guy behind Rollo-Press, we printed the whole book in 4 days on this great Risograph machine.
Did you go on-press? If so, what was your role on-press? I went from Brazil to Z├╝rich to print the book. Rollo-Press owns this sort of digital mimeographer, the Risograph, and we started printing right away. I really wanted kind of the default quality of the machine, in black and white, with sometimes a colored picture in between; a red, blue or green one. So my role on-press, hmm let me see, I sometimes checked the blackness, I made coffee and chose the soundtrack for the printing… And in the meanwhile I quickly designed a new, 4 by 5 inch booklet for the zine series, which we printed also the last day. A very limited edition collection of green Volkswagen beetle images…

Erik van der Weijde from This is Not My Son

MM: How would you recommend a photographer get funding for his or her project aside from personal funds? Do limited edition prints help?

EW: There’s the hardest part. I mean, personal funding is usually the biggest part. The smaller zine series now kind of pay themselves, but for other projects, it’s difficult. I always use a pre-ordering system, where friends, colleagues and collectors get a small discount if they pre-order their copy. But you also have to be aware that as an artist, if you’d do an exhibition with large prints, some aluminum or framing, you could almost pay for a publication. Maybe not in full color and on a glossy paper, but still… That’s always been my consideration. And once you’ve made your first one or two books, it becomes an addiction and you’ll find the money somewhere. Yes, you have to invest some money, but I’d rather invest it in my work than buy a flat-screen TV…
As for limited editions, sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t. I mean all the small bits are welcome when you’re looking for funding. If a limited can help get you another 10 or 20 percent, that’s great.

MM: What was the budget for the book and did you come close to this number when the project was finished? How do you choose the materials for each project?

EW: Haha, that’s a good question! I really don’t know…I’m still waiting for the invoice, so… I started the project with some 1500 dollars or so, but I have no idea how much we went over the budget. We really didn’t talk finance yet. Luckily the book started selling right away, so I’m not too worried. And about the material, it always has to fit the content of the project. Take the Siedlung book for example, which is about houses built by and for the Nazi’s in the 1930’s, so for me the book should look as if it was made in that period. And where I show harsh reality of prostitution in Brazil, in the book Praia, of course it should be in quite raw colors and a fitting glossy paper. But maybe this is so clear for me and you might think— why the hell did he use…?

MM: Where there any unforeseen complications with the project that you did not anticipate?

Well yes. But that’s also part of photography for me. I mean a shadow falling right on my subject is as a gift from above, not? These coincidences make the work more interesting, I think. For this book I wanted the dust jacket-cover to be in silkscreen, but then the friend with the silkscreen setup had to move his studio those days. And I wanted the book ready, so we came up with this Japanese sort of table sized silkscreen device, a Gocco printer, which we could borrow. The great thing about this Gocco, you should Youtube it, ‘cause it’s really awesome, is that you can print as many colors you like, in one run. So I now have a six color print on the cover, thanks to the silkscreen ‘complication’…

MM: Do you have other advice for photographers seeking to self-publish?


MM: Who is your favorite photographer or one who has impacted your life and work?

EW: That would be Paul Kooiker, with whom I worked in his studio. He’s a great artist and his work still surprises me. His work is what photography could and should be.

MM: In your personal work, are you influenced by other mediums other than photography? Which ones and why?

EW: I guess I’m influenced mostly by books, art or photography books. And of course architecture. A good photobook or a good building makes me wanna run back to the studio and start working!

MM: What blogs do you read? Magazines?

EW: I frequently visit iheartphotograph.com and vvork.com. And Facebook. I read that as it were a magazine and always find something nice. And I also wanna pitch my own blog fz77.blogspot.com with many found photographs. For me found amateur photographs are very inspiring…

MM: What is your favorite book, photo or otherwise?

EW: Ahh. That would be a few, but Case History by Boris Mikhailov is the one I’ll choose here today. Great, heavy, raw. Just good.

MM: Any mistakes with your publications or anything you would have done differently with a project?

EW: There are always small things, which the viewer probably doesn’t even see. And it also changes from time to time: sometimes I think I chose the wrong paper, but then a few months later I totally agree again with my paper choice. And I think I wouldn’t have done things differently, because from those mistakes you learn most, for next book projects.

Erik van der Weijde from This is Not My Son

MM: What are some of your future projects?

EW: Ok, here we go. I’m working on a follow up for the Siedlung book, together with ROMA Publications, which will feature the housing in Brasilia, the so called Superquadras. Those ‘Superblocks’ were built mostly in the 50’s and 60’s and all have a similar basic plan. It’s gonna be a really nice thing, beginning of 2010. And I’m finishing a new foto.zine series, the nr.3, of which I’ve already printed the first issue. It’ll have this really low printing quality, a bit strange…Uhm, a new foto zine coming up for Kaugummi Books, called Down the Rabbit Hole 3, already. And apart from this I have already 3 other books in my mind, almost ready, but…still looking fur funds…and for new titles and upcoming things you can always check my website 4478zine.com

1 comment:

SantaFeEZ said...

Thanks for this interview, Melanie, and thanks for introducing me to Erik's work - specifically, This is Not My Son. Fell in love with it as soon as I saw it online at the PE website, and had to have it as soon as I opened the cover. There is a level of intimacy in these photographs that I rarely find, and I am hoping for a follow up one of these days... Would you consider inviting Erik to bring his work to Santa Fe? I would support the effort to be sure.