When we talk about photobooks these days we generally talk about two main strands – the self-published book and the small independent publisher. Both of these strands are now incredibly popular and stand up quite well, if not best, the larger international book publishers. But there is a downside, and that is the cost of not only producing and disseminating the books but also purchasing the books themselves. So it is no surprise that some small independent publishers have appeared on the scene with a more affordable format and cost to both the artist and the consumer alike.
One of these publishers is Aglu Books and Photography, a UK based company that publishes affordable photobooks as well as edition prints from those artists that have been published. The books measure 14cm by 10.5cm and come in a set design, perfect bound with a pretty good print quality and paper weight. Of course all of their books and prints are available to buy online and at selected stores too, and just to make things easier they all come with a standardised price.
Getting back to the books, we see that two previous SMBHmag contributors, Sebastian Klug and Laura Noel, have published with Aglu so our opinion may be a little biased on their respective projects. However we should point out that despite the set design each book is unique in that each layout is specific to the individual projects. Some utilise the double page spread, and some stick to a neat single page with white border, yet ultimately each book is edited to suit the work quite succinctly.
One of the stand-out books is Qian Yongning’s STATUS, which uses a facing page edit to continue the original diptych technique, each mysterious photograph playing off the opposite to create a rhythmic and engaging narrative. The small format of the object reinforces a sense of intimacy as the reader finds themself intuitively holding the book closer to analyse each image. This is a beautiful body of work from the Chinese photographer, full of ambiguous and unsettling works that suggest a cold concrete reality though appearing hazy and uncertain. STATUS is a collection of miniature tales of migration comprised of unknown characters who occupy a dream-like world at once familiar and ominous.
Unfortunately, the scale of the book means that it can get a little bent out of shape and needs a substantial prying open of pages to better view the entire spread; so while you enjoy the work you are all the time damaging the physical object itself. This is particular to small books, even Phaidon’s 55 series (again similar in size, paper and binding) eventually crack under the pressure. But then, seeing as each book costs just £5 one does not expect to have the same lasting quality as a Mack or Steidl book. For what it’s worth, Aglu represent another strand of the photobook market and as such they successfully achieve their goal of introducing well produced intriguing portfolios at affordable cost.