Publisher Q&A: Shane Lavalette of Lay Flat

Press: Lay Flat
Location: Sommerville, MA
Format: Print

Lay Flat is an independent publisher of limited edition photography books and multiples founded in 2009 by photographer Shane Lavalette.

Lay Flat works collaboratively with emerging and established artists to produce books as well as publishing an annual magazine devoted to contemporary photography in which each issue takes on a new theme and format.

fototazo: What gave you the interest in creating an independent photography book publishing company? Did you know much about the publishing world before launching Lay Flat?

Shane Lavalette: I've always had a connection to books and in many ways developed my love of photography through them. After spending years involved in online publishing, I was compelled to do something in print. At a time where the number of photo blogs was steadily increasing, it was easy to feel over-saturated with imagery. The book offers a place for work to exist with the potential of a uniquely intimate experience. Still, I enjoy sitting down with a book much more than viewing an online portfolio or often times even gallery exhibitions.

I didn't know much at all about publishing before getting involved, but that's part of the excitement and appeal.

f: How much different has the reality been from your expectations?

SL: There have been a lot of surprises along the way, I'll put it that way. It keeps things interesting!

f: What is your process for deciding what work to publish and with which artists to work?

SL: This is a very organic process. Having already been involved in the online photo community, there are a number of artists I've maintained dialogues with for years. As these dialogues continue, often book projects emerge. Alternatively, we accept physical submissions (sequenced prints, dummies, mock-ups, etc.) to the publishing program. I've always been drawn to books that are modest, concise and poetic, so this personal interest has played a big role in the catalog thus far.

f: What has been your biggest highlight so far with the company?

SL: Just this year we expanded to publishing artist books, working directly with artists to conceive a project in book form. We released Visible Library by Sam Falls and DUNE by Misha de Ridder, both in an edition of 750 copies.

f: How has working in the publishing business influenced your personal work and your aspirations in photography?

SL: There are so many ways in which getting involved in publishing has enriched my personal photographic process. I've yet to publish a book of my own work, but with all of my projects I think in book form so I look forward to making that happen some day down the road.

f: What have you learned through the process of establishing Lay Flat that you wish you would have known beforehand or that you would pass along to others interested in publishing?

SL: I would encourage anyone interested in publishing to collaborate and seek the support of those around you. Though I do a lot of the work for Lay Flat myself, so much of what makes it special is the involvement of others. In the case of the annual publication, most recently Lay Flat 02: Meta, each issue is co-edited along with a new invited editor. This encourages an exchange of ideas, and for the publication to shift in theme and format with every edition.

f: What are your next steps with Lay Flat? Where would you like to be in 5 years?

SL: I have many big ideas for Lay Flat, but for the time being I'm really just interested in continuing things as they are, with an emphasis on quality over quantity. There are some exciting things lined up for next year, and I would like to get involved with more events/exhibitions that highlight photography books.

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