Publisher Q&A2: Curt Holtz of Prestel Publishing

Last year we posted a "Publisher Q&A" series, featuring 12 short interviews with a range of publishers including Alec SothShane LavaletteBryan FormhalsJeffrey Ladd, and Jason Fulford on their presses and sites and the state of the publishing market (see the site links page for more links). It was a popular series, and we've decided to add another 12 entries to the series with more extended questions.

The first four posts of this second series were with Éanna de Fréine of The Velvet CellDavid Schoerner of Hassla Books, Luca Desienna of Gomma Magazine Ltd., and Hannah Watson of Trolley Books. Today we follow with Curt Holtz, Photography Editor of Prestel Publishing.

Publication: Prestel Publishing
Location: Munich, Germany
Format: print book

fototazo: What is the back-story on how Prestel formed?

Curt Holtz: Prestel was formed in Germany almost 90 years ago and is one of the leading publishers of art and photography books worldwide.

f: What are the particular or unique strengths of the books Prestel publishes? What separates it from other publishers?

CH: The strength of Prestel is its own worldwide distribution network along with the high standard of its productions. The publishing house has continually adjusted to market developments and trends but has stayed true to its commitment to publish the best work of artists, designers, and photographers up to the present day.

f: What is your process for deciding what to publish?

CH: Deciding on what books to publish is based on a careful and stringent interactive process between Editorial and Sales in which every proposal is analyzed for its strengths and weaknesses—both in terms of its individual merits and its salability—after which a decision to take on a book, or not, is made.

f: How do you view the contemporary landscape of photography books as a product and as a market in relation to the past?

CH: The photobook market has grown considerably in the last ten years or so, also as a collector’s audience, especially after the publication of the History of the Photobook volumes by [Martin] Parr and [Gerry] Badger. Programmatically, we tend to differentiate between "art" photography books that cater for a smaller, somewhat niche audience and those for a larger, more popular audience, where photography is simply a vehicle to convey the respective subject matter. While the latter books usually involve larger print-runs and more financial risk as a publisher, the former have been quite successful over the past few years, especially with the increase in marketing potential through the Internet, blogs, and social media.

f: How do you see the book market and products evolving in the near future?

CH: I continue to believe strongly in the future of the photobook as a printed object. The type and feel of the stock, color saturation, format and binding along with the changes that these materials go through when they age, is all so markedly different to a digital version. And the market for these products is becoming increasingly more global through the Internet thus guaranteeing their success if they are made right.

f: Lots of people have commented over the past few years that we’re in a photobook Golden Age. Do you think this is true? If so, what are the dynamics that would define this as a Golden Age?

CH: Yes, the photobook is experiencing an amazing moment in its brief history, perhaps exactly due to the massive changes looming on the horizon through the digital era. I think there are still some amazing books out there waiting to be published and that the "golden" moment of the photobook is far from over.

f: What do you believe are the strengths and inherent limitations of the photobook format, as opposed to showing photographs on a wall or in a digital or multi-media format?

CH: There is only so much you can do in producing a book in printed form, especially when the project is bound by commercial limitations, which is mostly the case. As I mention above though, the strength of the photobook lies completely in the materiality of the object as such, as opposed to digital, or other versions.

f: Is a photographer’s style, voice, or "sensibility" something equally apparent in their photobooks as in their images?

CH: A photobook has its own language beyond the images themselves and so many aspects such as paper stock, format, extent, binding, etc. form a part of what kind of sensibility it transports.

f: What are as the trends in contemporary photobooks that you are noticing as you engage with new book proposals on a daily basis?

CH: Fashion photography—but not photographed in a traditional sense—is probably the most successful trend in the photobook market right now, but social documentary themes sensitively and sensibly photographed remain of strong interest.

f: What has been your highlight in working with the company?

CH: Singling out one or two projects wouldn’t be fair. Every project has its own unique story, before and after.

f: What are the next steps for Prestel?

CH: Keeping the photobook alive in its unique and singular printed form.