Publisher Q&A2: Heidi Romano of Unless you will

Last year we posted a "Publisher Q&A" series, featuring 12 short interviews with a range of publishers on their presses and sites and the state of the publishing market (see the site links page for 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 BooksLuca Desienna of Gomma Magazine Ltd., Hannah Watson of Trolley BooksCurt Holtz, Photography Editor of Prestel PublishingAline Smithson of Lenscratch and Harsha Vadlamani of Galli Magazine.

Today we continue with Heidi Romano of Unless you will.

PublicationUnless you will
Location: Australia
Format: online

fototazo: What is the back-story on how Unless you will formed? Was there a particular need that you saw and sought to fill?

Heidi Romano: Since I finished my design degree I wanted to be a book designer. I didn't know where or how to begin, so one day I thought why not just design a photography journal for the online space?

I was interested to work with artists and had nothing to loose. So I threw myself into UYW and hoped for the best.

f: What separates Unless you will from other sites? What are its strengths as a site?

HR: Hmmm good question…. To be honest I have lost track of all the new sites coming on the market.

But what separates Unless You Will is the artists I work with and the way I curate the issues. While I do not often work with a theme, I work with an imaginary narrative which flows through each issue. Sometimes it can be a bit chaotic, but I think it works in an online journal - one can be a bit more experimental with finding ways to enable the projects to sit together.

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

HR: UYW is usually scheduled six to twelve months in advance, so when I see someone's work I like, who inspires me - I bookmark them and imagine what other projects and what other artists their work could sit with. And so slowly the issues fill - one artist here and another for the next issue. I have also always been very interested in working with artists who have just graduated and have not been shown before. I like to mix and match established and emerging.

f: How would you describe the contemporary online landscape in comparison with when you started Unless you will?

HR: It is simply overwhelming. There are so many blogs and magazines online, that I simply can’t keep up. I do try to make time and explore other online magazines and initiatives, but there are simply not enough hours in a day/week/year. Besides running UYW and BETA I also have to work to make a living, play/work on my own projects, renovate a house, drive to Melbourne to meet artists and see exhibitions, and so on and so on… so I follow only a handful of sites regularly, but the market has simply become too big for me to oversee.

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

HR: That everything takes much longer then we anticipate. I have also learnt how to present artists' work better - what works and what doesn’t work in social media. I always intended to make UYW an experience whilst viewing, and I think I have become better at putting the images together so that there is a flow, a rhythm, pauses that allow the stories to unfold. In terms of what to pass on to others interested in starting out – these of course sound like cliché’s, but… everything takes so much longer then anticipated, find your niche, work hard, stay humble, work hard and don't give up.

f: How has working as an editor influenced your personal work and your aspirations in photography?

HR: Oh dear… to be honest my own work has suffered a bit due to not having enough time during the last twelve months. I have worked and experimented with a few projects, but nothing is finished or finally edited. Still plenty more images to take, to imagine, to organize. On top of UYW, I have also edited BETA (an online photography magazine for the Ballarat Foto Biennale) for the last twelve months, and there were simply not enough hours do to it all and to do it well.

I am really looking forward to the next year where I have scheduled in more time for my own photography.

f: What has been your highlight in working with Unless you will?

HR: It has been a delight to work with so many different, amazing artists and while I have met most of them through email or Facebook, I consider some to be friends - who I would have over for dinner any time and day. I am very much looking forward to meeting some of them this year in Paris.

f: What are the next steps for the site?

HR: Exactly the same question has been going around and around in my head the last six months. I have been trying to shape and find a new strategy for what UYW is, or could be, but have not gotten very far with it, due to a lack of resources.

One always needs a lot of spare time to dream and come up with something new. To throw oneself in at the deep end takes courage and confidence – which some days I have, while other days I wonder what the heck am I doing.

So I guess UYW could go either way next year – either find that time to realize some of those plans and ideas and make them happen, or maybe put UYW on hold until I have come up with a new plan.

My aim is to present Australian photographers to the rest of the world and bring international artists to Australia.

Sounds simple enough – doesn’t it ☺