How Self-Publishing Rekindles the Tangibility of Photographs


Some years ago, the process of photography was a little more complicated and arguably more expensive. Thus, convenience has become the priority of recent photographic technology, eliminating several phases to go through to instantly achieve results. However, we do miss the old times, the feeling of a memory turning into something tangible. In this editorial, we talk about the printed photograph and how it can still find its purpose and place among us through self-publishing.

Zine by Kamal Tung from Flickr Commons; Zine by Colin Dunn from Flickr Commons; American Analog zine from Flickr Commons

Corporeality of the Print

Before, photographs just don't show up immediately as it does now with mobile phones or DLSRs. Most people would have to wait for a roll of 24 or 36 to end before dropping them to a film laboratory for processing. Some shops would provide rush service for same-day printing, others would take a whole day or two, depending on the demand for the service. Most of the time, people would also wait for a total amount of rolls to be finished before even visiting a lab. By then, many moments have already passed since the events that were photographed took place. When we finally receive the results of our photographs, there's always the warm feeling of having memories forever materialized. It's not so much of case now today, but zine maker and photographer Jess Farran believes photography has always been meant to be tangible and still is today.

"Photographs have been meant to be printed from their first conception. The only way you could even create a photograph was by printing from it’s negative, but now we’re so used to only seeing backlight photographs on LCD screens that we think it’s somewhat revolutionary idea to print one out. I love seeing my photos printed because that’s how they’re supposed to be."

The truth about progress is things get quicker, shorter, less of a hassle in general – and it's without a doubt a wonderful thing. However, some of us do love the process, the grind itself, just as much as how we love the results. Photographs today exist more as pixels than as prints, memories easily accessible but also just as easily disposable in .jpg or raw files. Perhaps we can change a little bit of the print-less culture in photography through self-publishing.

Photos from Lean Lui, Julija Svetlova and Tom Blunt from Flickr Commons

Taking Initiative

We think photographers can re-engage themselves in the tangibility aspect of photography through more expressive means. DIY books and zines have reemerged these past few years. Many film photographers today are printing their photographs on to the zine format as a way of sharing and getting their work out there. Jess has a knack for making zines out her own body of work, having recently published HABIBI, her third zine. Zines are the closest materialization of her photographic concepts and themes. The images, fonts, the paper, all make up the concept she wants to bring out to life. For her, conceptualizing the zine is not a tedious task at all, as she would simply take photographs first, then reinterpret images from her pile later. She would simply use InDesign to layout the photos in her zine, then send them to print.

"Usually I realize the concept after they’re made, and I reinterpret the photos I put together subconsciously. It’s a form of backward art therapy... I try not to focus on making them perfect, because that would sort of defeat the purpose of why I make them. After the zine is finished I send it to print, viola! It’s all very simple really."

Meanwhile, Lomographer Julija Svetlova's taking advantage of Blurb's printing platform for independent publishers. Blurb allows the creation of photo books with professional quality and flexibility of printing from one to several copies. Julija's first photo book was dedicated to the first Lomography camera she won, the Holga. Eventually, she started to create more photo books out of her personal travelogues around the world. Such can be seen in her photo book A Point of View Vol. 2: Hautes-Pyrénées + Pais Basque, a visual travel essay made out of panoramic shots. For her, the photo book is a better medium to share one's memories, experiences, and art.

"I dream of having a book based on every trip I do but I am far from achieving this goal yet. Showing books to people is so much more satisfying than scrolling through the pictures on a computer or mobile phone’s screen. There is something magical about the paper, and there are so many types of paper to choose from so just go for it."
A Point of View Vol. 2: Hautes-Pyrénées + Pais Basque from Julija Svetlova

Be at Ease and be in Charge

Ever true to the Lomographic spirit, Julija reiterates to her fellow Community members in experimenting and trying new things – self-publishing being one of them:

"I think everyone should give it a go, if they feel like it, be it a simple photographic print or a book. My apartment’s walls are covered with prints of my own photos, mostly double exposures, framed and mounted in many different ways. It gives me so much pleasure to see them as physical objects, I encourage everyone to try it... Ask for help if you can, especially when it comes to fonts."

For those first-timers, Jess insists on having a mindset that's purely directed on the creation of a zine, not profitability. Do it for yourself as the artist, not for anyone else:

"I would suggest not to focus on making something for the purpose of selling it. If you care too much about what others want to buy, then it won’t actually be a pure form of creation. I also never let anyone see the zines until their finished, I’m not really interested in any feedback for work that’s supposed to be personal. It’s all about intuition for me."

Of course, independent printing and publishing would require new skills to learn. Being mindful of the presentation, the fonts, the text themselves, are aspects that should be considered. Time and effort are also being expended here. Depending on the materials to be used, self-publishing might be a little costlier. However, it's definitely worth seeing your photographs become its own entity – almost its own individual. Take baby steps, capture photos first. If you're feeling like it, print them too. You don't have to immediately jump into the publishing phase, you can store them in an album first! Give it a bit of time, and perhaps with some gained confidence, let your intuition guide you publishing your own photographic book or zine.

Afterwards, share them and be proud – there's nothing more beautiful than having the concepts and pictures in your head come to life!

Credits: emerymott, jabuka, everydayhero & mikekumagai

We'd like to express our gratitude to Jess Faran and Julija Svetlova for sharing their insights on this editorial.

written by cielsan on 2019-10-20


  1. wahiba
    wahiba ·

    I have used Blurb for phot albums as well. The lay flat books are great for spinner panoramas. Keep the cost down with the magazine format. To be honest pictures, well mine at least, do not look worse!! Anyhow some plugs for a couple of my efforts.

    You can preview the whole book without buying. With sales of 0 I am not expecting much, but it is a good way of managing pictures for oneself.


  2. robertquietphotographer
    robertquietphotographer ·

    I LOVE prints ! And I love zines! Actually working on my own, almost ready!

  3. denkbeeldig
    denkbeeldig ·

    @wahiba @robertquietphotographer I've made one myself too :) it's awesome to hold your own pictures afterwards! I've started trading zines with others, care to join?

  4. neja
    neja ·

    Thank you for the future

  5. neja
    neja ·

    @wahiba thank you for sharing! have a look at mine, too:) @robertquietphotographer good luck!

  6. robertquietphotographer
    robertquietphotographer ·

    Hi friends, my zine is ready. It is titled "Imperfect Moments" and contains one Polaroid photo for each day of a roadtrip from Italy to Norway.
    You can preview it (and purchase if you like) on the blurb site, link below, it's also avaliable as e-book.

  7. robertquietphotographer
    robertquietphotographer ·

    Good idea, where can I see your zine?

  8. robertquietphotographer
    robertquietphotographer ·

    @neja Yopur books look like very good. I like very "A point of view:Venice" because of its not conventional view of a place which has been photographed so many it...a little over my budget but never say never...

  9. neja
    neja ·

    @robertquietphotographer Thank you! If you really wanted, send me a message and I will drop the price down! Meanwhile, my big piece about my other books is out…

  10. neja
    neja ·

    @robertquietphotographer "Imperfect Moments" is a very cool idea, well done

  11. robertquietphotographer
    robertquietphotographer ·

    @neja I'll looka at it! Thanks!

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