Dashwood Books has established itself as something of a mecca for anyone looking to add to their collection of photography books. Nestled in the ground floor of a historic building on Bond Street in New York, you’ll find the latest quality books on contemporary photography from the 1960s to the present day. From rare and out of print editions to hand made zines and small run books, Dashwood has long represented the best in independent publishing across America, Europe, and Japan.
If David Strettel, the man at the helm of Dashwood, were to have a ‘modus operandi,’ it would be to promote the photo book as an art object in its own right, and to highlight the artistic essence that publishing is capable of offering. Aside from the bookstore, Dashwood has it’s own publishing operation, albeit a small one. This outlet has allowed Strettel to seeks out ways in which to bring new photography to the people, at reasonable cost, without forsaking the acute sense of aesthetic and the importance of tactility with which Dashwood makes its mark. Strettel’s most recent release of seven moderately priced monographs, marks the start of an annual series showcasing a mix of established and emerging photography.The series has been produced in small of editions of roughly 500 copies each. Both individually and as a set, they evoke his initial vision of a lo-fi sensibility met with a quality production value that sees them sit nicely next to works by Ryan McGinley, Juergen Teller, Taryn Simon and others.
Together with the creative directors, Water NYC, who designed five of the seven books and supervised production, Dashwood came up with a loose structure so that there would be no specific design aesthetic that would dominate the collection. The physicalities of the books – paper, size and so on – are consistent, but each artist was encouraged to imbue their book with his or her own personality so that each book is nevertheless unique.
Andreas Laszlo Konrath, whose book Back to Mystery City features in the series, employed the help of Brain La Motte, his co-designer at the publishing company they run out of Brooklyn called Pau Wau Publications. Dashwood has previously stocked many of the zines and photo books that Pau Wau have put out, and so a collaboration grew over the years, until Strettel came up with the proposal for the series and invited Andreas as photographer and Brian as designer to come on board. Konrath’s book documents his trip to Finland to hang out with the Perus Skate crew. This personal story makes for an interesting parallel to the fashion and portraiture that Konrath is best known for.
In Soviet Beauty Queens – for which Strettel himself selected the images from the Archive of Modern Conflict – he presents a collection of photographs taken between 1988 – 1990 in Leningrad at various beauty contests and at the Leningrad Beauty Institute. Though not favored by the Soviet Union, by the time of its collapse beauty contests became a symbol of Perestroika and the bizarre, beautiful and awkward moments of the women exercising in anticipation of a contest, would be somehow tragic were it not for the fact that this is liberation in action.
The other artists, Ari Marcopoulos, Betty Tompkins, Sam Falls, Janette Beckman and Jim Mangan, cross between documentary, fine art and portraiture, providing a provocative, surreal, comic and beautiful offering in their own right. These artists, like Konrath and La Motte, have a similar history with Dashwood and so each book was a collaborative effort that was conceived organically. They represent a shared desire to create something which is both intimate and accessible. These books aren’t just for the collectors out there; with a $25 tag per book, you have the choice to buy them individually or as a set and their affordability ensures that a wider audience can walk home with their very own piece of art. And therein lies the end goal; the joy for any artist that as many people as possible might enjoy their work. With that in mind, we here at Dossier will certainly be stopping by to pick up our own set.
The series is available at Dashwood Books, 33 Bond St., New York City. The shop is open 7 days a week, Monday through Saturday from noon – 8pm and Sunday from noon – 7pm.