Stephen Dupont: Photobooks

Stephen Dupont: The Creation of a Photobook.

An interview with Tom Williams

Are you currently working on a book?

I am working on several hand made books, mainly of my Afghanistan work. I also just made a new book of my portrait work on Papua New Guinea which I just presented to the Peabody Museum at Harvard as part of my Robert Gardner Fellowship.

Why is the book form important to you in showing your work?

I just love books, always have. Showing my work in book form gives me total creative and editorial control of my work, my design. I think having work in book form really elevates it to such a wonderful showcase platform, something unique and object, something you can hold, feel and smell. Books for me are also important templates for exhibition ideas. I experiment with book design and concepts, which directly relates to my exhibition research.

What was your first book?

My first book was on India’s last steam trains, which ended up being published by Dewi Lewis in the UK. I spent a year in and out of India following the last days of steam, hanging out in locomotive workshops, train yards, railway stations and travelling thousands of kilometers by rail.

Do you ever think about a book and its design while you are making photographs?

Good question, and yes I do subconsciously and naturally think about book layouts and how the pictures will work. I guess that is why I like shooting on different formats as well, then I have it all covered, no need to crop.

Has making books affected the way you see and photograph?

I suppose it has. The more books you make the more photographs you look at and more ideas come your way to try new things out in photography. I’m constantly looking for visual challenges, new ways of seeing and capturing.

What role do hand-printed images play in your publications?  

I like using gelatin silver prints in my books when I can. It depends on the kind of book I am creating, but doing a book with these prints makes the process so incredibly special and unique. I like that it keeps everything traditional and totally hand made from start to finish.

What role does the publishing and making of books play in your ability to work independently as a photographer?

Everything I photograph, each major project, whether it be new work or something thematic from my archive is aimed at being a book. I am independent anyway, so it allows me to keep my independence by constantly working on new books.

Do you have any favourite books by other photographers or artists?

Many. W. Eugene Smith’s “Let the truth be Prejudice”, Koudelka’s “Gypsies”, Philip Jones Griffith’s “Vietnam Inc”, Robert Frank’s “The Americans”, William Klein’s “New York”, Gilles Peres’ “Telex Iran”…and the list goes on.


How do you think the photo book will fare in a future world of web and tablets?

 I think the future for photo books is in both e-books and printed ones. I see a big future in good e-photobooks, it is not just a good marketing platform, it will make total financial sense as well. The web is giving everyone an affordable publishing outlet, so in a sense we are seeing the evolution of self-publishing. What is also happening in the self-publishing world is that printing is becoming much more affordable and so makes it easier to have your own books printed directly in Asia and skip the publishers altogether. The only downside to this is you need to find successful ways of distribution. But I think the pros outweigh the cons as you keep total creative control of your work and total sales. The web also provides a sales platform to sell the hard cover books. My feeling is that you make an e-book that you hope lots of people buy for very cheap, then those who have bought the e-book and really like it are more than likely going to consider a printed book as well.