© Ofer Wolberger, 12 Books

 
 

What sets Ofer Wolberger’s 12 Books apart from virtually every other publishing project is its tenacity, scope and duration.  The man behind the widely divergent blog Horses Think, Wolberger is clearly invested in the consideration and impact and significance of film, design, fashion and all other forms of art in general. These interests echo in the content of each of the 12 Books: images, narratives and situations that allow us to consider the past, present, and in some cases, the future of a world marred by images.

12 Books, when considered as one offering, build a world oversaturated with quirk, solitude and a brimming with a kind of pop sensibility allowing the akward beauty in the world to float to the surface.


Interview:

CG: How did you arrive at photography?

OW: I came to photography mostly through an interest in cinema. I was studying film history and super-8 in college when I took my first photography course on a whim. Photography made a lot of sense to me at the time, especially in relation to cinema. I then studied photography in Grad School in NYC. After school I stayed around and worked as a photographer editorially to make some money and support some new projects.

 
   
 
Book 1: Star Quality
 
 
Book 2: New Breed
 
 

CG: Can you speak a little about your blog 'Horses Think'?

OW: The blog started in August of 2007. It was around the time that many people started blogging, especially in the photographic community. I felt like I wanted to get some of my thoughts and ideas out into the world and I also wanted to practice my writing. In the beginning I don't think I realized how much work was necessary to produce an interesting blog. It was focused on photography but also encompassed other art forms and topics. It was actually quite varied and a good representation of my personal interests.

With the blog I also began to give away photographs that I created specifically for that purpose. For two years I gave away two photographs per month to the first person who requested the posted image. Jason Polan's Drawing Project was a big inspiration. A big part of the project was getting people involved and using the postal service, mailing the photographs without the winner knowing that they had won. The surprise factor was important.

For the third year, I wanted to keep the project going but I had the idea to make and then give away books. So for each book that I made, I always gave the first copy away on the blog.

The blog continues but things have certainly died down. I don't know many photographers that are still blogging these days as most people have moved on to Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. I still like to post my thoughts when I have the time and I do enjoy sharing vernacular images as I collect them.

 
   
 
Book 3: Town
 
   
 
Book 4: Highly Important Jewels & Distinctive Fur Fashions
 
 

CG: What was the genesis of the Photographic Book Project?

OW: A few years ago I heard about and participated in an online project put together by Jason Polan, a New York City based drawing artist. He was giving away a drawing a day and sending them in the mail to the first person who requested them via email. I thought it was a great idea and I received a few drawings from the project. The best part, was that you received the drawing in the mail by surprise a few days later as Jason wouldn't tell you that you had won. Jason and I became friends and I asked him if I could borrow his idea and use it to give away photographs via my blog Horses Think. I couldn't possibly make and give away a photograph per day as I didn't have that kind of time on my hands but I settled on making and offering 2 photographs each month for a total of 24 photographs in one year. Giving the photographs away was a rewarding experience and I continued the project for a second year, giving away original 4x5 inch Polaroids instead of the inkjet prints the year before.

For the third year I had the idea to make artist books because I had just completed a hardcover book maquette for Life with Maggie, a long term project I had been working on for a number of years. I loved the process of putting that book together and it surprised me to have a book in my hands that felt overall more complete and satisfying than any of the exhibitions I had had of the same work. The idea of the new book project was to make 12 handmade artist books, one per month, over the course of a single year. Another motivation was to create a break from the Life with Maggie project and also to free myself from my general photographic rules and guidelines and to step outside my zone of comfort.

Once I started working on the first book, I quickly realized that I was in over my head. Making even one book was a ton of work. I decided that it might be better to make limited edition artist books instead, one that I could give away and the rest that I could sell to recoup my costs. All of this happened on the fly and I started researching how to go about making it happen. I also settled on a subscription idea as well, whereby people could purchase the entire series of 12 books in advance before they were even made or the ideas for them even realized. The one book a month idea failed miserably but luckily my subscribers didn't seem to mind.

 
   
 
Book 5: Stay
 
   
 
Book 6: Covers
 
 

CG: Do you consider book projects as an autonomous form, something akin to an exhibition or sculpture?

OW: I have begun to see the book form as a very efficient and democratic transmitter of ideas and experiments. Exhibitions are great too and can do similar things but the fact that you can take the ideas home with you in your hands is pretty powerful. An exhibition lasts for a finite period of time, while a book can theoretically last forever.

At the same time, I do like books that act as exhibitions and/or sculptures as well and I have tried in the series to create a few books that can morph into a sculpture or exhibition or at least something that you can actually reconfigure. I'm thinking about Visitor specifically but also about Stay (which was supposed to be an accordion folded sculptural piece). I'm also thinking about the final book, A New Day, which isn't really a book but more a collection of images, presented as postcards and held together like a pad. The cards can be kept together and never used or they can be individually sent out into the world or one can take all the cards and put them up on a wall as an exhibition piece. (There is also another element to the final project, which is performance based, involving the books being given away at the book fair by a missionary type person)

 
   
 
Book 7: Germs
 
   
 
Book 8: Visitor
 
 

CG: Do you see this project as something that embraces photographic thinking or do you feel it transcends a kind of categorization? A similar kind of question: do you think of yourself as an artist or a photographer?

OW: When I started the project I was calling it the Photographic Book Project which derived it's name from the previous Photographic Projects I did and the free giveaways on Horses Think. So this 2.5 year book project was intended to be the 3rd incarnation of that. I pretty quickly started hating that title and now I just refer to the project as "12 books."

Not sure if that answers your question but it relates to the idea of photographic thinking and how far I have tried to push that notion. I love the word PHOTOGRAPHIC though, it reminds me of CINEMATOGRAPHIC (not in the Jeff Wall use of the word). The idea that something can be or is "photographic" seems to be a big part of photography's language right now. Making photographs also implies a very specific sort of thing, even today with all the different technical possibilities. But once you start using pre-existing material to 'make' photographs, you are probably not considered a photographer by the majority of photographers out there. For me the making of the image (whether it was originally mine or not) is really in the context, where and how you place it.

In the beginning I probably thought of myself more as a photographer. The past 2.5 years have taught me a lot and I have changed considerably. Being a photographer is too limiting, I guess I would rather be an artist without all the baggage that comes with being a photographer. I don't mean that in a snobby sort of way. I am a photographer but I like to wear different hats as well. It all depends on what I'm working on.

 
   
 
Book 9: Color Me Beautiful
 
   
 
Book 10: Fractures and Other Injuries
 
 
CG: Could you describe some aspects of the physical production of your books?

OW: In terms of the production of my books, I started by designing them myself but I quickly realized that I needed help, especially when it came to typography and production advice. I was mostly in the dark about those elements. With the third book I began a collaboration with Common Name. They did the typographic treatment for Town and then we fully collaborated on Jewels and Fur and all the books that followed. It was an amazing and inspiring collaboration.

Overall each book was treated differently depending on the design choices. The production method shifted depending on the needs of the individual project. The production work was almost always half the battle: choosing the paper, finding a printer that could work with my budget and deadline, figuring out the binding. My favorite books are probably the ones where I did most of the work myself or found printers to work with here in Brooklyn. For books like Covers and Visitor, I sourced the paper, had the pages locally printed and then did the folding or stapling of each copy. It was a decent amount of work but very rewarding.

 
   
 
Book 11: Covers II
 
   
 
Book 12: A New Day
 
 

CG: You produced the first 'Horses Think' publication that did not include your own work, '2013' by Justin James Reed. Could you speak a little about the process of making the book with him? How did the idea come up/evolve? Are there plans for 'Horses Think' to produce other artist's work in the near future?

OW: Moving forward I hope that Horses Think Press can help other artists produce small run publications. Earlier this year I published Justin James Reed's 2013. Justin is a close friend and he basically came to me with this amazing project. He initially wanted to make 10-20 copies. I kind of pushed him to make 100. I wish we could have produced 1000 copies because I had never seen another book quite like 2013 and I knew that people would love it as much as I did. We worked on the sequencing and selection of images together. Then we brought in Common Name to help with final touches as well as typographic and packaging concepts.

We never even printed 100 copies, barely made it to 93, as it was extremely labor intensive and cost-prohibitive. But it was an incredible experience and I enjoyed getting the word out to people about this super smart project.

I'm currently working on another book with a different artist and looking for new projects that I could publish. My plan is to publish one or two titles a year.

 

www.horsesthink.com

 

Interview by Christopher Gianunzio