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Q&A: Lisa Naftolin talks with Hassla (On the eve of the Warehouse Sale!)

Posted on | August 20, 2010|No Comments<Back
Posted by The Photography Post

David Schoerner launched Hassla Books in January of 2007. The independent publishing company has released 14 titles to date with another handful in the works. I had the pleasure of looking through the nearly-full collection of Hassla books – several titles have sold out – and asked Schoerner to characterize the project.

DS: I publish small artist books that are limited-edition. I don’t do reprints and I try to keep the books affordable – the majority are around $20.

LN: What was the impetus for starting Hassla?

DS: I’d seen some small artist books that other people had done and I really loved them. I started by making my own very small book and I continued by working with other artists.


From David Schoerner, Hassla, 2007

LN: Since this is The Photography Post, could you speak about the relationship between your press and photography?

DS: Well, a lot of the books I’ve done have been photo-based. I am a photographer, I come from a photography background, so many of the artists I know best are photographers or artists working with photography. I tend toward photographic work, which happens to lend itself particularly well to book form. When you get into drawing and painting it can be difficult to make a publication that functions as more than simply a catalogue, whereas with photography it can very easily stand alone.

LN: In the instances where you’ve published drawing or painting, is there an overt relationship to photography beyond the fact that the work is being selected by you?

DS: Dan McCarthy, for example, is making drawings from photographs of friends, or using magazine images as points of reference. There is definitely a connection, a sensibility that all of the books share.


From Dan McCarthy, Hassla, 2009

LN: Hassla is in part a curatorial project. Are there other small presses that influenced you, where you were aware of a unique sensibility permeating all of the publications?

DS: Nieves is the first small press I was aware of doing this type of artist’s book. They had been around for at least 6 years before I got started and they are involved in the culture of photocopied zines as well, not something I do. Nieves had a really big influence on me, especially Tokyo and my Daughter, a book they published with Takashi Homma.

LN: And you were able to eventually do a book with Homma, First, Jay Comes, a combination of photographs and drawings.


From First, Jay Comes by Takashi Homma, Hassla, 2009


From First, Jay Comes by Takashi Homma, Hassla, 2009

DS: Yes. He told me that he had been working on some new photographs but also a series of drawings, which he seemed to find amusing. They work well together, there is a violence but also an incredible beauty in the photography and seemingly quick, gestural paintings of blood in snow.

LN: Can you speak about working with some of the artists you’ve published?

DS: When I contacted Anne Collier, she was in residence at Artpace San Antonio working on a slideshow of stills from the 1970s film, The Eyes of Laura Mars. Happily, she thought it could work well as a book. I met Dan McCarthy a couple of years before starting Hassla and we’ve since become good friends. I did my second book with him. I liked his work immediately when I first saw it. I am attracted to his visual sensibility. The first pieces I saw were naked women standing on skateboards or surfing. I grew up skateboarding and surfing and the subject matter speaks to me. When I contacted him about doing a book he was working on an exhibition in France, so this became a companion piece.


From Woman With A Camera (35mm) by Anne Collier, Hassla, 2009

LN: How does the conception and layout of a project work?

DS: In many different ways. For The Strangeness of This Idea by Kate Steciw, the most recent publication, it was extremely collaborative. I would shoot her an idea and she would respond. I’d work on pacing and image sequence and show her; there was a lot of back and forth.


From The Strangeness of This Idea by Kate Steciw, Hassla, 2010

LN: What’s it like making an approach to photographers as a Publisher?

DS: It’s one of the best things. Especially when some of the artists whose work I looked at when I was studying to be a photographer love Hassla and want to do a project. It’s fantastic!

LN: What’s on deck for Hassla?

DS: I’m working on a book with New York-based photographer Pierre Le Hors. We’re exploring some unusual printing techniques for this book which will probably be around 300 pages. I’m also hosting a warehouse sale in my apartment tomorrow from 12pm to 6pm (171 Ave C, 2D)! All titles will be half price for one day only!

Lisa Naftolin was most recently Creative Director of Art + Commerce and will be Executive Director, Creative Branding for Nars beginning in September. She has been a visiting artist at Cooper Union, a visiting critic in Design at Yale, and a mentor in the Photography program at SVA.

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