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David Galjaard: On Concresco

TB: The Netherlands has a rich tradition of photography and photobook-making, and you mentioned Ed van der Elsken as an influence. Are there any other Dutch photographers, photobooks, or graphic designers that you look to for inspiration?

DG: When I started off with this book, I really knew very little about photobooks. I had a lot of photobooks, but I knew nothing about making them myself. I was never really planning to make a book but this series just wanted to, needed to be a book, so this was the first time that I really started thinking about the photobook as an object. It was my designer’s first photobook too. . . . At first we looked a lot at other photobooks, but pretty early on we stopped looking at other work and really tried to design the book for the series, and the story we wanted to tell. There was one book that really helped me make some decisions, though, and that was Shelter by Henk Wildschut. If I had to point to one book that was an inspiration, it’s that one.

TB: You worked with designer Katie McGonigal to bring Concresco to life as a book. How did you come to work with her, and how did you two collaborate in the process of designing the book?

DG: Katie McGonigal is actually my girlfriend. I really like her work; she has a sort of analog way of working. If you work with her you won’t sit behind a computer very much; it’s all tactile, and 3-D, and cutting and pasting, so that’s one of the things I really liked because I do the same—I like the analog way of working and spending as little time as possible behind a computer.

The other point was that if there was no other solution, she was willing to work for free, so that of course also really helped me out. From the start we worked on this very much together, but I was more focused on the editing of the text and the images, and she was more into the design. But because we worked so closely, all the time, and sometimes seven days a week, for weeks, we also influenced each other. She had influence on the editing, I had influence on the design. So there was a lot of symbiosis—with some ideas we don’t even recall whose idea it was because we were really working as one unit. You can imagine, if you wake up every morning next to your designer and the first thing you do is start talking about the book, and you do this for over a year, it all gets sort of blurry. It took us quite some time, a couple of months, to really find out which role we both were playing. But we eventually found the right balance.

TB: Is there any advice you’d offer to others interested in self-publishing their work?

DG: Don’t make a deadline. Never start with your deadline, because you’re probably not going to make it. Give yourself the time. Also, it’s very important to put your project away for a couple of months, if you can. When you’re working so intensely on a project, you will inevitably have tunnel vision, and the best way to get out of the tunnel is just to put it aside for a month, maybe two, and then look at it again.

Also, don’t make concessions. If you do a self-published book and it’s going to take all your time, and all your money, and all your energy anyway, why should you make a book with concessions? If, you’re lacking the money and you have to make sacrifices in the design, you’re not going to be satisfied. You just have to find a way to get that money.

To publish the book, [I raised] a lot of outside money; I had some funding from an art organization, and there were two companies that put some money into it, thanks to the Dutch embassy in Tirana, Albania. I won a pitch, I did crowdfunding and put all my own money into it, as well.

It was an intense, non-stop project. You’re the boss of everything, you know, but you feel that you don’t know anything. It was an amazing learning experience. I can’t recall since I first started photographing learning so much in such a short amount of time, and well, to say it in an American way, “It was a hell of a ride.”

Concresco / Self-published / Den Haag, The Netherlands, 2012 / Designed by Katie McGonigal / 21.3 x 34 cm / 168 pages / 62 color photographs / Clothbound

Images courtesy David Galjaard.

David Galjaard graduated in 2006 from the art academy in The Hague, The Netherlands. Since then he has worked as a documentary photographer and as a freelancer for national newspapers and magazines. He has won several awards and has received grants to complete projects in The Netherlands, Albania, and Nigeria.

Thomas Bollier is a graduate of McGill University and the digital media work-scholar at the Aperture Foundation.