As someone who buys photobooks and has more options at my fingertips than ever I’m not sure what to make of this. There is a lot of work to look at and inevitably a lot of this work is really good and enjoyable work. A lot (lot) of it is shit too, but who cares? And who cares if Martin Parr can only sell 4,000 instead of 10,000 copies now? Maybe that’s because there are other artists who have work worth buying, and now we have access to it and would rather buy work from a new artist instead of adding a 10th book by a mainstay to our collection. I just bought a Schilt title a few weeks ago by a new artist. One of my favorite books this year.
I agree that it’s problematic that artists have to come up with $20k to fund their own book (this isn’t a problem if the work isn’t worthy of publication but that’s an argument that is situation dependent.) But again - as a buyer - there is a never ending stream of work to explore - how is this bad? It is the classic argument for/against gatekeepers that has taken place in every form of consumable media in the past 10-15 years.
I will not argue against gatekeepers as, in my opinion, they justify their existence by finding and producing a majority of the best work out there. I am more likely to by a title by a publisher I respect than I am a self-published title, but at the same time I love that we have access to self-published works now because often you get quite surprised by it. I think striving for coexistence is the key - coming to terms with a more democratized and varied population of producers probably means less ‘stars’ but more people with ‘mild success stories’ - which, again, I ultimately think is a good thing.
Maybe this whole thing will crash and burn when publishers can’t make any money and they all fold, but until then - well, I’m hesitant to call anything a Golden Age or not because frankly I don’t think you can do that until you have the benefit of hindsight - but this sure isn’t a bad time for photobooks.