Brown Owl Press newsletter

Brown Owl Press Dispatch #8: Iain Sarjeant

We first met Iain Sarjeant when we collaborated on his zine Regeneration, back in 2014. Since then , he started the popular blog Another Place which then spawned the fantastic Another Place Press.

Introduce yourself! Who are you, where do you come from and what do you do?
I’m Iain Sarjeant... a photographer and publisher based in the Scottish Highlands. I use photography to explore and reflect on my relationship with my surroundings, working mostly on long-term projects. 

I am often drawn to ordinary, everyday places - whether in an urban or rural setting - seeking to document and find interest in the common-place.

I am the founder and editor of Another Place Press... publishing affordable photobooks showcasing work which explores our relationship with ‘place’.

The work you are best known for is probably the Out of the Ordinary series. Can you tell us a little about this project? Is this still ongoing? If so, how will you know when it is completed?
‘Out of the Ordinary’ is a long-term project documenting social landscapes... a sort of journey through everyday Scotland. I worked on the project for roughly 10 years and published an edit of the work in 3 small photobooks through Another Place Press. When the work was exhibited at StreetLevel in Glasgow in 2019 I had intended to draw a line under the project, but I have recently started working on Out of the Ordinary again... with a view to releasing one bigger photobook, a sort of final edit, which will contain new material.

Your Fragments series is you looking a lot closer than most of your other work, what led you to start working in this manner?
Fragments really came from images which I ‘collected’ while working on ‘Out of the Ordinary’... chance observations, almost like visual note-taking. More abstract in nature than the OOTO work, I started to see a connection with these images... I became interested in finding existing ‘arrangements’ in the everyday world, almost accidental works of art in unlikely places. This project is still ongoing, and Volume 1 of the work will be published through Another Place Press this summer.

You started Another Place Press in 2015. What led you to start this publishing concern?
Another Place started life as a blog - a way for me to share the work of other photographers online  whose work I found inspiring, with a theme of photography which explored our relationship with ‘place’. The blog gathered quite a big following quite quickly, and as I have a background in graphic design I decided to try publishing a few of the projects I was featuring on the blog as small photobooks. By that stage I had also already self-published a small book and had 3 books published by other publishers (including collaborating with yourself Al!), so I had a decent insight into the publishing world. And so Another Place Press was born, and it hit the ground running, with a big online audience already following the blog which really helped. The first 3 titles sold out within weeks of launching, and since then I have published 50 photobooks, collaborating with a wide range of photographers from around the world. I’ve also launched a series of smaller zines called ‘Field Notes’ and released 50 titles of those too... hopefully providing an super accessible way to enjoy a range of contemporary photography projects.

From the beginning of APP, two principles were important to me and run through everything I do. Firstly, artists receive royalties on every book sold and pay nothing. It’s too common in publishing now for artists not to receive anything, and in some cases have to pay to be published. This feels totally wrong to me... artists should be paid for their work and every publishing project is a collaboration to hopefully benefit both. And secondly, the books & zines I release are affordable and accessible... to try to reach beyond the photography world, and photobook collectors, to a wider audience, and those on lower incomes such as students.

What lessons have your learned from running Another Place Press. I know I've learned more about small press publishing from my (many, hah!) mistakes than from my successes, would you agree with this? Do you have any advice for someone getting into photobook and zine production?
It was indeed a very steep learning curve when I launched APP - much of the running of an indie press has to be learnt as you go along. And it’s full on if there is just one person to do everything... definitely a labour of love! I had been working with a few print firms for over 20 years so already had a great relationship with printers I could trust. That helped a lot. But, yes, I agree that you learn a lot from your mistakes as well as your successes... and in publishing you will make mistakes! Judging the size of a print run can be tricky, and even after 50 titles I still get caught out occasionally by the success of a book... not printing enough copies for the demand. But I am cautious by nature and would rather sell out of a book than be left with boxes of books I can’t sell!

In terms of advice for those getting into publishing, whether self-publishing or as a small press - I would say that audience is critical. You can produce as wonderful a book as you like but if you don’t have an audience to buy it it will not be successful. So, I would say... before launching try to take time to build up an audience for the work, and what you do.

Do you have any idea about what your next project will be? Or are you focusing on existing ones for now?
In terms of my personal photography... I am working on a number of long-term projects. I’m not very good at sticking to one project and tend to always have a few on the go! I’ve been working over the last few years on a project looking at the North Sea and exploring our relationship with it. I plan to work my way around the full coastline of the North Sea... I’ve almost completed the UK section but now need to find a way to travel along the coastline of France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Norway. As I can’t afford to travel much I am accepting this project may take some time! I am also working on a project called ‘Blackwater’, centred around the landscapes of my home here in the Highlands. It’s a bit of  a departure for me... less documentary and a bit more ambiguous, including portraits. It’s still quite early stages and I’m interested to see where it goes.

Tell us about any artwork/music/podcasts/books you're enjoying at the moment.
I listen to a lot of music, and these days much of that is ambient... artists like H. Takahashi, Hollie Kenniff, KMRU, Night Sky Pulse and Patricia Wolf to name just a few. I am in early talks with an ambient artist over a collaboration of music and images... a conversation of sorts. Looking forward to that very much and seeing how it develops. I’ve also started dabbling in field recording and composing music but I’ve a long way to go with that!! :)

Books... obviously I enjoy photobooks but also read a lot of fiction and non-fiction, and get a lot of inspiration from poetry too. I also look at a lot of other art (other than photography!)... really enjoying the work of Mandy Payne at the moment. Mandy’s work centres around urban landscapes with a keen interest in brutalist architecture. Another artist whose work I love is Jen Orpin... her series of paintings of motorway bridges is wonderful. But I enjoy a wide range of art, and it undoubtedly feeds back
into my own work.

If you could interview anyone, who would it be?
That’s a tricky one! One photographer whose work had a big influence on my photographic journey was a Danish photographer called Keld Helmer-Petersen. He was a early pioneer of colour photography as art and I feel deserves to be much better known than he is. He sadly died in 2013 and although I was in touch with him, I would have loved to have the chance to interview him!

Do you feel hopeful for the rest of 2022?
Yes, I always try to be hopeful! I firmly belive there is a lot more positive things happening in the world than negative... it’s just the negative that makes the news!

Recent news:
Karen Kirchhoff - In the Basement: Punk Music Spaces was released a few weeks ago and is still available Our next title should be announced next week....

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions or opinions please don't hesitate to get in touch.


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