Paris Photo 2023

Editor’s note: Dan Milnor, Blurb’s creative evangelist, spent a week in Paris at some of the world’s most premier photo and book events. This is what he learned.

It has been several weeks since the Blurb team returned from Paris Photo, an international art fair drawing nearly 200 galleries and publishers to the City of Light, but the event is still fresh in my mind. 

This event is essential for anyone enamored with photographs or photography books. With extensive programming and tens of thousands of attendees, Paris Photo is an immersive experience in high-end, fine art photography and book publishing. In addition, other events like Polycopies and Offprint, running concurrent to Paris Photo, offer a wide range of independent, experimental titles and book signings. In short, there is something for everyone. 

Person reading a book on display at Paris Photo

Although I spent hours in the gallery portion of the shows, my heart and mind focused primarily on what was happening in the photobook section of the fairs. Not only was there an entire building set aside for book lovers and an entire barge in the case of Polycopies, but there were also over three hundred book signings by some of the industry’s best. Each day, I was able to walk the shows while conversing with some of my heroes. 

Each year, certain trends emerge from shows like Paris Photo. This applies to the style of photographs made and to the style of books published. Here are my impressions and what they mean for photography and books in 2024.

Digestible print sizes 

One welcome photography trend was the move away from massive prints. Ten years ago, it was not uncommon to see wall-sized prints that required the viewer to back up across the venue to consume the entire photograph. At the time, the print technology was new, so prints like this held an appeal based only on their oversized dimensions. 

Today, thankfully, we are back to more digestible print sizes. Smaller print sizes are more likely to find space on a collector’s already crowded walls, and smaller prints are less costly to produce—yet might still demand stiff prices. 

Photo books on display at Paris Photo

Trending material choices

When it comes to book trends, there were many. The first trend I noticed was consistency in material choice. Many books utilized linen covers, foil stamping, embossing, debossing, inlay photographs, and specialized endsheets. 

There was also a serious focus on more environmentally conscious printing via things like recycled paper and soy-based inks. 

Using materials that printers are already very familiar with adds to the likelihood a photographer will get the book they want while managing to keep their publishing team happy. Many of these materials and customizations are truly beautiful options, one reason why they are so popular. We’ll likely see more of the same in the coming year, so if printing a book is in your future, you’ll want to take note.

Smaller print runs

Another trend I noticed was the size of print runs continues to decline. A decade ago, a print run might be in the 1,500 to 3,000 copy range, while many of the books from this year’s event were printed in the 500 to 750 book range. 

More photo books on display from Ithaca Press at Paris Photo

Why is this important? Photography books are difficult to sell, always have been, so having a smaller run allows you to sell through your books much quicker and move on with your life. Smaller runs also allow you to get back in the field to make new work. 

Experimental books

I also witnessed an explosion in the atypical, experimental, zine-like books on display, especially at events like Offprint. From handmade publications to limited-run, lo-fi magazines and catalogs, nearly every kind of publication imaginable was for purchase. Many of these publications utilize matte materials on both the cover and inside pages. 

Zines are the most egalitarian of all illustrated book options. A zine can be handmade or printed at the local copy machine. Zines are approachable, non-precious, and the perfect gateway towards making more traditional-style publications later in a career. 

Getting started with your own zine can take as little as a few sheets of paper and a glue stick. Just start assembling your work, fold it over, add a staple or two, and have yourself a zine. 

What to expect in 2024

Some say that photography is a story best told in book form, and as a photographer and book lover, I could not agree more. The future of the photobook is democratic. An artist no longer has to be chosen by a traditional gatekeeper.  

I believe self-publishing will continue to thrive as more and more artists move to retain control over their work and legacy while operating on a timeline more favorable to their lifestyle. I also believe print runs will continue to decline in size, which allows the artist to sell through a run in much less time, thus allowing them to return to the field or studio. 

If you have not yet been to Paris Photo and photography is your passion, I can’t recommend it enough. You will see things you love and might not, but the education and motivation this event provides are undeniable. 

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