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Straylight Press: A new project in photographic self-publication

Straylight Press: A new project in photographic self-publication

(Image via Straylight Press. Copyright protected.)

You may remember Canadian photographer Tony Fouhse. We profiled his series of portraits of Ottawa street addicts, User, back in 2010.

Tony’s hard-hitting photos have garnered worldwide attention, through shows and blogs. For his follow-up project, Live Through This, Tony got in deep. He allowed the life of one “User”, Stephanie, to become intertwined with his own, at one point allowing her to move in to his house (Tony is happily married) as Steph tried to sort her life out.

From the official description:

In the Fall of 2010 photographer Tony Fouhse asked Stephanie MacDonald if there was something he could do to help her. Stephanie is a heroin addict. She asked him to help her get into rehab.

And so began a journey that lasted nine months, that began in despair and moved through horror towards hope, that took twists and turns unimaginable when they began.

Told through portraits of Stephanie, photographs of her notes to Tony and in Stephanie’s own words, LIVE THROUGH THIS is a book that describes, defines and evokes that harrowing journey.

(Image via Drool. Copyright protected.)

Tony also documented this project weekly at his blog, Drool, and it became a gripping story full of hope, loss, frustration and little victories. From there, it became obvious that this was a story worthy of “old-school” publishing: a book. But after months of pitching publishers, considering vanity options, and even crowdfunding, Tony became convinced that there had to be a better way.

And that’s how Straylight Press was born. Tony describes it as ” A vehicle to produce and disseminate printed photo matter.” What it really is, is a community for artists to take ownership of their own publishing by selling directly to patrons.

In the about page, Tony speaks in terms creatives understand:

What is STRAYLIGHT PRESS? Or, more to the point, what can it become?

Like all things that are meant to evolve and define themselves, the answer will become more clear as time goes on.

STRAYLIGHT’s intention is to become a portal for the support and sale of printed photo matter. Books and ‘zines. Photographers’ projects in small editions, some with original prints. Occasionally certain projects will be brought to fruition, to book form, through using STRAYLIGHT as a venue for pre-sales.

The projects offered on STRAYLIGHT will be curated in the sense that when you come to browse you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to bump into. But it will want to keep you on your toes, surprised, too.

It would be counterproductive to define STRAYLIGHT’s mandate any further here. . .this thing is meant to evolve. And that evolution will have a lot to do with the ideas, the projects, and the energy and passion photographers and concerned citizens bring to it.

Straylight already has a number of publications for sale, but its inaugural pitch is to generate pre-sales for Live Through This.


(Image via Straylight blog. Copyright protected.)

Over a hamburger at a local joint, Tony explained to me that he just wanted to find a way to connect creators with supporters in a way that would let photography get into print without bankrupting either party. And he’s offering incentives for funders who get in on it now — everything from a framable, signed, print from the book to a deluxe package with limited edition outtakes.

It’s all about turning the online interest and in-person support into something more permanent than the latest “like” or “share” — and one that professional photographers can make a living from. In short: “Give us your money so we can transform it into something and then send that something back to you.”

Photographers controlling publishing… is this the lunatics running the asylum, or just the natural outgrowth of our “owned media” world?

See more photos on my Buzzfeed post.
Learn more about Straylight Press and Live Through This here.

I am Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. Read more