interview 1991 éditions /// lejournaldebord.fr

I met Matteo through friends we had in common about 4 years ago. We had the opportunity to meet again afterwards because we had similar interests. I learned that he had created 1991 books with one of his childhood friends Étienne just a year ago and I just wanted to know more about this project, their beginnings in publishing and passion for alternative culture.

à Paris : une discussion avec Matteo & Étienne, 1991 books.

Interview & Photography Farade Nicolas


French version

Could you please introduce yourself?
Étienne
: We both grew up in Avignon in the south of France. Luckily, this is a city with a rich cultural background that allowed us to have access to things that stimulate us.
Matteo: Yes and indirectly there has always been a link with Paris, both for the Avignon Festival and the Lambert Collection*.

Coming from a provincial town, did you feel a cultural gap when arriving in Paris?
Matteo
: To be able to evolve artistically, Paris is the ideal city and you obviously feel a cultural gap, everything is definitely more accessible here.
Étienne:  When I look back at it, it is true that you can develop a tiny complex when you arrived there. In Paris, you have access to a richer, faster and global culture. On the other hand, your curiosity grew and as a teenager, you are looking for things that stimulate your mind & creativity. It is a strength that made us stand out.

Did you come to Paris at the same time?
Matteo
: More or less at the same period, yes but we lost each other sight for several years. I came to Paris to pursue my studies in filmmaking. After graduating I worked at Iconoclast and did freelance editing. In parallel, I met Thibault Choay who offered me a position at CLASSIC. Today I take care of the bookstore that we opened and I also shoot photos and videos.
Étienne: I arrived in Paris around 2006, I started my studies in an Art market school then I joined a Marketing one. After that, I worked for Edwin Europe's team as a designer for the brand in Germany. The experience lasted 3 years. I came back to settle in Paris and worked on personal projects.

How did the idea of creating 1991 books come?
Matteo
: Almost a week after starting to work at CLASSIC (we did not have the bookstore yet), I was making an order and the bill was in the name of Étienne, who was working at Edwin's.
Étienne: I received his message, we made contact and basically started to hang out together again. Shortly after I went on holiday to Greece and documented my trip mainly by taking pictures of graffiti found in Athens.
Matteo: I had this name in mind for a long time and it seemed logical to use it for our project (we were both born that same year). We started the project with Étienne's zine and I also had a series of photos that I wanted to publish for a long time. For other publications, we are trying to collaborate with our close friends.

Étienne: The project was born quickly. Nothing was really thoughtful or planned. We ended up around a common idea, have fun.

Do you have an editorial line?
Matteo
: We did not really think about a specific editorial line, however, I think everything we are trying to do is made with spontaneity. Each collaboration gives us ideas for the upcoming ones.
Étienne: Let's say that the editorial line was made naturally, very organically, depending on the material -pictures- we had available. In regards to the artists choice, it was somehow easy because we were surrounded by people from our respective creative circles. It was important for us to promote the stuff we enjoy in a sincere manner. I would say that nothing is really planned, all those projects evolve over our desires and motivations.

Do you produce everything yourself?
Matteo
: Yes, we choose them to. We are doing our own layout, printing, and shaping. As far as the technical part you have to understand that we are not experts. It's a very complicated process and sometimes there could be problems and mistakes made. We have both been influenced by artists like Ari Marcopoulos and we are trying to produce something quite raw. The first series were printed with a Xerox copier, which also gave us a certain aesthetic and consistency. After publishing « Friend Can Not Trust You » we switched to another printing technique, the risograph.

Why so?
Étienne
: Our tastes, experiences, and attraction for creation are just evolving. Either you are a new photographer or more confirmed, it brings everyone to the same level and a share visibility.

Is there a particular choice producing your books in black and white?
Matteo
: We are not against using color, it is mainly a technical and economic constraint that allows us to maintain an aesthetic unity.

It reminds me somehow the work of the great Daido Moriyama.
Étienne
: I do not know, but it's definitely a reference for me just like Japanese photography in general.

How did your passion for photography has grown?
Étienne
:  My grandfather was a photographer. I really started to get interested about a decade ago. I began to take pictures of the people I met, shooting evenings & also trips I was doing with my friends.
Matteo: I delved into the skate culture at a very young age. I was really inspired by artists like Ed Templeton* and Larry Clark* but at that time I didn’t take photography seriously back then. The envy grew later strangely at school when I discovered a lot more information about the history of photography. I re-discovered photographers like Nan Goldin* or Ryan McGinley* and bought my first camera that same year. I'm starting to make a living with it but, I have a hard time defining myself as a photographer.

Are you always going out with your camera on you?
Matteo
: Less now. I used to take it all the time with me, now I often use my phone as a camera.
Étienne: It's cyclical. There are times when you feel more inspired but I would say only by habit. I have a camera on me to immortalize a moment or an atmosphere that could move me.

Etienne, when you left for your trip to Japan, did you have the idea to make a publication?
Étienne
: It was not the first intention, although I knew I was going to have a few pictures from the time I spent there once back in Paris. Japan was a childhood dream, it seemed inevitable that I document this trip. I wasn't really thinking about producing a book. It felt natural for me to do so. Satellite Anthem* is like a wandering in between the electric pulsations who provoked this particular envy, the desire I had in a waking dream lived there.

How do you proceed when choosing who’s going to be featured in your edition?
Matteo
: The process is quite simple when we contact a photographer we ask him if he has some work to show, if it pleases us (which is often the case), we publish it. Generally, we contact people we know or at least with whom we have a tiny relationship.

Do you edit the photos that artists send you?
Matteo
: Not really, there is a random side that comes into the final process that makes unifies everything. There is no particular need to edit anything. It happens that sometimes we can make quick adjustments on the printing machine (for technical reasons only). Having small constraints allows you to go straight to the point!
Étienne: It truly helps because at some point, when it’s done you have to let go and let the work speak for itself.

Do you edit the photos that artists send you?
Matteo
: Not really, there is a random side that comes into the final process that makes unifies everything. There is no particular need to edit anything. It happens that sometimes we can make quick adjustments on the printing machine (for technical reasons only). Having small constraints allows you to go straight to the point!
Étienne: It truly helps because at some point, when it’s done you have to let go and let the work speak for itself.

How do you divide the work, who does what? Do you decide together on the content? Is it not hard sometimes to work together, how do you usually split the tasks?
Matteo
: Obviously we have a different taste which for me is very important, we are quite complementary. Usually one of us is dealing with the editing process then we switch and complete one after the other. I hate intellectualizing things, either it works at first glance or it does not.
Étienne: Our duo is solid and each of us is listening to what the other can offer. It ultimately depends on the affinity that one or the other has with the artist. As for the different tasks and process well, everything is pretty much done naturally without really thinking about it. That's what makes our collaboration effective. We are quite easy with each other, we both have sometimes to defend our own ideas. In the end, you just need to be careful and listen to what the others have to say.

Do you sometimes disagree?
Étienne: Not really even after 16 publications. Some projects can emerge very quickly, in one day, while others may take longer. We try to tell what is the most obvious for us in terms of storytelling. The purpose is that everyone can view themselves into something and that they find pleasure in.
Matteo: Not disagree, we try to discuss furthermore if something doesn't seem to work. We always try to understand why the other wants to take a certain direction & mood.

And with an artist, any difficult moments?
Matteo: Not for the moment...

 

So they trust you enough…
Matteo
: Yes, and ironically the title of our first series was 'FRIENDS CAN NOT TRUST YOU'. It is true that some artists have more requirements than others, usually those who make a living from their practice. Nevertheless, once the book is done, they usually don’t have much to say about the final product. They always seem satisfied.

How do you choose the titles from your publications?
Étienne
: When we start to work on the publication and once the narration is established. The titles can be references to what we are reading or listening to at the moment.

How do you choose the titles from your publications?
Étienne
: When we start to work on the publication and once the narration is established. The titles can be references to what we are reading or listening to at the moment.

The cover of Cédric Viollet WHATEVER's zine is really captivating.
Étienne
: Thank you! By the time we started to work on the publication, Cédric's RINGXIETY* book was not finished. WHATEVER* seemed obvious to us as a choice of title. As much by the photography work that clearly symbolizes the whole project.

Are you still in this dynamic where you buy a lot of books?
Matteo: I always have a little phobia of sold out items. It's true that I am buying quite a lot these days but I guess I think more about quality than quantity which is important. As for any type of collection, when you start it is hard to stop, you can try to slow it down. 

I find myself spending a lot of time in bookstores and on the internet to search for gems.
Étienne
: Depending on the period, but yes it is an integral part of my daily life. We live in a society where there is a lot of information, the flow is constant nevertheless you have the impression that no one really acts.
Matteo: Yes, no one really acts but at the same time, there are other hyper-passionate and productive people with whom you can build fast links through networks like Instagram. Everything goes works with social media now, it's an incredible database if you know how to sort it out.

Étienne: Through different proposals, I think we try to capture the essence of what makes our generation, whether it's something we like or not.

How do you perceive this growing interest in independent publishing?
Matteo
: It's great, even if people don’t really buy that many books they seemed to be curious about it. For me, the trends are always interesting because it gives a second life to forgotten objects, and we are the first to benefit.
Étienne: On which sector of the publishing industry we are dealing with. For our case, self-publishing is in line with our lifestyle. There has never been any question about making money with our projects. On the other hand, the growing attraction for this specific sector is a good stimulation & it allows us to propose as many things as possible.

I would like to know your opinion on independent fairs, do you discover new things?
Matteo
: If you're outside all that circle you can get lost quickly, there are many things and in my opinion not all very interesting, but internally it's great, you meet other publishers who share the same passion as you and you always find something you did not manage to buy.
Étienne: I was only able to go to the one organized in Paris, where the attendance remains good if you look at the number of exhibitors & visitors. It has been said then the one made in New York is more dynamic, the interest is bigger, it is well established and obviously if you take a look at the selling aspect it is definitely way better.

Are there publishing houses that you respect and take the time to look at their publications from time to time?
Étienne
: Steidl in terms of shaping and ethics Nazraeli Press also for its diversity and the preciousness of their works. It is a question of balance, the selection proposed by bookstores like CLASSIC and BATT in Paris or Commune in Tokyo is just as rich as what we are trying to do with our project. 

Matteo: There are Red Lebanese who in my opinion are doing good. Otherwise, I would say Innen and Nieves in Switzerland for their selection of artists and Steidl indeed in terms of manufacturing.

 
 
interview 1991 books /// lejournaldebord.fr

Do you buy more often on the internet or in stores?
Étienne
: There are no more secrets, you can find pretty much everything no matter where you go, Internet just makes it easier.
Matteo: Both. However, I usually go over the Internet to find books that I have not had the time to buy in bookstores or simply rare books when I come across good deals. I rarely buy books that I've already had in my hands.

Are you also buying on Amazon for example?
Matteo
: Of course. The bookstores often take a few copies of books and despite everything on Amazon you can find more common titles of publishers like Rizzoli or Prestel that you do not necessarily find at the resellers. There are also more independent publishing houses like PowerHouse or Damiani who have published almost all the "important" books of street culture in the last ten years. 

But if I take the example of an artist like Basquiat who has been published hundreds of times over the years, how do you know which titles are important?
Matteo
: It's true that for artists like Basquiat or Warhol there has been an incalculable number of books published. The most important are those made in their lifetime, for others, there are some monographs like the one from Keith Haring published by Rizzoli in 2008. I think that when you are really interested in any specific subject, you know which way to go to find what you really need.

An ideal destination to live, Paris?
Étienne
: I do not think that I have a particular destination in mind. I love Paris for its diversity and Paris is able to offer in various environments and subcultures, it has nothing to envy to other major cities.
Matteo: I think that today when you live in a creative environment, you do not have much choice. You have France otherwise London, New York, and Tokyo. Personally, I like Paris, I have my habits there and in spite of everything I always discover new things even if living there is not necessarily always simple. I think there are many things to do and especially many opportunities if you know how to cease them.

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interview 1991 éditions /// lejournaldebord.fr