Pocket Essays is a new series from The Velvet Cell. Each book is framed by a particular theme that relates to photography. The series is edited by Kyler Zeleny, author of Out West, which was published by The Velvet Cell in 2014.
Pocket Essays was inspired by conversations between Kyler and myself about our love to read about photography and to give a platform for amazing writing out there that is photography-related. Each pocket book is made up of critical essays that further the discussion of the overall theme. From our perspectives, we are interested in essays that inform and challenge the role of photography today. The long-term goal of the initiative is to help foster a community of engaged and like-minded individuals who have a passion for critical as well as engaging written and visual work.
Kyler and I met back in 2011 while studying at Goldsmiths in London. We were both studying Photography and Urban Cultures - a photography course housed in the Sociology department. We have had countless conversations about the role of modern photography and how it can be used as a tool to explore and document our surroundings. We bemoaned the lack of accessible content out there on this subject. Everything we came across, it seemed, was overly academic and inaccessible to the casual reader. We wanted to change this; we wanted to create a publication that was easier for the average reader to digest.
Our ultimate goal was to create a series of books with interesting essays that we ourselves would want to read. We wanted to create a series that helps people understand the power and role of photography through the written word.
It goes without saying that this series is very different from everything else I have published at The Velvet Cell. The most distinguishing difference is the emphasis on text over images. It is a book to be read, not viewed. I think that this series complements the more visual side of The Velvet Cell very well as it helps to give an idea of the context in which many projects happen.
The size of the book is also very different. I was inspired by small ‘pocket’ books that I have seen in Japan and Taiwan to create something similar. As we wanted to make something accessible, we also envisaged a book that you can take with you and read on the train to work. We wanted to veer away from the idea of the hardback textbook that lives on your shelf, heavy, and rarely viewed. I believe this series will be of interest to anyone who is interested in the process and role of photography in today’s world. Our essay with Erik Kessels, for example, looks at the role of the family album and the self censorship that we often apply in creating it, and why he believes this happens.
The plans for this book started back in 2013. A long time ago. After many excited conversations, Kyler and I soon discovered that creating a book based on essays is a very different process, and in many ways more difficult, than what I had created with TVC up to that point. Firstly, there were the difficulties of finding writers, managing them, making sure that they were writing on our chosen theme. This was followed by the long process of editing and preparing the text for print. It was a big learning curve, but I am far more confident about the second book in this series now that the first one has been completed.