20th March, 2013    Text  Trey Taylor   

Napoléon Press is Martin Bachelier, Yves Drillet and Antoine Seiter. Making a bold move by snubbing print’s obituary, these Frenchmen talk to HERO about starting up their own publishing house as a means to dole out their work. They publish Honnête magazine – a trimestrial publication about the art and music scene in Rennes – alongside photo books like Chien & Lapin, a metaphorical gallivant comparing rabbit hunting to photography. Their stark imagery and eager outlook are a refreshing addition to the print world, so a worthwhile round trip down the rabbit hole is a must.

Why start self-publishing now? Were you having trouble finding the right venue for your photography?

After working on a collective book published by Kaugummi (now Shelter Press) Bartolomé Sanson, the editor, told us that what he did for us, we could now do by ourselves. After discussing it we decided that’d be exciting and created Napoléon Press. This means we have total control of what we are doing, to make all the choices from the editing to the distribution. That’s the kind of thing any photographer can dream about. By our complementary abilities in print and design it’s possible to be independent on small projects. Our next target is to be famous and have every member of the team published by MACK. For now it’s preferable to do things on our own rather than use an average trendy publishing house to do a shady fanzine that will be published in two years.

What’s the idea behind Chien & Lapin?

This photo book was shot during the weekend of the 6th October 2011, where the two photographers found hound dogs on the island of Arz in Brittany, France. The sequence you have in the book is just what happened under their eyes. The layout is simple and built as a narrative and chronological sequence, following their night investigation.

In Chien & Lapin, the main subject – the hunt – is actually absent. It’s not directly visible, but it’s there. This leads you to look at the hunt as a metaphorical story of the act of photographing. This is one of the various messages you can see in the book.

For the “TO” series by Antoine Seiter, what is the fascination with the journey itself? Do you see travel as something purely visual?

The “TO” series are books made of photographs framed by train windows. Then the serendipity of the landscape works as a kind of ready made that looks like a poetic route to nowhere. There is obviously a strong fascination for the train journey and the special way you get to view the landscape, as if you were submitting yourself to a unique way to look at your journey. But after editing the book we actually understood that these landscapes could also reflect a truthful image of a country, because the photographs, when they don’t become too blurry, are actually pictures of boring, forgotten or industrial landscapes that you usually don’t care about because they’re just what’s in between two main city centres.

How do you balance your different visual aesthetics when working together?

Actually, everything is done with a small team of two or alone, so it’s quite easy to make a decision on the right editing. If the question was about mixing our different work in a book, it really depends. Books of our beginnings like Foreplay in 2010 mixed five bodies of work. Now we are a bit frustrated by this kind of collective work. It’s really close to nonsense. We are more developing different projects for each of us. Chien & Lapin is an exception because Martin Bachelier and Pierre Seiter took the pictures of the same project at the same time, so that was a good reason to make a two-person book. But you cannot really see which picture was taken by which person and that isn’t really the central question in this book.

How do you see Napoléon Press growing?

We are really only beginning now, but we saw it as a platform to promote our work, share others’ work and, above all, experiment on the photo book format, try new printing processes and new ways to distribute and show photography. Napoléon Press will come to an end when each of us is on the MACK publisher catalogue.

Do you have any plans for other releases in the near future?

We are working on a series of black and white collages printed on newspaper by Yves Drillet. We are also trying to finish the next episode of 1er en Sport et en Chant: a journal where we started publishing friends and young photographers we want to work with. These two projects will be out in a couple of months. For the future we are planning some books of friends that have great work but haven’t had the chance to be published yet.