Oranbeg Press: DIY done right
It’s likely you’ll recognize the names of at least a handful of the more than 100 artists who have participated in Oranbeg Press’ Interleaves (a current list is at the bottom of this post). Interleaves are 2-sided inkjet prints measuring roughly 12″ x 15″ which are designed to be folded in half, twice, making them about the size of a small paperback book. It’s one of several ongoing projects orchestrated by photographer and Oranbeg’s Founder John O`Toole in which the traditional photo book is a format is ripe for re-imagining. Oranbeg’s seemingly boundless enterprise — there’s always something new in the works— takes full advantage of the instant-gratification digital photography offers, and the press functions in equal parts as an unconventional art publisher and a community hub. Running through all of Oranbeg’s output is a DIY inclusiveness that is sometimes missing from the ultra-exclusive-limited-edition scene of art book publishing.
A perfect example of John’s all-hands-on-deck approach to publishing took place under the name Imprint as part of Pratt Institute’s RiDE initiative (Risk/Dare/Experiment). Over two days, John rolled wide-format printers and multiple computer stations into the main corridor of Pratt’s photography department for collaborative production sessions. Students/faculty as well as the general public were encouraged to stop by, design an Interleaf with John on the fly, and come back a few hours later to pick up their free copy. Projects like Imprint — fast, and with minimal premeditation — are fantastic opportunities for artists and art students to engage in a low-stakes yet highly-rewarding project. It’s a refreshing reminder to students and everyone else that this whole art thing is supposed to be fun, after all.
As of today, John has commissioned exactly 110 artists to take part in the Interleaves, and according to him, the project will end with the 150th iteration: only 40 more to go! One of the things I love about the project is that John brings a high level of technical skill to the project (his day job is as a photo lab technician) and yet manages to keep the project fun, accessible, and most importantly tactile. These aren’t pristine inkjet prints encapsulated in a frame, they’re meant to be folded, handled, and worn. And they are all the better for it — some of the older contributions to the project have become soft and fuzzy around the fold lines after being folded and unfolded, and carted from book fair to book fair. They remind me of fold-out posters in magazines or CD’s, or National Geographic map/infographics like this one of the Orion Nebula from a 1995 issue (maybe someone should submit an Interleaves design of an unfolded poster?):
Not every design specifically incorporates the fold-lines as a central element, but there are more than a few clever artists that take the act of folding and unfolding as an opportunity to reveal and conceal elements of the imagery. What’s appealing about this format to me is the intimacy it fosters with the work it contains; paper is ultimately vulnerable and fragile and so the act of turning this material in your hands requires a soft touch. The Interleaves take what’s best about zines—DIY, democratized production with little-to-no barriers to entry— without putting quality reproduction and nuanced subtlety on the shelf.
And Interleaves is far from the only project on John’s plate. He also organizes Oranbeg NET, a series of online group exhibitions that recruits outside curators for an online exhibition and digital PDF of the show. So while part of the charm in the Interleaves project is its physical presence, Oranbeg’s reach extends into exclusively digital spaces as well. All of this is to say that what Oranbeg does particularly well is act as an inclusive and participatory hub for current photographic practices. The list of artists involved in one project or another is already substantial and “in a constant state of update”. At $3 apiece, it’s not a significant investment to pick up one or several Interleaves and the poster-like format takes all of the cost-effective advantages inherent to digital publishing without falling prey to the preciousness that can keep artist publications hermetically sealed on bookshelves in plastic sleeves.
As for what’s next, the second edition of Oranbeg’s newest publication venture SoSo — described on Oranbeg’s site as “A periodical released every once in a while” — will be released at the Philadelphia Art Book Fair and will feature Alex Thebez, Nat Ward, Everything is Collective, TJ Elias, Hannah Solomon, Lauren Wansker, Sarah Frohn and an essay by Colin Todd. SoSo will also have a companion zine, Gutter, which was sourced through one of Oranbeg’s many open calls. Check Oranbeg’s Tumblr for the most up to date news.
Here’s the full tally of Interleaves artists (current as of 04/17/2015 and bound to change soon):
Ben Alper, Michael McCraw, Timothy Briner, Colin Todd, Daniel Augschoell, Varvara Mikushkina, Michael Vahrenwald, TJ Elias, Irina Rozovsky, Carlos Lowenstein, Maggie Shannon, Jay Muhlin, Michael Marcelle, Sophie T. Lvoff, Pauline Magnenat, Nat Ward, Ginevra Shay, Dan Boardman, Leigh Van Duzer, Mark Daniel Harley, Meghan Schaetzle, Curran Hatleberg, Tristan Hutchinson, Lynley Bernstein, Mike Finkelstein, Quinn Gorbutt , John M. O’Toole, Joe Lingeman, Josh Poehlein, Patrick Hogan, Matthew Austin, Seth Fluker, Nicole White, Tammy Mercure, Eric Ruby,Carl Gunhouse, Daisuke Yokota, Ben Huff, Aaron Canipe, Nelson Chan, Jake Reinhart, Claudio Nolasco, Tara Wray, Sara Stojkovic, Sara J Winston, David Oresick, David la Spina, Amy Lombard, Andrew Hammerand, Solomon Schechman, Clayton Cotterell, Shane Lyman, Susana Zak, Jeremy Haik, Jesse Hlebo, Coley Brown, Erin Jane Nelson, Andrew Frost, Colin Stearns, Magali Duzant, Jordan Baumgarten, Stephen Hilger, Lindsay Metivier, Jane Tam, Kai McBride, Kim Hoeckele, Ryan Arthurs, Nicole Reber, Caitie Moore, Jesse Untracht-Oakner, Peter Hoffman, Stephanie Powell, Amiko Li, Matthew Mili, Sean Stewart, Joe Leavenworth, Casey Dorobek, Mona Varichon, Matthew Gamber, Melanie Flood, Nathaniel Grann, Skylar Blum, Matthew Cronin, Brittany Marcoux, Jamie Hladkey, Erin O’Keefe, Keith Yahrling, Erik Schubert, Eli Durst, Matthew David Crowther, Vivien Aryoles, Daniel Terna, Zachary Norman, Hirokazu Kobayashi, Jesse Crimes, Brian Ulrich, Annie Solinger, Benjamin Davis, Jenna Garret, Katie Shapiro, Ron Jude, Alex Nelson, Stephanie Bursese, Melissa Cantanese, Mike Slack, Susan Worsham, Dru Donovan, Laura Heyman, Eva O’Leary and Dylan Nelson.