BAD DAY MAGAZINE
ISSUE #2, FALL, 2008
Tim Barber grew up in Massachusetts. He moved to study photography in Vancouver, BC, where he enmeshed himself in the local creative scene. He had his first solo show when he graduated, before moving to New York to begin working as the Photo Editor of Vice Magazine. During his time at Vice, Tim started a personal website, tinyvices.com, where he began to showcase photographs that people had been sending him. By the time Tim left Vice, tinyvices.com was a cultural hub, presenting work by painters, drawers, photographers, filmmakers and musicians alike. His links page read like a yellow pages for artists, galleries, bloggers, publishers, and designers. While continuing to show his own photography in galleries, Tim began a touring tinyvices group show, which traveled around the world. Most recently, Tim's publishing company, TV Books has released 25 titles, as well as publishing 5 books through Aperture.
ASHER PENN: You did a book for Nieves
called High School. It was a series of pictures that you took
when you were a teenager. Recently for TV books, you published a book
of Julia Burlingham&'s pictures growing up in NYC. What is it about these
photographs that you enjoy so much? Is there something in these photos
that you look for in photography in general?
TB: That criteria? Absolutely. It doesn't mean that the thing has a certain aesthetic, or that it functions or is a certain size or shape. It means that there is something inherent about it that is timeless, powerful, and meaningful.
AP: It's also authorless.
TB: Yeah, totally. It's really not about who made it, it's about what you ended up with. It's weird to say that though, because it negates the history of authorship: the history of the artist.
AP: It's not the most marketable doctrine.
TB: We were definitely not thinking about any sort of art market, I mean, you found it in a thrift store right? We weren't talking about value in terms of price. I struggle to think about that art market stuff, it's not interesting to me. All that has to do with, to me, is people who have more money than they know what to do with. I'm not so interested in that side of things.
AP: That idealism shows on Tinyvices.com
TB: What excited me from the beginning about the website format was the freedom of it. The free-ness of it, the accessibility of it. It was purely "I'm going to do this thing and it is going to be free." Free in multiple senses of the word. Free in what you do with it. Free, that you can have it. Free, in that I'm free, it's not my job, there is no schedule. It's just this free thing. That was always really important to me from the start. People are always asking, "Why don't you sell ads on the site?" If you went there and saw an ad it would change your experience of how you looked at it. It's this blank place, just for looking at stuff. That's why, when I started TV books, it was important that I start a separate site, 'cause I wanted it to be a commercial venture but I didn't want that to effect what was going on on tinyvices.
AP:How did TV books happen?
TB: It was just the natural progression of what I was already doing. The online print on demand service came about and saw it as the perfect opportunity to do what I was already doing but in a book form. And it could not be happening without the on demand printing service. I think that aspect of the story is the most interesting but it's the hardest to communicate. What is capable with this on demand thing is phenomenal. It totally changes the game of publishing and what is possible.
AP: In what way?
TB: It's user generated. It's based on demand, on interest. It's available if you want it, and it's available to be a part of if you want. This girl came up to me at the TV Books launch and asked where I got the books printed. When I told her it was at lulu.com, she was like "Oh I thought you started a real publishing company." What's the difference? Publishing is producing books, and making them available. It's hard to communicate the concept of on demand printing for some reason; people don't understand that you can make books one copy at a time!
AP: Aren't you doing something with Aperture?
TB: Yeah, they are publishing a series of 5 books that I curated for them. Depending on how the books do, we might keep working together on an ongoing series. The story is, right when I was starting to work on the TV Books project, Aperture called and were like, "Hey we like what you are doing with tinyvices, come in and talk to us, we want to see what you are up to." So I told them about these book ideas and they said, "great, lets make a book series". I was like "Here are the 25 books I want to make." and they were like "Woah, maybe we can do 5 and we'll see where we go from there." So we did 5 books and they're coming out in October. What's funny is that since that meeting I've put out 15 other books with TV Books and we still haven't gotten back a single Aperture book. That's how slow regular old publishing is, which is why this print on demand thing is so exciting. I could make a book right now and have it available in 5 days if I wanted to.