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  • The Cultural Economy of Auteurship in Independent Publishing: The Symbolic Success of the Photobook Ponte City

    James Graham

    Chapter from the book: Graham J. & Gandini A. 2017. Collaborative Production in the Creative Industries.


    In this chapter I use the example of Ponte City, the 2015 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize prize-winning photobook by Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse, to examine the role of collaborative production in book publishing in a ‘post-digital age’ - a term deployed by Alessandro Ludovico (2013) to account for contexts in which print is being revitalised rather than replaced. 

    Ponte City provides an example of how the independent publishing sector resists certain aspects of digital transformation in the wider creative industries and especially the mainstream publishing industry, but also of how it struggles to escape complicity with the governing neoliberal imperative for such transformations. By fully crediting all those with creative input – amazon.co.uk lists Ivan Vladislavi? (editor) and Ramon Pez (designer) as its ‘authors’, not Subotzky and Waterhouse – the book, co-produced by the German publisher Steidl and The Walther Collection, provides a platform from which its contributors are able to recoup their co-operative creative investments in the form of symbolic capital. Similar to the workings of the film industry that this in some ways comes to resemble, however, these returns are not evenly distributed. 

    This niche sector of the publishing industry projects collaborative production as the kind of ‘art world’ Howard Becker (1982) describes: a convivial ‘network of cooperating people, all of whose work is essential to the final outcome’ (25). Yet this model of networked collaborative production remains largely in thrall to a neoliberal symbolic economy dominated by the author-figure – evidenced in this discussion by the auteur-like role played by the book’s editor, Ivan Vladislavi?, in this and similar collaborative productions.

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    Graham, J. 2017. The Cultural Economy of Auteurship in Independent Publishing: The Symbolic Success of the Photobook Ponte City. In: Graham J. & Gandini A (eds.), Collaborative Production in the Creative Industries. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book4.e

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    Published on June 29, 2017