Christian Girabaldi just sent me a lovely picture of his brand new business cards. Have a look:
Given the care with which Christian has designed, printed and then lit his beautiful cards, his question is understandable and apropos.
Hopefully it doesn’t seem too silly. I was curious, in your experience since you as well as many other art buyers look a tons of books, how do you typically treat the book? I mean in terms of your own way, or ways that you have seen others physically handle the book. Do they get tossed around and trashed, have coffee spilled on them, dog eared pages, dropped, have stuff stacked on them while open etc.? or do they get looked at with a degree of care and respect for the book itself? Not saying that you would purposely drop kick it across the room, or use it as a coaster or dart board, but I wanted to know that despite the fact that in your position you must look at many many books, do you take care in handling it and respect the fact that it is someone elses property that they may have put a lot of effort into and time and expect to get it returned in the same condition that they presented it? Or is it to be expected that a lot of people will be handling it and are blowing through it really quickly, so taking time to turn the pages easily without creasing, or maybe you have a really greasy burger in the other hand hovering over it while you peruse the contents while you eat lunch and get fingerprints all over the page? If so how is it usually handled when something does happen to the book? If for instance a photographer drops off a nice book in a nice box, and then comes to pick it up and there is cream cheese dried between the page and maybe another page is torn and the cover is scratched up? I mean I would understand that accidents happen, but is there often blatant “Hey we’ve got a lot of these to look at, so chop chop” kind of mentality and if it takes some bruises, oh well that comes with the territory? Also that being worst case scenario aside from losing or misplacing the book, is it inappropriate to ask to speak to someone about how you feel they mishandled your property and can rectify it?
Once again, it gives me great pleasure to hand over the blog and the burden of answering this messy question to Anne-Maureen McKeating, Art Buyer at Taxi:
Christian, I wish I could agree that your question is silly but in this imperfect world, it is not. I continue to hear stories from photographers’ regarding the ill treatment of their books and these stories continue to baffle and horrify. It seems that not everyone was taught to “turn the pages nicely” “wash your hands after x,y,z “or “don’t pontificate with your mouth full” lest your lunch remnants calcify on someone else’s person and/or property.
I hope that the majority of us in the community handle your materials respectfully. We understand that it takes a ton of time, effort, emotion and money to put together a book appropriate for presentation. I suspect less damage is done when an artist’s book goes through an Art Buyer or Photo Editor mainly because the book is with them for a specific time frame and purpose – whether it be for review or a job. When a book is released into the “general population” it’s my feeling that the AB/PE is responsible for tracking it’s whereabouts and condition.
You have to expect some wear and tear on your book given that it is passing through so many hands. With that in mind, choose your materials wisely and expect that some of your printed pages will have to be replaced over time. I’m certain that the widely reviled plastic sleeves came into being because of the very issues you’ve questioned. I would also suggest that you don’t allow your book to languish for too much time at an agency. Set a reasonable pick up date. I currently have a photographer’s book in my office that that has not picked up for over a year despite repeated phone calls. It has survived three office moves unscathed – but can I guarantee the fourth? I no longer see the photographer’s name, I only see a shape. Your book can become a part of the furniture and therefore open to damage if you don’t follow up.
Accidents can also happen when a book is dropped at an agency for general review – it can get lost in a pile and therefore become another surface on an already busy desk. I don’t think the harm is deliberate – I would hope that no one is consciously making a direct connection between your book and their coffee cup. I suspect damage happens when an agency is really busy, stressed and not seeing beyond a deadline. Stress however is not an excuse for the casual disregard of another’s property.
If you receive a damaged book back from an agency you are absolutely within your rights to sanely address the matter. While I haven’t been in the position where I’ve had to seek compensation for a damaged book I am curious to hear from others who have had the experience. Christian, I hope you are spared!