Back in 1997, I felt that I had shot enough quality work in the past seven years to start pursuing publishers about doing a book. I had saved up some money and thought I'd spend a year or so submitting my work to various publishers. Edition Stemmle had always been my favorite photography publisher. Their books were exceptionally well designed and were printed on the most luxurious paper. Their catalog of artists included many of my favorites, such as Ralph Gibson, Irina Ionesco, Nobuyoshi Araki, Kristin Capp, Ferit Kuyas, Lewis Hine, Tony Ward, Andreas H. Bitesnich, Skrebneski, and Andy Warhol. So it was them that I approached first.
I don't remember what exactly I sent them but all I know is that a week later I got a fax from them saying that they were interested and wanted to see more work. So excitedly I sent them a huge box of prints. Within a few weeks, pre-production and design of the book started. Although based in Zurich, they arranged a meeting with me in New York at their US distributor's office. I remember laying all my images out on a huge conference table in a swanky room with floor-to-ceiling windows which looked out over the World Trade Center which was across the street. Because it was my first book, and I was star-struck by being with my favorite publisher, I pretty much let them have their way with the book in terms of image selection and editing. And to top things off, they were able to get Vicky Goldberg to write an intro for the book. For those of you who don't know her, she is the photography critic for the New York Times and is highly regarded for her essays and books about photography.
"The Beauty of Fetish" was released in September of 1998 in separate English and German versions. It sold very well and actually became one of Stemmle's best-selling books. It even made New York Daily News Ten Best Photography Books of 1998 list. Because of the success of the book, two years later Stemmle wanted to do a new book but this time focusing on the work I had just shot after having moved to Los Angeles from Chicago a few years previous. Eventually Stemmle went bankrupt as a result of a domino effect when one of the world's largest independent book distributors went bankrupt and couldn't pay Stemmle all the money that was owed them. Of course that meant that us artists never got most of the royalties promised to us. In the end however, the prestige and validation of having been published by one of the most respected photography publishers was worth way more than money. Today I have a small amount of personal copies which I'll always hold onto and cherish. On eBay, copies of the first book go anywhere from $150-$500. stevedietgoedde.com
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