For photographer Nick Tauro Jr., creative expression is a way of life—and self-publishing is a big part of it. The process of designing unique, interactive formats for viewers to experience his photography is just as important as the images themselves. He spoke to photographer Dan Milnor about everything from camera gear and musical influences to creating a self-sustaining artistic practice.
Dan: Before we begin, I want to explain to people who you are and how you work. You don’t work full-time as a photographer, but you are one of the most prolific and productive photographers I know, even managing to do nonstop collaborations with other creatives scattered around the globe. Who ARE you and how is this possible? Can you tell us or is this top secret?
Nick: I’m just a passionate creator . . . that’s the simple answer. I do have a day job, which is actually in the world of media and advertising. But my photography, my self-publishing . . . that is all mine. I’m not doing it for a paycheck, which grants me the freedom to do whatever I want with it. I had a bit of an epiphany a few years ago when I was reminded that life is really short, and I did not want to ignore this deep desire to make my art and share it with others. My wife and I both live a creative life. There’s no kids and no pets. My photos, my art . . . these are my passions and what I hope will be a positive contribution to the world. I don’t know how many spins around the sun I have, but I don’t want to leave anything on the table when I go.
Dan: Is there a common goal for most of your projects? Sell a certain number of copies? Recognition? Pure artistic expression?
Nick: I’d say all three, though mostly just to be able to express myself, regardless of whether 2 or 200 people end up buying a book or zine. The more work I produce, the more I realize that I enjoy the entire process of bringing my vision to a tangible finished product. I have a very strong aversion to photos being seen on a screen as their final destination. There is no substitute for seeing a photo in a frame on the wall, or even better, in a book or a zine. Tactile, face to face, having time to pay attention to the photos. After I got bit by the print on demand bug, I realized that the joy of shooting extended into the process of image selection, sequencing, laying out the book design, and finally, getting that final printed piece in my hands.
Dan: What’s in your bag? Just kidding. No seriously.
Nick: I have way too many film cameras that I like to play with. I usually bounce between a classic Pentax K1000, a Holga, or my sweet Kyocera Samurai half-frame. When I shoot digital (which is a rare thing lately) I like to put a Lensbaby on my DSLR to degrade the pristine image quality and bring some surprise and serendipity to the process. I will say that no matter what camera I use, I never carry more than one with me at a time. My photo buddies like to bust my chops that they never see me with a camera in my hands, so I guess I keep my gear under wraps most of the time.
Dan: For someone like you, the arrival of print on demand must have been a memorable day. What does it do for a storyteller like you?
Nick: I love having an affordable, accessible outlet for my work. Both Blurb and MagCloud make it super easy to pursue an idea and get it into print, quickly and cost-effectively. Even if I only print one copy of something just for myself. It is such a wonderful service, and the quality for the price is outstanding. There is literally no barrier anymore to getting your work out in the world. I’m a big believer in circumventing the gatekeepers, and self-publishing allows me to do just that.
Dan: Even though Blurb and MagCloud are related, they are both very different systems and offerings. What in particular about MagCloud works for you and what doesn’t?
Nick: I think MagCloud is a great balance between price, quality, and ease of use. I’m not too keen on hardcover books, which is really the thing I’d go to Blurb for, that and additional paper choices. That’s the one thing . . . I wish I had a bit more choice of stock through MagCloud.
Dan: Is there one MagCloud format that most resonates? Your favorite?
Nick: My favorite is the 8×8 Square Booklet, usually perfect bound. That’s sort of my “go-to” format. I find that the square format gives me a lot of flexibility to mix and match vertical and horizontal photos in my layouts. What’s really satisfying is when you line up all my books on a bookshelf, it brings consistency to my entire body of work. I also like running the book title along that skinny spine.
Dan: One of the things I LOVE about MagCloud is the products are so inexpensive, which means if your goal is to sell something you can still mark it up and offer it at acceptable prices. Do you sell your projects and what has been the response?
Nick: I do sell just about everything I print. I try to be realistic about the size of my audience, so I don’t run too many copies beforehand. There’s nothing worse than having a stack of unsold books in my office. I will say that I have nurtured a small list of subscribers via my website, who form the core of my audience. These are the folks who I can rely on to buy whatever I put out. So that has helped gauge demand somewhat. I also like to print, release, sell, and move on. If I only run 10 or 20 copies of a title, once they are gone, they are gone. MagCloud in particular allows me to produce books and zines that are at a price point that most folks will still consider a purchase that’s not a huge investment, and I’m able to pour any profit into my next project. It has worked out to be a self-sustaining endeavor, for which I am grateful.
Dan: I noticed that many of your projects are based on a multitude of objects: CDs, books, magazines, card sets, etc. Why do this and how do you decide which objects to make?
Nick: I am a big music junkie, which includes owning a ridiculously large vinyl LP collection. I am also very interested in graphic design and packaging. So I try to instill some of these influences into my work. Often my zine titles are inspired by particular songs or bands. I’ll throw in a Pavement or Joy Division reference, just to see if anyone is paying really close attention. I also love playing with different formats, since I want to give the viewer a unique experience when they engage with my photos. The delivery platform is something some photographers might not consider, but I think it’s really just another way to differentiate yourself from the crowd. For example, my latest project comes in a record sleeve, a CD case, and cassette case formats! Also, I’ve had the good fortune to collaborate with a number of great musicians over the years, which has been really satisfying creatively. That was always a dream of mine as a kid when I would have my headphones on and listen to an album, looking at the artwork on the sleeve, and imagine that one day, that could be my work on there.
Dan: MagCloud offers many different software options for creating your publications. What is your preferred path?
Nick: When it comes to my work, I’m a bit of a control freak, so I prefer to use InDesign to layout my publications. The MagCloud and Blurb PDF export settings make it super easy to go to print.
Dan: What’s on your MagCloud wish list? What do you want?
Nick: I would love a newsprint option! That’s one stock I have yet to print on, but I’m sure it would be a blast. I could publish my own photo weekly gazette, and sell them on the street corner.
There’s nothing like seeing your best work in print. Explore the creative possibilities and discover the MagCloud format that inspires you.