Self publishing vs DIY publishing : Dog food and oysters by Sean Davey.

Sean Davey (born in 1979) is an Australian photographer based in Canberra. I have first heard of him on Jeffrey Ladd’s blog ( with an article about one of his first book : Pidgin (very limited edition of 50 self published). Pidgin was a kind of road movie in the middle of nowhere which main subject was drink and drive at night…


During two trips in America, in 2004 and 2005, Sean started to document what he called America at war. It was a couple of years after that the USA engaged themselves in a war against Iraq. Just after September 11, the main part of the population thought it was rightful, but pretty soon, the minds turned themselves, leaving place for fear. Fear of terrorism and fear for the men at war overseas, in the Iraqi desert. We don’t really see war images in Sean’s work, but the war is always underlying, with pictures of soldiers, a flag, a newspaper cover… What I like in this work is that there is no beginning and no end. It is just a slice of time, a sort of instantané made by a bunch of photographs. Even if the style is completely different, there is something like revisiting « The Americans » 50 years later (maybe this was not completely ignored by Sean).

The point that I find very interesting is the way Sean Davey made his work known over the world.


In 2011, Sean did a first editing of his work which was supposed to become a book. He started to work on a sequencing of his images and started to organize them in a book form. This original document was published as a pdf file on his internet site, with a link to dowload it. Assorted with a recommandation to print it by your own whatever technique you want to use. It was an italian A4 size with one picture per page, so you always have two photos facing each others. I did my own print of the cover and the back (including colophon) on an enhanced matte poster board by Epson (very thick) and the inner pages on laser copy paper. I used a spiral binding, very convenient to open and to look Inside. As requested, I sent some pictures of this home made book to Sean, who sent me back a number of print (I was number 3). I finally got an elegant personalised book, numbered and electronically signed.


Two years later, in 2013, Sean had kept on working on his project and redid sequencing to produce a new book which was offset printed in a limited edition of 150. This book is slightly smaller (15 x 23 cm) and vertical oriented. With this version the cover is different and you only have one picture every two pages (a photo on the right, a blank page on the left).


To compare the two editions, I would say that the first one was larger and, for that reason, more convenient to enjoy the photographs (particularly for the landscape oriented ones), and I like the idea of two images, facing each others in a book, which increases the sense of the two. On the opposite, the laser printing is hard for the shades and we loose a lot of details in the dark. The pictures in grey values are as good as the offset edition but it is definitively true that offset process is more faithful to the original prints. The difference in the sequencing is interesting too. I mean, no one is better than the other, it is just different. And I like the idea that it could be the same journey and the different sequencing is just the different choices you make when you arrive at a cross. You can turn left or right, and the events will appear in a different order, but finally, the journey and the story are the same, it is just organised differently in your memory.


And, by the way… the photograph which the book was named from, does not appear in any of the two editions. You’ll have to order the special edition with print and the image will magically appears as a beautiful argentic print on fiber paper in a plastic pouch.


In conclusion, we see more and more self published books in a very limited print run. With globalization, it is not bad,  and we can, now, buy books from all over the world and be aware of every book published. I have to say that I have been seducted by this way of promoting a work, and even if this remains a single example, I really like my own DIY print, and it is the perfect companion book to the regular edition !

More info on Sean Davey :

And The Photography Room where you can buy Sean’s books :

All images copyright Sean Davey, can be removed on request.


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