Three Self-Published Photographers Talk About Their Experiences

Iko Iko, from The Afronauts, 2012, by Cristina de Middel

“It was like a journey into the unknown”: Photographers with self-published books talk about their experiences, from The Observer’s Sean O’Hagan

Cristina de Middel worked as a photojournalist in her native Spain for eight years before deciding she wanted to create “fictions” with her camera and created The Afronauts, which was self-published in May 2012 in an edition of 1,000 and has since become a self-publishing phenomenon, winning her a place on the Deutsche Börse shortlist and now changing hands for over £1,000 a copy. “I had no clue what would happen when I made the book,” she says, laughing. “In fact, the gallery I was with back then tried to discourage me, and so did the photography agencies I showed the idea to. It was too documentary for one and too conceptual for the other. It just shows you have to go with your instinct as an artist.”

For The Afronauts, De Middel used locals in her hometown of Alicante to play the role of astronauts, made the space costumes herself and transformed giant discarded oil drums into spaceships and the interior of a disused factory into mission control. “It was a work of the imagination that tried to stay true to the spirit of the Zambian project, which was really one man’s dream.” She began work on the project in October 2010, in between working for the Red Cross in Palestine. “It became obsessive after a while. My role model was Ed Wood, the B-movie director, and I wanted that B-movie effect, where normal things can be turned into magical things. It was all about working imaginatively within the budget I had.”

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