Leila Jeffreys is one of a few Australian photographers who is equally adored by fine art collectors as she is by creatives, stylists and the general public. Her striking bird portrait series have universal appeal, and we were delighted to help her produce her first photo book, Interview With A Cockatoo (Or Two). Read on to find out why she self published and what contributed to the books success.
Leila’s love of native Australian wildlife has been lifelong. A string of family pets and rescued animals led her to think of them as ‘people,’ which later informed her fine art practice and inspired her to capture the character of every major native cockatoo species in a photographic series titled, Biloela – Wild Cockatoos.
The exhibition at Olsen Irwin Gallery, Woollahra, in 2012 was a huge success and Leila explained how something unexpected happened.
Just like me, people connected with the portraits, they saw different personalities and imagined back stories. One couple had fun deciding which prominent Australian politician each bird was while another saw Queenie the Galah as his long-deceased – but still terrifying – grandmother in her Sunday best clutching a handbag.
So the concept of the book arose from a simple desire to be playful and do something more with the photos, something that would make people smile.
Being creative you’re always looking for outlets and producing a book was a way to take my bird portraiture and do something different with my work.
She initially pitched the idea to local publishers but when none took up the offer, Leila decided to self publish. She joined forces with art director Todd Sheldrick and copywriter James Roden, and together they created a beautifully simple backbone for the book design, inspired by a 1948 photo book by Philippe Halsman, The Frenchman, where questions were posed to an actor who could only answer with facial expressions.
We decided to ‘interview’ our cockatoos for the book, imagining they could understand us but couldn’t speak, so they could only answer our questions with their expressions.
The resulting text was integral to the success of the book, as it perfectly complemented the birds’ personalities, and transformed what could have been a straight catalogue into an entertaining photo story.
Leila entered Interview With A Cockatoo (Or Two) into the Australian Photobook of the Year Awards in 2013 and won the Peoples’ Choice Award, which will come as no surprise as you play the video below and find yourself smiling at every page.
The materials and finishes she selected also contributed to the book’s success. The orange linen cover echoed the colours of the bird’s feathers and upbeat tone of the book, while the old-school studio microphone graphic embossed on the front cover added to its bespoke feel.
The Matte 150 paper did the bright colours justice, and the section-sewn binding allowed the pages to sit perfectly flat, and as with any Momento Pro book, every printed page was checked by our quality assurance team before going to bind.
An edition size of 50 copies and 6 artist proofs was strategically selected to keep the publication aligned with the art world’s model of limited edition prints. It was music to our ears when Leila confirmed that:
The beauty of the photo book is that it’s affordable to my photography fans and doesn’t decrease the value of my fine art photographic prints.
As was later proven, a book print around $100 is more accessible to more people than a photographic print at thousands of dollars, so even if fans of your photography don’t have the budget for a wall print, they can enjoy your photographs in a book.
No surprises then that when Leila trade published Bird Love (US & UK) and Birdland (AU) with Abrams in 2015, the edition of 18,000 sold out in a matter of weeks! The publishing deal involved the publisher assisting with editing, printing and distribution, plus an upfront payment and royalties.
On the other side of the equation, Leila spent ten solid months working on the book, brought her own designer on board, and was primarily responsible for marketing in Australian and New Zealand. A profile in The Design Files blog, and support from local retailers Kinokuniya and Booktopia greatly assisted.
When we asked about self publishing versus trade publishing Leila replied:
Self publishing was so different. I really loved having time to work on Cockatoo without deadlines to meet, as well as the beautifully handcrafted, artistic feel of the finished book.
Leila is currently working on a seabird series, while her past work continues to be exhibited around the world at Bergdord Goodman, New York in June, followed by Purdy Hicks, London and the Hamptons, Long Island in July.
Want your own copy of Interview With A Cockatoo (Or Two)?
If you can’t make the exhibition, there are just three final copies of Interview With A Cockatoo (Or Two) artist proofs available for sale at AUD $135.00 ex delivery! To buy a copy be one of the first three people to email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re lucky you may also find a few copies of Birdland available at leilajeffreys.com.
Want to self publish your own photo book?
Momento Pro has been helping Australian and New Zealand photographers self publish their work for 14 years. To produce a limited edition of 25 to 250 books visit our Self Publish web pages and get in touch with our fabulous Volume Order Manager, Lisa Ryman (if you’re in Australia) or the lovely Jackie Lentell (if you’re Kiwi). Keep your eye on your inbox as well, because shortly we’ll launch some new premium and affordable book formats that are perfect for self-publishing!
Photo credit: Bo Wong