Zoopark is a publishing collective consisting of two Russian-born visual artists: Tatyana Palyga (b. 1982 Russia) and Alexander Bondar (b. 1982, Russia). Their collaboration started in 2010, when the duo, who have been mixing photography, video, texts, graphics and illustrations in their own artistic works, decided to self-publish their books and zines.
Six years later, in 2016, they founded Zoopark Collective - an experimental platform for their printed editions and collaborative projects via which many handmade and hand-printed publications have seen the light of day – and now also are distributed to artbook shops and sold at artbook fairs in Russia, Europe and Japan.
You are both photographers and publishers. How do you combine the two?
Tatyana Palyga: To become a publisher today, you basically only need a desire and the very minimum of resources. Of course, the print run, distribution and potentially a desire to earn money need to be considered as well. But at the very core, if we are talking about the very basics of self-publishing (and not mass publishing), then enough free time and some money for the printing would suffice.
How do you share creative tasks while working as a duo?
Alexander Bondar: For any book to be born, you’d need visual material, a strong idea and an exciting story. But the process of production depends on whose book we are working on. At the first stage, the author prepares the material: a selection of images, text, layout, image order, ideas about the format of the book and sometimes, even the mockup of the design. Then, we make suggestions and adjustments, discuss the details, and resolve contentious issues. After this, we make corrections to the first layout and create another dummy.
This process repeats until we arrive at a pleasing for both sides option. When one of us is stuck, the other gets hold of the process and tries an innovative approach.
When one of us is stuck, the other gets hold of the process and tries an innovative approach."
When you publish a project in a book format, how many copies do you usually produce?
TP: So far, our maximum has been 100 copies, and the minimum can begin with one. Recently, we have been making either hand-made editions of up to 50 copies or zines with a slightly larger print run.
What distinguishes your publisher from a mass publisher?
AB: Our books are rather unique art objects, most often hand-made, released in very small quantities. Each copy is signed and numbered by the author. Most often, we print everything ourselves on an inkjet printer. Such printing is very high quality and visually different from and offset or digital printing and to be fair, we like it this way.
We do not focus on the mass market of photo books, at least for now. If we feel that some of the projects can be successful in the mass market, then we will consider a larger print run, for sure. But this requires completely different resources, another kind of approach to distribution, etcetera. Currently, we prefer to concentrate solely on the creative process and not on mass production, replication and sales.
For any book to be born, you’d need visual material, a strong idea and an exciting story."
Are you open to publishing works by other artists as well, not just your own projects?
TP: We have a huge number of ready to be published projects of ourselves that are awaiting attention. But of course, it has also become interesting for us to apply our experiences to other people's work. Therefore, despite the workload with the personal projects, we are open to collaboration with other artists at all stages, from editing to design, including printing and production.
What inspires you?
AB: We are inspired by everyday life in its visual manifestations. People, books, paper, ink, light, colour, naivety, amateurism, landscapes, places and faces - we love it all.
You have different publication formats: postcards, books, magazines, zines. How do you decide which specific format fits a project best?
TP: Well, for instance, 'Zoopark' magazine differs from other publications in its physical form and more experimental content. The magazine highlights a collaboration of two artists (we) and each issue is dedicated to a certain topic. Also, in the magazine, we often add texts that introduces a new layer of meanings.
The format of the book is for now exclusively reserved for projects with a clear narrative and coherent sequence, while the ‘zine’ is a cheaper, more democratic, and playful format for the smaller projects. But it can happen that small, easy-to-manufacture ‘zines, grow to a full-fledged book format with a hardcover, atypical binding and intricate design in the process.
When you do cool things and talk about your work with enthusiasm, you are already halfway to succeeding at what you do."
What advice would you give to aspiring photographers who want to succeed?
TP: Excitement is the key to everything. When you do cool things and talk about your work with enthusiasm, you are already halfway to succeeding at what you do.
Born in the Soviet Union, both Palyga and Bondar are now living between Berlin, Prague and Paris. Since 2019, Zoopark has been leading practical photobook and zine-making workshops.