David Hlynsky is a Toronto based artist who has had a long and varied photography related career. baggage was a photo book published by the independent literary Coach House Press in 1974. Coach House was known for publishing new and upcoming Canadian writers and for it’s innovative book design. Today independent and creatively designed photo books are an everyday event but in 1974 this was a daring and unique event.
Below is an interview with David about his book baggage:
Can you give us a brief bio about how you came to photography?
I was given a brownie around age 10 and my Dad was a hobbyist.
What is/was Coach House Press?
Coach House Press was a literary small press. It had a sister printing company for printing outside jobs called Coach House Books. Coach House Press folded and Coach House Books remains.
How did you come to work at Coach House?
As an art student in Ohio, I met people who were working at Coach hose. I became intrigued and made a visit. Stan Bevington offered me a job.
What were your duties there?
Some film stripping which was what you would call layout. I illustrated some book covers. I was editor of image nation photography magazine. I eventually oversaw fourteen issues.
In 1974 Coach House published your photo book ‘baggage’. Coach House was known for their literary publishing. How did this photo book come about?
Many of the books produced there were in-house projects. The writers often did layout and typesetting or book binding. We worked for each other using arts grants for the hard costs.
You took the photos obviously but how much were you involved in the design etc.?
I did the design myself although I was a novice and had a lot to learn.
How would you describe the work in the book?
I was becoming intrigued by photography’s ability to make the mundane into something monumental. I was also fascinated by the way that images talk to each other. Both of these ideas have informed my work ever since. Baggage was an early foray into these ideas. I’ve matured since then.
The book itself is quite unique, a sort of embossed rough cloth cover, an unusual narrow rectangular shape, quite heavy paper and as well as the printed images, one tipped in photograph as well. Can you discuss the book’s design, use of materials etc.?
I think we saw it as a kind of hard bound ledger. The images comprised a loose, traveling narrative… surreal in the the way the images created meanings together.
The book is credited to ‘dh porter’, is there a significance to the pseudonym?
Almost everyone had a pseudonym then.
At the time of publication did the book receive much attention (reviews etc.)?
Not much because because promotion and sales were also crude.
Was this the only photo book you published with Coach House?
I did another book of short stories illustrated with my photographs. It was a much more coherent project. It was called salvage.
Did Coach House publish any other photo books?
yes and many visual books in general.
Looking at the book with the perspective of time, how do you see it and your work from that era?
I was a student apprentice. I’ve done very many projects since then and each has contributed to my artistic growth. I think the threads of irony in my early work remain.
You can see more of David Hlynsky’s work at his David Hlynsky website.