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Interview: Photobook publishers William Boling and Michael David Murphy of Fall Line Press

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William Boling and Michael David Murphy share a passion for thought-provoking photography. Last June, they launched Fall Line Press, a photobook publishing concern, and opened a reading room on Atlanta’s Westside to bring the work of talented local and national contemporary photographers to a wider public.

In just a few months, the press has published six volumes by three artists as part of its Free Fall series of limited-edition photography books, as well as an exhibition catalog. And it is producing a hardback catalog of the photographic series the High Museum of Art commissioned from Kael Alford for its “Picturing the South” exhibition in June. Fall Line’s blog informs readers not only of its latest publications, but also of photography shows, signings and related events. In February, Boling and Murphy started a shop in its reading room to sell publications from small and independent presses.

Maury Gortemiller: “Retainers” from “All-Time Lotion”

“Bill and Michael are fantastically supportive,” says Carl Martin, one of the photographers in the Free Fall series. He said they have helped “establish a photographic media-based creative dialogue [for] … a critical analysis of the art and what it means in our culture. “In terms of its accessibility and affordability, [Fall Line Press] offers an unpretentious, reliable venue with high credibility.”

Laura Noel’s “Yard Sale, 2011,” from “All’s Fair.”

We recently talked with Boling and Murphy about their venture.

ArtsATL: What were your goals when you went into business? How have they changed? What have you learned along the way?

William Boling: My goals are to provide a sustainable art publishing infrastructure that is grounded in Atlanta, has an international reach, and builds artist and patron communities around art, writing, photography and the photobook form. This can be done only if we provide consistently excellent experiences for our friends and the community. I’ve known that Atlanta has a wonderful art and photography family, and I’ve learned that they are generous in supporting new ventures like Fall Line.

ArtsATL: What’s the process like as far as selecting artists is concerned?

Michael David Murphy: Our selection process is informal. We’re lucky to be working within a wide and diverse community of photographers here in Atlanta, and we’ll be expanding our offerings to include artists beyond the Southeast. As with most new efforts, we thought it best to start close to home, and we’ve been lucky to have published artists who live here or have ties to the area, including Laura Noel, Maury Gortemiller (who attended the University of Georgia and now teaches in Virginia) and Carl Martin, from Athens.

Boling: I’ve learned to trust what I love and respond to, knowing full well that there is always great work in play that, for whatever reason, I’m not responding to as much as others may. I think being personal and honest with the work that “turns me on” is something I bring with me to publishing.

ArtsATL: Please talk about your space.

Boling: Our reading library of nearly 1,000 volumes of photobooks shares a larger space with Jennifer Schwartz Gallery. In addition to our reading library, we have many of the country’s best new indie photobooks available for purchase. Artists and photographers seem to love to spend hours sometimes perusing the books, which is the whole point, of course.

ArtsATL: What has given you the most satisfaction?

Murphy: Bringing work from artists to the printed page in a way that’s unique, intimate and lasting is an honest reward. The events we host at the space, from our openings to more informal discussion and collaboration sessions, are a great mix of people, too, and it’s rewarding to realize that we’ve been able to highlight and acknowledge a community here in Atlanta that cares about photobooks and photography in a significant way.

Boling: For me, the great joy has been to see Carl, Maury and Laura signing their first issues of Free Fall and sharing those with old and new friends who discover the work for the first time or find it in a new way through the publication. I love the fact that at 9 p.m., when the launch events are over, there is still a crowd of us talking and sharing the work and our ideas.

ArtsATL: How well are the books selling? Are they well received? What do you hope the future will bring?

Boling: Laura, Maury and Carl’s Free Falls and our first catalog, “Fall Out,” with Lucinda Bunnen’s Cuba work, have sold very well. In fact we have had a sellout of a couple of the editions. And since they are all signed and limited-edition, I believe all will sell out in the months ahead.

Our first hardback book with Kael Alford‘s beautiful “Disappearing Louisiana” work for the High Museum will be released in June. we haven’t started pre-sells yet, but there has been a lot of interest in the work. There are other projects coming up that we’re excited about but not ready to release, so please stay tuned.

ArtsATL: How many bookstores carry your publications, and where are they located?

Carl Martin: Untitled photo from “Corridor & Urban Stream, Who’s Here?”

Boling: Avid Books in Athens is carrying our Free Fall editions, but we haven’t had to focus yet on bookstore distribution beyond our own store. We had our official launching last month of our bookstore and had a big turnout for that. Also, we’ve had a lot of success with subscriptions to Free Fall online. This is a great way to support the artist and get the experience of a quarterly of amazing pictures in your mailbox to look forward to.

ArtsATL: What’s on the horizon?

Boling: Fall Line Press is excited to be participating with Contrasto and Atlanta-based One Production Place in the production of a documentary on Martin Parr’s work in the South for the High Museum. The film, “Hot Spots: Martin Parr in the American South,” will be released in conjunction with Parr’s exhibition at the High this summer, and editions of the DVD will be available for pre-order through the Fall Line bookstore soon. There is a Kickstarter campaign up now to attract support for some aspects of post-production. Please check it out to learn more or get involved

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