It is such a thrill to introduce the latest contribution by our gifted editor Heather Dunhill in which she interviews creative force Wynn Dan, delving into his life and work and particularly his fascinating artist's book Alt/Saglio: Quotes + Citations. À votre bon cœur Wynn et Heather!
IWTB Interview: Wynn Dan
By Heather Dunhill
Throughout his career, Wynn Dan has been one of those creative minds found behind the scenes in art and design direction as well as brand marketing of the hottest names in publishing like Rolling Stone, Mademoiselle, Vanity Fair, GQ, and The New Yorker, where in 1992 he collaborated with powerhouse Tina Brown to update the look of the iconic magazine.
But, Brown is not the only impressive name to be found on Dan's résumé — in fact, he has worked with Richard Avedon, Harold Evans, Steven Meisel, Jann Wenner, Art Cooper, Anna Wintour, and even the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
Now the NYC native freelances as an art director and design consultant and has published six artist’s books including Alt/Saglio: Quotes + Citations. His books are included in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and The Special Collections Library of The New York Public Library, among others.
Must have your own copy of Alt/Saglio? Click on the photo of the cover in the sidebar to the right…
What inspired the Alt/Saglio book?
i had been already selling books at colette in paris since 2005. colette usually bought between 30 and 50 copies. the books utilized my own photographs with quotes that i researched. the books were sort of arty and not easily comprehensible. i had the urge to do something more "commercial,” by that i mean, double or triple what i had been selling before, and i knew that was not going to work if i used my own photographs. so after reflecting on what would sell well with the clientele of colette i decided on doing the alt/saglio book. at the time emmanuelle alt was not yet the editor-in-chief of paris vogue but she was a very branché (hip, groovy) stylist. so i searched the internet for photographs of emmanuelle and géraldine which i liked and i downloaded them for use in the book. i have a very keen interest in quotations, especially by artists, photographers, architects, actors, architects, etc. so the alt/saglio content is really just a delivery system for my choice of quotations.
Did the vision translate to the final product?
yes, and the response was very good. sarah at colette liked the book very much and cathy horyn of the new york times wrote about it, so the sales took off. i am not sure how many i sold, maybe between 200 and 300.
What is it about the black and white medium that draws you to it?
mainly i chose to print in black and white for budget considerations. also, i am not crazy about the color quality of digital printing.
In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes theorizes on the essence of photography and creates, among others, the term “punctum,” in which he describes: “A photograph’s punctum is that accident which pricks me but also bruises me, is poignant to me” — what is it about these images that made you choose them?
it's hard to verbalize, since my profession is art direction i am used to editing and looking at photographs. i usually choose something which touches me, either the composition, facial expression, environment, etc. since the photographs were downloaded from the internet, i also needed to find a larger file size so the quality will be good enough to print my books.
Have you met Emmanuelle, Géraldine, or any of your subjects?
i met emmanuelle in the 90s. this past winter i was on a miami to paris flight and as i was waiting in the aisle to exit the plane, i turned around to see that géraldine was standing behind me. but unfortunately i did not talk to her because i was a bit taken aback and after an overnight flight with no sleep i did not feel i was in the best shape to chat her up. i met camille bidault waddington once in paris.
You have amassed an impressive collection of photographs from various sources. How did you manage to get permission for the chosen images?
i did not ask for permission for any of the images, they are stolen! i downloaded them from numerous blogs on the internet which document street fashion. these sites use the images without permission (for the most part), and millions of people are exposed to them. so i don't feel too bad about using them in a book which may sell a couple of hundred copies and does not make a profit. but that is why the stylist series of books is published under the name AMPG (appropriated media projects group). and as a joke i list my legal counsel as... koons, levine, duchamp, and prince.
Tell us how the books are created and produced?
the first step (after deciding the subject) is to research the images. i already have quite a collection of quotations but i may do additional quote research. next i do the layout and then i print digitally in upstate new york. i only sell them at colette. i donate copies to the artist's book collections of the centre pompidou in paris and the getty museum in los angeles. the others i give to my friends.
What type of print run?
normally i print 100 to start. because of the high demand, alt/saglio was reprinted 3 times.
What photographers are you particularly interested in right now?
the usual suspects ...mario sorrenti, inez & vinoodh, hedi slimane, steve hiett, mikael jansson, and many more.
Do you think fashion is an art or business?
definitely a business. that is why i always did my own personal work (artist's books, silkscreening, painting) besides my day job as an art director. otherwise the compromises you make will drive you crazy.
Quotations are the definitive thread in your books — is there a quote that you feel best describes you or your work?
can i give you 2 ?
"what i really like is minimum effort for maximum effect" – damien hirst
"when i start on one of these books, i get to be impresario of the thing. i get to be majordomo. i get to be creator and total proprietor of the whole works, and i like that." – ed ruscha
Fill in the blanks: When I am working, I like to...
take a lot of breaks.
If I weren't a creative, I'd be...
When I look back on my career, one of the jobs I enjoyed most was...
no answer. although the job i detested the most was harper's bazaar.
Wynn Dan and Alt/Saglio images © 2010 Wynn Dan. All Rights Reserved.