October 29th, 2013

Gilles Peress’s Post-Sandy Book Tests “Generosity-Based” Publishing

© Concord Free Press/photo by Gilles Peress/Magnum

© Concord Free Press/photo by Gilles Peress/Magnum

Starting tomorrow, the day after the anniversary of when Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the East Coast of the U.S., the publishing house Concord Free Press is giving away copies of The Rockaways, a new book which features Gilles Peress’s images of the storm’s devastation in one of the hardest hit areas of New York City and essays by high school students and other residents of the neighborhood. All 4,000 numbered copies of the book are free, but in exchange, everyone who receives a copy is asked to make a donation to a charity of their choosing or to a person in need, and to pass along the book so the giving continues. The Rockaways is the eighth book published by Concord Free Press, which co-founder Stona Fitch calls an experiment in “generosity-based publishing.”

“Like everybody else, I was really moved by the distress of many of the people affected, especially the poorest part of the population in the Rockaways,” says Peress. “I think of all of us felt on some level: How can we help?” Hamilton Fish, former publisher of The Nation and a member of the Concord Free Press advisory board, edited The Rockaways and approached  Peress about donating images to the effort. “It was a no-brainer. I said yes after the first sentence,” Peress says. He adds, “It’s up to you and your conscience and your wallet to donate to what you think is a worthwhile cause–hopefully dealing with the Rockaways and hopefully dealing with income disparity.”

“We’re about linking art and activism,” Fitch says. Concord Free Press’s other seven books have each raised $50,000 to $60,000 in charitable donations. Designers, writers and publicists donate their time; Kodak provided digital printing for The Rockaways and for Concord Free Press’s previous book, Round Mountain, a collection of short stories set in a small town in Vermont, which was released after Hurricane Irene caused massing flooding in the state. The Rockaways is the publisher’s first photo book. Fitch calls Peress’s images of the ravaged working-class neighborhood  “powerful.” He says, “When you’re given something so beautiful and powerful for free, it has a great effect for inspiring generosity.” By stirring donations, Fitch says, the book can “help address the problem that was being photographed.” He acknowledges that people might be reluctant to pass The Rockaways along, “because Gilles’s book is so beautiful.”
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