Emilie Lauriola is manager of LE BAL bookshop in Paris. She speaks to Spectrum Photographic about creative freedom and inspiring photography.
LE BAL Books is a name synonymous with photography books. It stocks a carefully curated range to delight the most discerning of readers.
Emilie Lauriola has been responsible for selecting that range for the last four years.
Lauriola says her appointment as head of LE BAL’s bookstore came about ‘quite randomly’ but her love of books dates back to childhood.
“I recall imagining myself as an antiquarian and rare book seller when I was very young so I guess I’m not too far from that youngster dream,” she says.
“I’ve always known I wanted to work in publishing and within the print medium.
“My interest in photography came later down the line.
“As a teenager in the pre-internet 90s, I was always attracted to the DIY aesthetics, making my own zines, tapes and then researching and interviewing photographers and musicians.”
Lauriola published her own photography and music magazine and worked as a publishing assistant for a contemporary art publisher in Belgium ‘learning all there was to learn’.
She also worked for various institutions like Kunsthalle Wien before ‘getting lost in Paris’.
‘I enjoy complete creative freedom’
Lauriola describes LE BAL as a ‘really fast-paced’ environment with a lot of specific demands and expectations.
However, the level of autonomy she enjoys and the work she sees makes it worthwhile.
“I work within my medium of choice and enjoy a complete creative freedom.
“I get to curate entirely my book selection, program what I want to program and work with amazing people, so that’s already pretty great.”
For Lauriola, deciding what to stock is a personal decision.
“I just tend to go for what I find exciting. For work that gives you matter to think and I research what comes outside of the main distribution lines.
“I’m generally trying to present forward new works, upcoming photographers and what is currently happening in the photography market.
“I’m also aware of where I work and I try to have part of my selection linked to the topic of the show we have on view.”
‘It was exhilarating’
A particular highlight of her time at LE BAL is Surveillance Index – the first edition of Performing Books.
Lauriola launched the series of book exhibitions at LE BAL a few years ago.
“Mark Ghuneim generously lent us his collection of photobooks, all based on the topic of surveillance, state control and voyeurism.
“We had a huge tower installation built inside the space to display the books and mediators to explain the books to the visitors.
“It was a short timed show with a heavy program of talks, concerts, book launches that drained us all but was ultimately exhilarating.”
When asked for her recommendations of three photography books, Lauriola says it is ‘almost impossible’ to answer.
“So many books are historically essential for very different reasons,” she says.
“I can only pick them based on personal reasons.
“The ballad of sexual dependency by Nan Goldin since it’s the first photobook I saw and the only one that can still send shivers down my spine.
“Imperial Courts by Dana Lixenberg was a breakthrough on all levels from the project to the style to the graphic design – and Dana is a rad woman.
“O Shinjuku by Shomei Tomatsu still remains one of my favourite depictions of Tokyo in the 60’s – that cover!
“I’m cheating but I’m also adding the very essential works My birth by Carmen Winant and Latoya Ruby-Frazier’s The notion of family.
“I could add 50 more but let’s stick to five.”
However, when it comes to upcoming releases which excite her, Lauriola is more definitive.
“I’m really looking forward to the next book of Joanna Piotrowska.
“I find her work and the politics of gestures endlessly interesting.”
Emilie Lauriola is manager of LE BAL Books, Paris.
To find out more about its work and view stock visit www.lebalbooks.com.