25-year-old Dominik Ridler's debut publication, Book of Bone, brings together the work of young artists, writers and photographers from New York, Manchester, Slovakia and Bristol, to combine documentary and fictional photographic scenes with paintings, collages and text. The results are modern, melancholic and male-focused, coming wrapped in a red PVC sleeve that resembles the cover of a traditional bible. i-D met up with the London-based photographer-writer-publisher to find out more.
You were involved with SUPERSUPER! magazine during the Nu-Rave 'boom' a few years back. What was that like?
Working at SUPERSUPER! was like working for a hungry giant techno-coloured baby that needed to be fed multi-dimensional content - and it was just stuffed with talent. I started working for the editorial team at the age of 17, but my main interest was developing shoots with really brilliant photographers.
You subsequently assisted the influential menswear stylist and sometime-i-D contributor, Thom Murphy, on his cult label, New Power Studio. That must have been fun…
Working for New Power was the sweetest dream… It came about after I had interviewed Thom for SUPERSUPER!. Some of the stuff we covered when we met, instantly let me know I'd found similar minds. The whole team was insanely talented and blew me away. I did whatever I could: from street casting models to spray-painting roller-boots. I enjoyed researching the most, looking through collections of spectacular books at Donlon and losing myself in weed-infused web sessions collating all manner of imagery we'd collected for the studio's next projects. It was a time where I felt people could achieve whatever they fucking wanted!
And you were shot by David Sims and styled by Thom for Arena Homme Plus. That shoot is quite insane to say the least - male prostitutes, Zippy from Rainbow, Liverpool in clouds of pink smoke… did you enjoy being a model?
I rarely see shoots that considered, and I certainly hadn't worked on something so untouchable, David Sims is a wizard with it all. Liverpool was the subject, and I had first visited there with Thom and I thought it was a magical place - so to be part of something that sings that same tune was special.
What made you decide to instigate your own project, Book of Bone?
Certain feelings I had in 2012… I was in a particular mindset of seeking independence and not relying on the avenues you are expected to travel. I was working in liberated surroundings and I think my own images and writing were beginning to really excite and challenge me, I knew there were some equally intriguing people whose work had its own opinion.
What is the book intended to be?
For me, it seems to look at the human story through the eyes of fantasists. It doesn't have cohesive themes, which I think is a freeing attribute.
How did you go about making it happen?
I had an existing relationship with the photographer Michael Mayren - we had worked on a couple of things together previously. Theo Cottle's pictures I had admired for a while and so I reached out to him. For people like Andrej Dubravsky and Devin DiCaprio - these people came into my orbit through research on other projects. I observed fascinating work, and decided to hit them up and build on something. Skype was good with Devin, as he is very elusive and prefers to keep his work close so we spoke at length about the development of his stories and collages.
What were the criteria for choosing people to produce specific work for the book?
It was the first time I wasn't scrutinising and setting criteria really. I'd worked in commercial print, where 'criteria' is a dominant factor. The people who are featured create work I really respect, and their output is consistently developing - this is important.
How long from start to finish has it taken to make Book of Bone happen?
I started working on this in early 2012, and its taken until mid 2014 to complete. I had never produced anything printed, working solely on my own, so I tried to go steady and learn along the way. I'm now a student in patience.
There is a noticeable absence of females within its pages... is the book intended to be some sort of celebration of males?
Indeed, visually we don't see women in the book, but we hear of women through Devin DiCaprio's writings. This wasn't a conscious choice, but it's interesting as all the stories are by boys, containing boys. It's maybe a celebration of where we've been as people…
Which aspects of Book of Bone are you most pleased with, now that it is finished?
Whenever I've looked through the book it seems to change. I read things differently and see the images in a different context - it's rich and sparse simultaneously. This is a satisfying feeling considering I spent some time with this.
What are you going to work on next?
Book of Bone will hopefully be part of a series, I want to experiment with its incarnations and I'd like to travel with it. I'm currently developing a print project with the fashion designers Cottweiler. I'm excited to see where we can take it. In amongst this I'd like to find time to make money and learn something new along the way.
Text James Anderson