How Ola Billmont Spends His Day at the Races: Interview by Eric Kim

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(Editor’s Note: Eric interviews Ola Billmont about his process, experiences, and lessons learned in making his new book A Day At The Races. All photos by Ola Billmont)

Eric: Hey Ola, long time no chat. Tell us what is going on for you in terms of your photography, and congratulations on your new book!

Ola: Thanks, Eric. It’s been an interesting ride putting this book together.

Honestly, I’m not sure as I am not shooting with anything particular in mind. Although, I have never been shooting this much before. Over the last year I have slid away from street photography and shoot many other things.

Tell us more about your new book. Out of all the projects you’ve been working on, why did you choose to publish this one?

First of all, it’s not my new book – it’s my first book. The reason I chose to publish this book was that the series began when I started shooting street photography. (A day at the races was shot between 2012 – 2015 at an annual event in Stockholm). When I looked at the photos after two years I felt I had something going on. So, the last two years I focused on assembling photos I felt would tell a story about this event.

I made a spontaneous decision to make a book about this after the fourth year as it felt so good.  My initial plan was to do a book about the Oktoberfest first, but I have postponed it for later this year.

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Share the process behind putting together the book. How did you collaborate with others for the editing, sequencing, and publishing? Who were some individuals who helped the most?

Very early I decided to work with a San Francisco based designer named Ben Molina. First I have to say I am very glad having him designing and editing the book. Let’s just say that out of the 50 photos in the book, 10-12 of those would never had ended up in the book if it was not for him controlling the sequencing.

The name of the book was decided very late in the process. First it was to be called “Valla”. In that same process we scrapped the title and the first design were we thought it was too plain. The final design was inspired by Gary Johanson’s latest book “Tokyo”.

Then we also decided to make a special edition of 50 copies where we made a slipcover and a fine art print signed and numbered.

Three weeks before going to print I struck a deal with Matt Stuart and his new publishing house Plague Press so he became my publisher.

I am very happy with the outcome of this project.

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How does it feel that the book got published and sold out so quickly? And what are some lessons you learned from publishing your first book that you wish you knew before-hand?

The special edition sold out in twelve hours, but I still have copies left from the 500 edition. Of course it feels good but after living with the content for so long it also feels like an anticlimax when you finally get the delivery of the book. And at that point only half the job is done. Promoting and selling is not to be underestimated, but with the help of Matt Stuart it went smoothly with good circulation and result.

Lessons learned? quite a few, Eric. Let’s say like this: I now have the knowledge to make a proper checklist for my next book.

What is the drive that keeps you shooting at the moment? What are some other projects you are working on?

The drive is in making photos in general regardless of genres. Right now my random shooting has come down to a project about suburbian Sweden which I am very intrigued about. For the first time in more than ten years I am in Sweden instead of LA during summer.

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What are some tips that you would give to other photographers who are trying to find their own voice in photography or start a project?

Be truthful to your inner urge. Shoot with your stomach and with your heart i.e. Shoot what YOU like. Don’t be afraid to experiment. And most of all: don’t just shoot one thing. Have several thing going on at the same time.

In terms of projects: don’t think too big. A small project where you can see the ending is better than no project at all.

More from Ola

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