APRIL / Good Company with Nazraeli Press: Interview with Founder and Publisher, Chris Pichler and Editor, Maya Ishiwata - tortoise general store

APRIL / Good Company with Nazraeli Press: Interview with Founder and Publisher, Chris Pichler and Editor, Maya Ishiwata

Posted by Emma Tsuchida on

Founded in Munich in 1990, Nazraeli Press publishes stunning photography books, often utilizing unusual materials and formats with print runs rarely exceed 1,000.  We first encountered Nazraeli through mutual friend Larry Schaffer, the owner of the OK store, and bonded over Nazraeli's elegant black and white photobook, Hokkaido, capturing one of Tortoise's favorite destinations in dramatic detail. Nazraeli founder and publisher Chris Pichler and Nazraeli editor Maya Ishiwata are a husband and wife team and currently run Nazraeli Press in conjunction with a sprawling olive farm in Paso Robles where they've maintained over 2,000 olive trees, two cows and vacation properties since 2015.  Their Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a Tortoise staff holiday gift staple, and we're excited to finally bring these bottles to Tortoise shelves with an Art Book + Olive Oil Pop Up, April 22nd to April 24th!

Please enjoy our interview with Chris and Maya down below.


TGS: Purchasing art can be an intimidating idea for many people, but One Picture Book came from the belief that anybody should be able to obtain an original form of art.  Can you explain your inspiration behind these books and also tell us how you choose the artists you feature?  How do you and the artist work together to put together the final product?  

CHRIS: Our inspiration for the One Picture Book series was to make art collecting accessible to more people. Most of the books in the series are made by artists who have exhibited and sold work around the country and around the world, and they agree with our goals for the series. It’s great when somebody on a tight budget can still collect good art. As with all of our books, we work with the artists in a collaborative way. The books in this series are small, and only have 16 pages and 1 loose signed original photograph, so the challenge is to create the strongest display of the work within these parameters.

TGS: What sort of photography excites you right now, and how do you think photography and the photo book medium have changed over the last 24 years since you began publishing One Pictures Books in 1998?

CHRIS: Photography is exciting when it’s authentic, and when the subject is something that the photographer cares deeply about, no matter what that subject is. During the past two decades, publishing has become much more democratic. Almost anybody has the means to make a small edition of photo books, and the best, most interesting ones rise to the top.

TGS: Nazraeli is a name you invented as a child and gave to your guardian angel. When it comes to photography, independent publishing and books in the 21st century, what is Nazraeli Press guarding or protecting?

CHRIS: As a guardian angel, Nazraeli gave me courage to do things that I was afraid to do when I was younger. And later it gave me the courage to start publishing, first postcards and later books. It felt like I wasn’t so much an upstart publisher, as I was the Publisher of Nazraeli Press.

TGS: Nazaraeli Press is a partnership between you and Maya.  How did you begin working together?

MAYA: We met at a book fair in Los Angeles in 1994, while I was living in the East Bay and Chris was living in Munich. I saw the Nazraeli stand, and thought that they would be a good publisher to approach about some book ideas I had for Japanese photographers. We found that we liked doing things together!

TGS: Who are your influences as an art book publisher?

CHRIS: It was Jack Woody’s company, Twelve Trees Press, that we both looked up to when we were in school, and those beautiful books were certainly a huge inspiration to us. Jack paved the way for many of the Independent publishers who began publishing in the 1990s.

TGS: What is one book, published elsewhere, that you hold dear?

Maya: “Fushikaden” by Issei Suda
Chris: It’s not an art book, but “Look Homeward, Angel” by Thomas Wolfe

TGS: Where is Nazraeli Press headed when you look to the future?

Chris: We will continue to publish books on the fine and applied arts, but we also enjoy running the olive farm, and producing Extra Virgin Olive Oil. We have also built some AirBnBs on the property, which allows us to share another thing we love: our little slice of Central California.
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