2011 marks the launch of photographer Käla Mandrake’s decade long photographic project, “underground’, a glossy coffee table book, that portrays downtown New York.
The fact that Käla is the granddaughter of the famous vaudevillian, Mandrake the Magician, may have something to do with her ability to capture the theater of the City’s daily life (or more accurately night life). Her old school black & white 35 mm film shots, spanning from her late teens into her 30s, are an array of East Village characters from; musicians, performers, artists, burlesque dancers as well as squatters, punks, and runaway teenagers.
As a product of the East Village scene herself Mandrake intimately captures that slice of the City, so often romanticized by lesser artists—the gritty underground.
Velvetpark magazine had published Kala’s work back in the early aughts, so when she reached out to us recently we were delighted to find the development and realization of her work in a Folio format. Congratulations to the artist and her vision.
Here’s our conversation:
When did you decide to turn your photos into a book?
I decided to turn by photographs into a book many years ago. The idea emerged right after my first gallery exhibition in 2000 at CB’s Gallery. Seeing my photographs displayed next to each other for the first time, I thought the natural evolution of this project would be to have them made into a book.
The project’s theme and message being people that follow their own unique paths in life. Because I am always drawn to such people, I continued to shoot the amazing New Yorkers I met over the years, and expanded on my portfolio. Finally in 2009, I was able to start the process of having it published.
Was that the plan all along?
Yes, I had been feeling very strongly that these pictures belonged together in a book. I knew it would be called “UNDERGROUND” from the very beginning. It was the perfect title to me as everything that the word “underground” signifies fits perfectly with the concept, vibe and development of this project.
The plan was to create a book of my photographs, with a message. Something I feel is meaningful and hopefully opens the minds of viewers. These are portraits of those who follow their hearts and their own unique paths in life, even if it goes against the beliefs of those around them.
Did you end up self-publishing?
Yes, I ended up self-publishing this book. I did a lot of research and the more information I got, the more it became apparent that this was the only way I wanted to go. In being true to the spirit and theme of the book, it made sense to self-publish. Self-publishing gives the artist much more power. There is essentially nothing to lose and more to gain. Depending how much control the artist wants over the style, layout, marketing, etc of the book, is up to the artist.
For me, I knew how I wanted to book to look so I was allowed to create the design and layout myself. The book publisher took control of marketing and my book is now in Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Xlibris.