How Did an Obscure Photo Book Become a Counterfeit Prop?

by decwells
How Did an Obscure Photo Book Become a Counterfeit Prop?


Caption: Strategist.Photos: Keep Bags; Pssnshop – Live; Courtesy of Gus Powell

In August 2020, photographer Gus Powell received an Instagram message with a photo of what appeared to be his book lonely person Sitting on a shelf in a coffee shop in Seoul. Only it’s not a copy of the book that Powell first published through J&L Books in 2015 – it’s a cardboard box designed to mimic the book’s cover. “What’s this? Is it the head of the book?” Powell wrote to the user @noloosies who posted it. “I think it’s an indoor prop,” they replied.

Curiosity was piqued, and Powell set out to find more virtual copies of his books. A reverse image search uncovered fake photos – identifiable by a blocky font that doesn’t quite capture the delicate, academic feel of the real version’s cover – as props, paired with pajama sets, shoes, bras and sundresses . Sell ​​through Facebook stores in countries like Thailand and Vietnam. Strange: Powell’s first edition only made 1,000 copies. lonely persona collection of color photographs mixed with alternate one-liners, has since been more or less out of print.

Powell began reaching out to sellers. Eventually, he got a response from a jewelry store, and he used the fake book as a styling prop. The owner directs him to Shopee, a Singapore-based e-commerce platform, which is like Amazon in Southeast Asia, and Powell finds himself looking at a carton bait containing his actual 96-page linen hardcover. After finding it on Shopee, he bought six copies, one of which he gave to his publisher.Fake when he posted about it on Instagram lonely person Met a philosophical appreciation. “More like NFTs,” one commented. “Congratulations on your book going beyond concepts,” others wrote. But he was still confused. “People have to assume that, even in the world of fake books, there are editors who decide which books will work. What I’m trying to figure out is if anyone actually puts my book in front of them.”

Unable to resist the retail mystery, we decided to investigate why Powell’s book was made into a prop in the first place, and who was behind that decision. The obvious starting point is Shopee, where Powell and some Facebook stores bought their fake copies on Shopee. This particular seller page doesn’t have a name, but it does come with a variety of boxes, decorated to look like books, all loosely organized according to themes.ersatz version lonely person Belongs to a group called “Nordic decor books ins fashion decor den hotel cafe photography set props” listed along with a fake Kelly Wearstler monograph with a misspelled title and a fictional Chanel book. (According to trend analysts, “ins” stands for “Instagram-style.”) As of this writing, there are 9,566 units available—nine times more than the original version of Powell’s book.

In order to contact this Shopee seller called xrr888.ph, you need a Philippine phone number. I didn’t, so I contacted the team at Shopee and they kindly agreed to contact the seller on my behalf. While waiting to see if xrr888.ph would respond, I spoke with a Shopee representative who evaluated the rest of the online store. “It’s a very typical Asian seller,” she said, comparing it to a street vendor selling everything from phone cases to flip-flops to eye masks. “I’m originally from the Philippines, and you see this a lot in stores. It’s a mashup of items, not something very specialized.” In other words, this particular seller is unlikely to say where their items come from. They never responded anyway.

Another massive e-commerce platform, Made in China, offers a different search function where you can shop directly from factories, including page-by-page fake book factories.Qingdao Haoda Packaging Technology is one of them, it sells some fake books like a dummy like the Shopee seller xrr888.ph relatives Books on coffee table, fake Loewe monograph, and blurry Scandinavian urbanCrucially, Made in China gives you direct access to each factory’s suppliers, which meant I was chatting with someone named Miss Amanda in no time.She quickly confirmed that Qingdao did not cheat lonely personbut agreed to answer some questions about the fake book market.

According to Miss Amanda, fake coffee table books are often made at the request of hotels, restaurants, cafes and interior design firms. But because Qingdao needed custom orders of at least 1,000 books, it started designing its own inventory based on images it found online and letting customers — such as a Seoul coffee shop or a Taobao clothing store — shop piecemeal from the catalog. (This practice is not unique to Qingdao: “We have dedicated designers to design fake books,” Iven Lee, a supplier to Guangzhou Mack Printing Co., Ltd. told me. “Our design department makes them according to market trends, popular patterns. .” , and other factors, supplemented by special processes to achieve simulation.”) when I ask what makes a book (like, for example, lonely person) worth copying, Miss Amanda didn’t pretend to know. “It’s hard to find, friend,” she wrote. “Maybe the designer thought the name was good.” Then she gave up the startling fact: There are more than 2,000 fake book factories in China.

The amount of counterfeit goods of all categories produced in China is staggering, so it makes sense that books are no exception.In the matrix of fake books, there are novels that infringe copyright (fake a few years ago Harry Potter Books—essentially fanfiction, but printed by actual publishing houses—are widely read) and hollow books, which are great for hiding drugs from parents. The kind produced by factories like Qingdao is purely decorative. Avery Booker, co-founder of Jing Daily, which reports on Chinese luxury consumption trends, also pointed out that limited distribution channels and censorship could make genuine Taschen or Phaidon monographs more expensive and harder to find in China. . So why not make a fake one?

virtual copy of lonely person Can be found elsewhere online, such as Taobao China (a store called Jiyoujia.com sells it along with its regular props Loewe, relativesBauhaus and urban Book Box) and AliExpress, through a seller called Onewen Store that sells the same books. But that didn’t help the investigation much. Taobao is notoriously difficult to navigate for foreign shoppers, so much so that you can pay for a service called a Taobao agent to help broker cross-border purchases. (I even wired $10 to someone who agreed to help pinpoint the source of the fake Powell, but received no results.) When the Onewen Store owner responded via WhatsApp, they only offered a vague “This book is very good.” and pretty “look, so I did,” then read on for the rest of my message.

However, this seems to be the general consensus. “I think it’s completely random,” Booker said. “Sometimes it’s a problem That book looks good so we’ll copy it, and nothing more. Eric, a former exporter who runs the Taobao consulting blog How to Tao, offers a more nihilistic view: “Maybe they don’t even know why they chose these books. “

Powell has begun calling the fake book his “third edition.” (The second was printed in English, Italian and Japanese in 2017.) “What I love about making books is that they have a life of their own,” he says. “Not only does this book have a life of its own, it’s amazing that this simulation of it will exist. Also, not everyone can have a fake book.”

Nordic Decorative Book

lonely person

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