Ken Grant’s World of Football: Liverpool, Landscape and Manhood

For our final post before Photobook Bristol, here is a short interview with Ken Grant on his new book, The Topical Times for These Times: A Book of Liverpool Football.

This will be launched at Photobook Bristol on Saturday and is set to become (alongside Julian Germain’s wonderful In Soccer Wonderland and Hans van der Meer’s formally beautiful European Fields) one of the classics of football photobooks. Not that it’s really about football. It’s about much more than that. as Ken explains below.

Both Julian Germain and Ken Grant will be speaking at Photobook Bristol on Saturday.

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Shenasnameh: An Interview with Amak Mahmoodian

Amak Mahmoodian’s new book, Shenasnameh will be launched at Photobook Bristol on Friday. Published jointly by IC Visual Labs and RRB Books, Shenasnameh tells the story of Iranian women throught their fingerprints and the identity photographs they must make for their Shenasnameh (a passport like book which is a birth certificate and identity document). It’s a beautifully made book that mixes an attention to the vernacular uses of the identity photography with love, compassion and feeling for her fellow women. It’s a book of personal identities that come through eyes and looks and the turn of the mouth, mixed with official identities of fingerprints and photographs rejected due to an ‘excess’ of make-up or hair.

The project started 6 years ago when Amak was having her Shenasnameh picture taken with her mother.  These are the heartfelt and very beautiful words that Amak says about the project.

Shenasnameh ICVL Studio-RRB Publishing(001 )Shenasnameh ICVL Studio-RRB Publishing(009 )

The idea came to me immediately. I saw the pictures of myself and my mother in the day and I went home and thought, I’m going to make a project about that. The same day I started asking my neighbours if I could borrow their birth certificate photographs.

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Tipi: Buy a Book, Create a Community, Turn a Parcel into Art

Following on from Martin Amis of Photobookstore, today we have another bookseller answering the Photobook Bristol Questionnaire. This time it’s the amazing Andrea Copetti of Tipi Bookshop.

Tipi Bookshop is based in Brussels and is more than just a bookstore. From his base, Andrea also launches books, shows prints and mails out the most amazing photobook parcels. He also finds the time to answer unreasonably long interview questions like these. For that we are very thankful.


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Martin Amis on how to make a living from Photobooks


Today our focus turns onto the booksellers who will be at Photobook Bristol. This year we have booksellers and publishers including Journal, Photobookstore, Cafe Royal Books, MACK Books, Galerie Clementine de la
Feronniere, Hoxton Mini Press, Village Bookstore, Fabrica, Tipi Bookshop, Phaidon, Rorhof, RRB Photobooks and
Fish Bar.

It’s easy to overlook the vital role that booksellers play in promoting, funding and showing new photobooks. Real life bookshops like the Village Bookstore or Tipi provide real life exhibition space, they host book launches and they provide a physical space for photographers, artists and bookmakers to show and look at work.

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Phaidon: On Branding, Crossover and Finding a New Audience


This year we are very happy to have Phaidon sponsoring Photobook Bristol 2016. As publishers of the Photobook Histories by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, Phaidon are the publishing catylyst in the surge in creative photobook publishing. Volume I was published in 2004 and though it was not the first history of photobooks (Fotografia Publica and The Book of 101 Seminal Photobooks came earlier), it was the publication that really brought the photobook to a much, much wider audience.

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Phaidon has also published great photobooks in their own right in books like Li Zhensheng’s Red Color News Soldier (see images above), it has reissued classics like Philip Jones Griffiths’ Vietnam Inc. and it continues to push the photobook into new audiences as part of its immensely classy catalogue on the arts, design and beyond.
In some ways then, Phaidon takes the photobook and brings it to new audiences. Two of its latest titles, Real Food by our very own Martin Parr, and Failed it! by Erik Kessels exemplify this ability to go beyond the photobook ghetto.

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Dragana Jurisic: Photobooks, Philosophy and Spaghetti Westerns


Dragana Jurisic is the author of Yu: The Lost Country. In Yu (one of the best books of 2015) Dragana traces the path taken by Rebecca West in her classic travelogue,  The Black Lamb and the Grey Falcon, to return to the former-Yuguslovia and find the place that she once called home is home no more.

In addition to Yu, Dragana has also made 100 Muses, a series of 100 nudes made over a period of 5 weeks. 100 Muses will be part of a major show in 2018, and is also part of Dragana’s ongoing My Own Unknown project.

We caught up with Dragana to hear about still more projects (including a spy story, a spaghetti western and a graphic novel), to learn about her family, and to get a taste of the Charisma Express that attendees at Photobook Bristol 2016 will have the  pleasure to hear speak.

Without further ado, here are the aphorisms of Dragana Jurisic.


The Day Our House Burned Down

The day our house burned down in September 1991, that is when everything changed, when there was no return back. My parents now live in the same apartment but it is not the same apartment. We lived in a hotel for six months, I was sent to school and then I was sent somewhere else because the bombing was so bad, so I never actually went back to live in the old place. And since then my life has been very, I’ve been moving a lot since then. I didn’t have any other place that I considered home.


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I think there was a definite part of my life where I felt very unstable from not having a home and kind of trying to shoehorn myself into this idea of home including a failed marriage and a mortgage. And it was in Ireland during the boom time and the mortgage was like 30 years of slavery of paying two grand a month. It was a frightening exercise.

But now I’m quite settled. I find Ireland is sort of my home because I feel comfortable here. It’s the opposite of where I’m from; you’re relatively free to express your opinion without anyone threatening you, nobody really cares about it so much, there’s nothing dangerous happening like in Paris. It’s really comfortable to live, or to use as a base because I travel so much. It’s a good place to come back to and get some air and write.

Actually, with home, you find that people build these strange constructs around themselves to make them feel more comfortable, less scared of what’s out there. I was just thinking of this idea that we are just this jetsam and flotsam in the universe and that we are these specks of light existing in this infinite darkness, but we hold onto this idea of boundaries; this is my room, this is house, this is my country. But it’s kind of ridiculous when you think about it in the grand scheme of things.

Once something traumatic like happens that takes away your home, you become really aware of how everything is in flux all the time, and that things are not safe all the time – home, family, country.

On History

And history is something else I find I have no belief in because I saw how the history books (in Croatia ) were rewritten literally in the space of a few months. The whole language was reinvented in a couple of months. I remember I had friends who studied IT in the 1990s and after Croatia declared independence, most of the words for computers and their components were words adapted from English words.

But because there needed to be this assertion of nationalism there needed to your own (Croatian) word for ‘keyboard’ or something. So words were invented very quickly. I remember at college we would get drunk and we would take these notebooks for IT students with these new words in and we would laugh at how ridiculous it was. But within two or three months these words we had found so ridiculous were part of this new language and everyone was using them.

History has also been rewritten. I don’t even dare think about how history is taught now.  I remember when I was at school sometimes some really hardcore communist teacher would ask who went to the mass and then give them shit and joke about how stupid it is to believe in god.

After I finished university, I used to be a psychologist and I worked in a primary school. My office was next to the religion class, it was a Catholic school so it was a catechism class; I remember hearing  the catechism teacher punishing people who didn’t go to class which is a complete flip of the situation. You realise how scary and fascinating it is that people are so adaptable, that they forget how they can be so easily re-programmed.

On Recreating Rebecca West’s Journey

The Rebecca West journey was really quite a lonely journey. I didn’t really engage with so many people, or have in depth conversations with people because you really don’t know who you’re talking with there and nationalism is so rife and people are still so full of hatred that you really don’t talk about the war because it can cost you your head.

Just now in March I had an exhibition in Sarajevo. There are two daily newspapers in Bosnia. One is a right wing pro-islam one, the other is the liberal one. I said to a journalist from the liberal one that the Croatian government still has a big element of fascism in it as it did in the 90s, and then ( I received this email from my mum going crazy saying ‘are you fucking nuts! You don’t have to live in this country!’ You forget that people still live in fear. Now I can go around and say anything I want without any danger to my life while there the situation is different.

On the Yugoslav Utopia

Yugoslavia was a wonderful Utopia the way it was sold to us. We were programmed to think we were the best. It’s the opposite in Ireland where it’s ‘don’t think above your station’, there’s this false modesty.

But in Yugoslavia we were trained like narcissists; “You are the best! The Cleverest! The most beautiful people who ever lived on the planet.” It was a programming. We all had to train twice a day at some sport. It was kind of like living in a Utopian society.

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My parents lived very well. In the building where we lived next door there was a director of a big company, then across would be the cleaning lady from the company in the same-sized apartment. So as kids we grew up not really seeing these differences and that was also kind of beautiful about the ex-Yugoslavia. As a child. I don’t know what it was like to be a grown up in that kind of society.

My dad feels very nostalgic for it. That generation does because there was no unemployment, there was work found immediately for people, they got an apartment, they got married, they had kids. So it was a great culture for people who didn’t want to push too hard. I don’t know what it would be like for people who were really ambitious. It’s difficult to guess. It was an interesting experiment that lasted 50 years.

Ireland is definitely the opposite when it comes to how people are conditioned in childhood. Here it is almost like you are never good enough. There it is like you are the emperor of the universe. I think that’s the difference.

On the Book as a Map

For Yu, I needed a mark so I kept on going back to this book,  Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia. It’s still one of the most important books written about the ex-Yugoslavia. It’s on the Nato list of recommended reading, it’s read by every writer, poet or journalist who spends a significant amount of time there. People are still using it as a guide.

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On each trip, I met half a dozen people each time I went who had this book under their arm. And I’d meet them by some kind of monument that she was describing. It might be very obscure folly that she’d played cards in. And I remember sitting in this folly and hearing this very posh English accent say and it was this gentleman with the book in his hand and he said “Are you here for Rebecca West?”

He turned out to be the classics teacher in Marlborough College and I kept meeting him. I kept meeting a few other people who were on the same journey. It wasn’t an original idea. It’s just that these people travelled and I was making work from it. It’s like a Lonely Planet that never goes out of date because all these places are still there.

On the Need for Constrictions in Work

I like to work with constrictions around me, otherwise I find it almost impossible. I’m writing a book at the moment and I find it so difficult. I know what I’m writing about but in the end it could go off at so many different tangents. The book is about my aunt who was a spy in Paris from the 1950s to the 1980s. She was allegedly poisoned with radium and there are some rumours that she ran three brothels as well. It’s more like a book than a photobook. That is my plan. There will photos inside but they will be more like illustrations.

It’s neither literature nor photography. I think it’s really nice to fall between the cracks. That way you are judged less harshly. That was the situation with my PhD actually, because in it I only talk about literature, and politics, and history. I hardly mention any visual arts at all. So it’s probably easier to pass. I like living in between.

Back to this book by Rebecca West. It was incredible because it really gives you an itinerary from the moment you wake up so you don’t have to think about what you are going to do with your day. It’s listed. I thought it would also be interesting to get the frustrations of getting somewhere and having a very short amount of time to capture this place, because she was there for like five minutes. And you want to stay longer.

Or she goes to Skopje and she stays for three weeks and oh my god, you’re like what am I going to do here for three weeks. It’s crazy. After three days, I was done there.

Everything about Kosovo was Awful

Everything about Kosovo was awful. I was with Michal (Iwanowski) for that part of the journey and that was a good move because otherwise they wouldn’t have let me into the country. I had a Croatian passport and a Serbian name, so they said they didn’t want to let me in because of security but then they realised that Mikhail was with me so they said, ok she’s travelling with a European Union Passport Holder.

But we were constantly followed, I think once there were 12 policemen with machine guns waiting for us when we stepped out of the bus. Usually I wouldn’t be scared of these things but war was so recent there in a way and people were totally paranoid. It was horrible. And then you see this country that is not spectacular like Macedonia or parts of Bosnia. It’s kind of like a dustbowl and there’s this horrendous fighting between Serbs and Albanians. And you’re just travelling and you think, why, why are they fighting?

But it was very funny because I never forget Mikhail was constantly saying “Isn’t it wonderful that we’re here.” And I was like, “What the fuck is wrong with you! It’s an awful place!” But he was just trying to keep our spirits up. So when we arrived in Montenegro, we arrived in this small mountain town just across the border from Albania and we had a beer. And he just looked at me and said, “I lied all the fucking time.” When we crossed the Montenegro border, I felt like Whitney Houston when she arrived in Israel. I wanted to lift my hands to the sky and say “Hallelujah, we are home!”

It was crazy. Even trying to locate where we were when we were travelling around Kosovo, there was a black hole. Google Maps would not tell you where you were. It was strange. It was a terrible shock as well. After we’d got to the place where the soldiers were waiting for us we decided to go to the monastery where my grand uncle started his career and they kicked us out of there. He was the patriarch of the Orthodox Church. He’s dead now and apparently he’s going to be canonised. I’ll have a saint for a Grand Uncle. He’s from my mother’s side, the Serbian side. Dragana is a Serbian name, Jurisic is a Croatian name. So I have a confused name.

On Keeping Busy

All I want to do is lie in bed and watch TV. I’m really lazy and I’m always kind of surprised how much I have squeezed into a year considering I have a total propensity to push everything to the next day. But Muses are finished and they are going to be shown in 2018. There’s going to be a big exhibition in Dublin. My plan is to finish this book about my aunt by next year and then I want to be clear for 2018 because I want to make a spaghetti western. In Bosnia. With local people playing cowboys and Indians.

That’s my plan. Fuck photography. I’m going to become a spaghetti western maker. I have already spoken to some producers and they want to take the project on so that’s one possibility. The other is there is a really good grant in Ireland called Real Arts and the problem with this grant is it’s only 80,000 but with this 80,000 you can’t look for external funding. It’s a noble idea but it’s not easy to make a movie with just 80 grand – not a proper film. We will try at first to get proper funding, and if we can’t we’ll go for the grant. Because it’s a great story. I can’t tell you, but it’s a great one. I can’t tell you because my producer told me not to talk about this. Well, I can tell you, but you can’t tell anyone.

On Making a Living

I’m a part time lecturer so I only get paid during the academic year so I’m kind of on the loose for the next five months, but I’ve been very lucky in the last four or five years with funding and awards. It’s been incredible actually. With the book, that was a huge cost of time, but I broke even or even made a little bit of money, a very little bit. I do sell some work. It’s a combination of many things. I don’t do any commercial work and I’m very happy to refuse it as well. Even if I’m broke I don’t like to. I don’t like to work basically. The less work the better.  I work on stuff that makes me happy.

I used to do some jobs for the Independent in the UK when they needed some artist’s photographs in Ireland. But I’d always try and get out of it and recommend someone else or say I’m busy. But they would say, “But we like you.” I mean, why would they ask me to photograph people. I don’t even like photographing people.

That’s probably one of the reasons I did 100 Muses to force myself to photograph 100 women, 100 naked women. I think that’s going to be a good exhibition.

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100 Muses is also part of  this project My Own Unknown which is made up of different chapters. It’s like I’m not working on one project, but I’m working on four different projects that are all connected. This deals with life and past fears. It’s difficult to say. It’s evolving, maybe bringing some of my psychology background into it. I also have a strange family history of women who are healers or witches so it’s also to deal with that part of the history. You have the grand uncle who was the patriarch, then you have my grandmother who was a wise woman, and then you have her other brother who basically lived in a tree house and wrote prophecies. So they were all interesting characters.

Actually something really weird happened yesterday. My aunt in Belgrade is a little bit like this and my mum was visiting her in Belgrade because it was the Serbian Easter yesterday and I rang my mum to say, Happy Easter, How are you and she said “Great, How are you? Do you want to talk to your aunt?” I said yes, and then my aunt asked me “When are you coming to Belgrade to visit?” and I said September and she said, “Oh, I’ll probably be dead by then,” and I started laughing. And then the conversation repeated again from the beginning. My ma came on and said hi. Second time around I thought maybe they just forgot that we just had this conversation with me. But the third time it was just too weird so I put the phone down and I rang them again and said, “Did you not hear that the conversation just kept repeating?” And they said no. It was like some weird déjà vu.

But every time I would laugh at my aunt saying she’s going to die, the conversation would start again. Maybe I should listen to an 80 year old woman who says she’s going to die. But she’s the best friend of the woman I’m writing a book about. The two of them were supposed to run away to Paris together but then she fell in love and stayed behind and the other went on.

On the Photobook World

The Photobook World is a weird world. I’m not really sure what the game is. I find it very interesting that so many photobooks are so redundant. They’re about nothing, they’re just like having a really nice design, or like playing an instrument and finding a really nice tempo but there’s nothing there. What is the point of this exercise. I think that’s why so many of them fail. Or they start saying something but they never really finish it.

But you get books like Fukase’s Ravens book, it’s so beautiful and you don’t have to know anything about photography to understand it. As you leaf through it, you feel the heaviness, you know intuitively what this book is about. And so many people try to do this without text, without any real story. It’s like emulating something without any real story to tell.

On Being a Real Artist

It’s very difficult to expose yourself. I really try not to censor myself because although many things happen to people, I find shame is a toxic thing. You have to own things. I had an interview recently with a magazine recently and I mentioned something about having a miscarriage between two trips and Rebecca West had one as well while travelling in ex-Yugoslavia and I said how it was strange overlap of a really traumatic  event and people said, Oh my God you’re so brave to talk about having a miscarriage and I thought well this happened to me, why would I be ashamed? Because it made me feel less of a woman, I don’t know. I think if you want to be a good artist you need to be ready to fucking expose yourself.

Mark Power interview by Jessa Fairbrother



Mark Power (UK) is a Magnum photographer and Professor of Photography at the University of Brighton. In the run up to his second appearance at Photobook Bristol he talks to Jessa Fairbrother about how he defines success in a photobook…and having the best job in the world.

Over your career you have made several photobooks. Lets start with the easy questions….Can you tell us what led you to make your first?


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from The Shipping Forecast

My first book was The Shipping Forecast, published in 1996. Along with the exhibition the book was the culmination of a four-year trek around the coast of Western Europe. Its story is an interesting one… About three-quarters of the way through the project I approached a major publisher, based in London, to show them the pictures and a proposed book design. Their reaction was almost entirely negative: they weren’t interested in publishing because the work was (in their words) too parochial and, it continued, they wouldn’t dream of making a book with a black-and-white photograph of the sea on the cover. If they were to publish it (which they weren’t) they would ask me to go out and photograph, er, let’s see… a man in a yellow souwester taking a weather reading. In colour, of course.

I was extremely depressed at the end of the meeting, but at the same time fervently believed the book-buying public weren’t that stupid. Surely they could appreciate, and understand, a book which demanded just a little more effort to ‘read’ properly. It dawned on me that the only way I could get the book I wanted was to put my own money into it, but I didn’t have much and the little I did have was being put towards making the photographs. I applied to the Arts Council but failed dismally to get a grant; black and white documentary work wasn’t very fashionable in 1995. As a last straw I applied to the Mosaic Foundation in Luxembourg and promptly forgot all about it, until one Monday morning I received a call telling me I’d been awarded a grant of US$25,000. Suddenly everything was possible: I was able to travel to some of the more far-flung places I had yet to visit, produce a rather lavish exhibition and put a considerable amount into publishing a book. I approached Zelda Cheatle, who was representing me for print sales at the time, and she agreed to publish the book under her imprint.
It was made, primarily, as a catalogue for the exhibition, but when The Observer made it their ‘Book of the Week’ the entire first edition of 2,000 copies sold out within ten days. We went to a second printing and then a third, and they sold out as well – a total of 10,000 books altogether, quite remarkable for a first book by a largely unknown photographer. Cleary it had managed to wriggle out of the photo-ghetto to reach another audience altogether – Radio 4 listeners, sailors – and to this day I meet many who tell me they bought the book for their parents. Rarely do I meet anyone who bought it for themselves, but there are plenty of elderly mums and dads out there who must have a copy.
You have gone on to make many subsequent photobooks – can you tell us something about the process of working with a designer – how that helps your work breathe as a photobook? Can you tell us, for example, of any particularly stressful episodes – or things you wish you had done differently?
I’m very lucky in that each and every experience I’ve had working with a designer has been very positive. My latest book, Destroying the Laboratory for the Sake of the Experiment, a collaboration with the poet Daniel Cockrill and the designer Dominic Brookman, is enormously complicated, but was a joy to work on. I’ve made eight books now, with four designers. All are/were very different, but in each case I began the process fairly clear about the sort of book I wanted. There’s always a dialogue, and I like to think I remain open to new ideas, but I always start with a kind of picture in my head of what the book should be like.

The process of bringing a book out is time-consuming. Can you tell us about how you manage this?

Yes, it’s time-consuming, but it’s time I love to spend and in the end it’s well worth it. I’ve never shirked on this and I think it’s one of the reasons why I’ve not made a book I’m (in retrospect) embarrassed by. Far be it for me to say, but I think they all stand up as pretty decent books, and I can’t wish for more than that. Managing my time is difficult, what with trying to pursue my own projects, doing the odd commissions, teaching, and everything else (not to mention my family) but somehow or other I manage to get everything done.


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from Mass

Your photobook Mass (2013) is a very interactive high-production value book with fold-outs. How was making that book different in process to other, less physically complex works? Did it take significantly longer to do?
I’m very proud of Mass, although it’s been a difficult book to sell. I worked with Stuart Smith on that one, and from the outset I suggested I wanted a small book with large pictures inside… a tricky conundrum. As luck would have it Stu had a book from his shelf he’d been keeping for just the right moment. As I remember, it was an advertising brochure for a perfume company. Its design principle was the genesis of Mass.
The next problem was trying to find a printer able to make such a thing. Stuart soon realised it was almost impossible to describe what we wanted without sending out a tiny dummy as an example. He made several and posted them out. Most printers either ignored us or told us straight that it was impossible to do. There was one printer in Belgium who wanted an astronomical amount to make each copy by hand. And then, at the very last moment, Graphicom in Verona phoned to say they thought they could do it.
While it may be a complicated book design, it’s surprisingly simple in content; once the folding mechanism had been designed the pictures just slotted into place. We didn’t need to spend time agonising over sequencing or anything like that. There aren’t many pictures in it.
The Shipping Forecast (1996) is specifically allied to a well-known written text, spoken twice a day across the world, creating an underpinning narrative structure of the work. The London A-Z – which informed 26 Different Endings also relies on a pre-determined structure to make meaning, while Mass points to the presence of ‘a script’ in which we can project meaning onto the images. Could you maybe discuss your interest in the written / spoken text as a power structure?
Actually I would suggest instead that both The Shipping Forecast and 26 Different Endings take as their starting points (a) a map, and (b) a familiar British institution – a radio broadcast and a popular street atlas. The idea for Mass was born while making my previous book in Poland, The Sound of Two Songs, and has more to do with a reaction to the Catholic Church (I was raised a strict Catholic but have since wandered from the flock). Laboratory is the book which relies most on a spoken and written text because of the collaboration with Dan. The designer, Dom, played with all kinds of innovative ways of using image and text together. We gave him free rein to do whatever he wanted and most ideas he suggested were greeted by us with great excitement.


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from Die Mauer ist Weg

You described in a lecture I read that you didn’t know where ideas came from, that you didn’t know how to explain that – it was an intuitive approach. I was interested in reading that and wondered if the serendipity you encountered at the Berlin wall, which became your book Die Mauer ist Weg! was a metaphor for your approach to making work – a chance encounter, a followed path, a drift into form out of chaos.

What I was trying to say was that ideas can come from anywhere and it’s just a matter of being able to recognise one when it’s staring you in the face. While some of my projects have been conceptually tight, like 26 Different Endings, I’m always happiest when I’m allowed to wander and photograph anything I like. I’m very careful to leave enough time at the end of the process to edit and sequence my ‘collection’ of pictures very carefully. Over the years I’ve realised this is at least as important as making the work in the first place. As for my Berlin work, that was just a lucky break. To paraphrase Withnail, I was in Berlin by mistake.


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from 26 Different Endings

You incorporate your own soul-searching in your work with essays that reveal a lot about your life; then in one of your books – 26 Different Endings – David Chandler wrote an autobiographical essay. I wonder, then, how you see a ‘self’ as a character in the narratives of others? Does the book form help you do this or is it through the written word that this becomes explicit?

David’s essay in 26 Different Endings is the best autobiographical piece I’ve ever read in a photo book. I’m very fortunate it’s in there and because of it, really, the book is as much David’s as it is mine. We’ve been friends for many years (we lived together as students in the late 1970s) and I think we recognise kindred spirits in each other. Neither of us are afraid to open up emotionally, although in my case (and I think in David’s too) I find it easier to do so through my work than in spoken conversation.
You have previously said: “It took me a long time to get to this point. I still don’t have any money because I plough it into new projects, but that’s what I want to spend my money on. That’s the attitude you need to have. You either do it properly or not at all, because if you do it half-heartedly you won’t have success or at least it won’t last – you’ve got to want it right to the core of your bones.” Can you tell us something about this dilemma?
It’s true that for many years I led a hand-to-mouth existence and ploughed everything I had into various projects. But my work is also my pleasure; I can’t imagine not doing it, so it’s never an issue. In every case I’ve managed to get my money back eventually, through books sales, although some titles have taken longer to recoup the ‘investment’ than others. I consider myself extremely fortunate to do what I do. My daughter told me recently she thought I had the best job in the world and I think she might be right.
Success means different things to all of us…how do YOU define success of your photobooks?
A successful photobook does justice to the work inside it, and to the time and effort you put into it. It’s not necessarily about sales.


mark power mauer cover

From the outside it could seem that someone who has got to the point you have – part of Magnum, with a successful career in photography – that the financial issues around producing a photobook would be more manageable. Can you explain why this might not be the case?
I can assure you that being a member of Magnum doesn’t come hand-in-hand with great personal wealth! That said, with the exception of Superstructure and The Treasury Project I’ve put my own money into each and every one of my books because I want to maintain a level of control. When I work with publishers they are always small and I trust them implicitly (Zelda Cheatle, Photoworks and GOST) but my two most recent books, Die Mauer ist Weg! and Laboratory, were self-published. This meant I had to pay for everything myself, which wasn’t easy, but Die Mauer actually made a decent profit and it’s that, indirectly, which has gone into making Destroying the Laboratory. But be under no illusions, photobook publishing isn’t a sensible business model. While Die Mauer may have made a profit, the amount of time that goes into self-publishing, not to mention wrapping and posting every single copy myself (I freely admit I’m a control freak) shouldn’t be underestimated. You can forget the minimum wage.
You are launching your latest book Destroying the Laboratory for the Sake of the Experiment at Photobook Bristol. What can we expect from the launch – and the book? We hear it’s going to be quite an event!
The project is a collaboration between the poet Daniel Cockrill, designer Dominic Brookman, and myself. Between 2006 and 2010 Dan and I travelled together, whenever time allowed, to different parts of England. The themes of collaboration and experiment were (and still are) important factors. In effect we were two artists using different media sharing the same ‘landscapes’. It soon became clear that each of us had our own hierarchy of what we considered interesting and important, and that’s what the project became about.
In 2010 we had the small show of the work at the Atlas Gallery in London. It was an intentionally messy experiment, but quite successful in spite of the fact that we didn’t sell a single thing! At the same time we made a dummy book, printed on an Indigo Press, in an edition of just five copies. That forms the basis of the so-called ‘trade edition’, which will be launched at the Bristol Photobook Festival in June, although this later incarnation takes even more risks. It’s taken a while to get it published, I know, but the gestation period has been useful. Among other things we made the decision not to date or caption anything in the book because it really didn’t seem important.
The third member of our team is undoubtedly Dominic Brookman who, coincidently, lives in Bristol. He designed the book and created a number of ‘treatments’ of the poems, often integrating these with my photographs. These have, in turn, become images in themselves and form a key part of the book.
We go on press next week (May 2016), so I’m a little nervous about getting too excited until I’ve seen the final product. At the Bristol event the three of us will do a presentation which will of course include a poetry performance by Dan. And this will be the only time we’ll all be together to sign the books…

”The time for waiting for an opportunity was over”, an interview with Sonia Berger from DALPINE.

In the latest of the interviews leading up to Photobook Bristol 2016, Alejandro Acin asked Sonia Berger a few questions about their journey with DALPINE, the situation in Spain re:Photobooks as well as the publishing industry.

In 2010, José Manuel Suarez and you, both students at Blank Paper School in Madrid (Spain), created Dalpine, a publishing house and online bookstore specializing in photobooks. What were the reasons that made you start this new adventure? What are you roles within DALPINE?

The reasons for creating Dalpine were powerful: we couldn’t find anywhere the books we were looking for. We had started collecting the books we were being showed by Fosi Vegue and Ricardo Cases at BlankPaper school and also searching for others, both old and new books. On the other hand, some photographers had started self-publishing their works and needed help with the distribution. We realized that very interesting books were being published in other countries, either by the authors themselves or by small publishing houses. So the idea was simply to make these books accessible to a broader audience. That’s how we contacted some small publishers, self-published authors and some Spanish publishers who had published some of the best photobooks in the past decade and started Dalpine.

In your bookshop, your catalogue seems to be very well thought through, there are very interesting new titles from Spain but also international ones, however you don’t seem to be one of those bookshops that get all the new/trendy titles. How is your selection process? 

We continue selecting both Spanish and international books. We have never wanted to have a huge shop, the idea was rather having a small selection but selling a larger number of copies of each title. On the other side, we work with more or less the number of titles I like to read through the year, a moderate quantity. We keep one copy of every book and we build a collection. It’s like we are inviting you to build your collection at the same time. Books can be selected by their beauty, their origin, their design, but most usually by the way they address a certain subject. It’s just a proposal, today one has to do an enormous effort to select contents in the digital era, so here is a tentative.


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DALPINE has been evolving since its origins. You started as a very modest online bookshop which became a reference for Spaniards but also internationally for those who wanted to find out new up and coming authors from Spain. But in 2013 you launched your publishing section with KARMA by Oscar Monzon (in conjunction with RVB Books), winner of The Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation First Photobook Award 2013. It seems a very clever approach in order to build up a community of people interested in photobooks, was this part of the reason you started as a bookshop before going into publishing? 

The idea of starting a publishing house was there from the beginning, but we didn’t know if there were enough readers, or how it worked. There was a need for distribution, but also for new approaches in publishing photography. Traditional publishing houses were not risking much, on the contrary, the risk was a whole generation of talented people to remain unknown. We just wanted to shake a bit the scene and I think in the end we have successfully contributed to it both by promoting books and publishing our own.




You were a very important part of what it was called ”The Spanish Photobook Revolution” which has had an internationally repercussion. Has this revolution had an impact in how photography or photobooks are perceived today in Spain? What have been the consequences of this revolution if any?

Yes, probably the so called Spanish Photobook Revolution, which I think was basically a number of people from various backgrounds working intensely to produce and disseminate interesting photobooks, has had an impact both in photography and publishing in Spain. There is a lot of people interested in the subject (isn’t Spain the country which counts with more Photobook Clubs?), Photobook Jockeys are celebrated here and there and photobooks are now a fundamental part of the many art book fairs that have flourished. However the number of art bookshops remains still low in this country, and major shops have not opened any corner devoted to them as happened with comic books a decade ago.

One of the very important factors behind this revolution has been the collaborative spirit existing between photographers, editors, designers, curators, publishers from different parts of Spain. Could you tell us a little bit more about this collaborative ethos? and how was your role in this? 

The crisis started in 2008, we knew we had nothing to lose, and that’s how we started talking. The time for waiting for an opportunity was over. This is true for photographers as well as for other professionals. I remember a presentation of Dalpine in Madrid that led to a debate, then led to another meeting and finally Bookip (Book In Progress) was created in 2011. It was a platform for sharing information, for meeting photographers, designers, publishers, printers, prepress technicians… Most of the people taking part in those meetings have grown up a bit professionally together. We are all freelancers, but we have created a collaborative net of resources. Almost every member of the studio I work in now, La Troupe, were there at the time. We were all really committed and shared the idea of seeing new photography recognized.




You have been published eight titles so far and five of them are the author’s first book. Is this something you are particularly interested in? 

No, we are not particularly interested in first books, but it has a very simple explanation: we have been growing together with that generation, and we think it is worth publishing their works. That’s the reason why we started in the first place. Now that we have a short story, maybe there would be more experienced photographers wanting to work with us, who knows.

What do you think when people say ”the photobook world needs to reach a bigger audience” ?

We have seen the audience grown slowly during the past 10 years and new structures have developed such as fairs and festivals devoted to photobooks, etc. We think the audience can continue growing slowly but at a slower pace than most of us working in the field would like to see.

There are some ”big” publishing houses that take 100% of the money from photographers/authors and the only thing they do/offer as an exchange is promoting and distributing the books, which most of the time means to be put on their Amazon shop. DALPINE has recently announced a series of exhibitions in partnership with TEMPLE, a photography gallery in Paris, with some of the authors you have published. As a small publishing house this is very admirable, as you are actually making a creative effort in promoting your books in new different ways. This seems to be a very different approach to the way publishing houses have been behaved in the past years. Do you think the way the publishing industry works needs to be reconsidered? What do you think are the new challenges for publishers and self-publishers? 

We are small and we prefer to work with few photographers but have the best experience. Partnering with Temple is just fantastic because we share similar ideas. In the end is all about defending the work you believe in and trying to meet the audience that also believes in what you believe. Photobook publishing industry is very small compared to the publishing industry at large, and I think there is room to explore other approaches. I think it is important to find collaborators that can add value to the project.




We hear this sentence a lot: ”The photobook world is saturated with new books that no-one buys. The makers are also the consumers” 

What do you think about it?

Photobooks are of the interest of a small group around the world, a group composed of photographers, collectors, designers, photography students… and it’s ok. Reaching that audience was easier a few years ago, now there are more books than ever and that the audience is is still more or less the same. But I think every market regulates itself at some point, until the next boom if it ever happens. Maybe there’s too many books but that will create a more mature market and will show new intelligent forms of marketing.

What do you think it makes a photobook successful?

A good work, a committed author and good promotion strategy.

Where would you like to see DALPINE in 10 years? 

We would love to continue publishing a few books every year, building a catalogue, and finding new ways of collaboration between photographers, designers, gallerists, etc. Have a space of our own or perhaps also think about publishing essays and literature as well, connect photography to other disciplines, be always on the go, otherwise the project would be death.



Mariela Sancari: In conversation with Jessa Fairbrother


Mariela Sancari (Argentina) made the photobook Moisés, which received widespread critical acclaim. The work – part yearning, part fictional construction, is a series of portraits of 70-year-old men she does not know, taking the place of her father in photographic actions. He had killed himself when she and her twin-sister were 14 and they were not allowed to see their father’s body. The men she shows us in Moisés are 70 years of age – the age her father would have been if he were alive when she embarked on the project. Continue reading “Mariela Sancari: In conversation with Jessa Fairbrother”