Photobook Bristol 2016 is over and was simply wonderful. We are emotionally attached to the event, but it was a truly memorable festival for so many reasons with great talks, great people and so many different perspectives given. And there were quite a few stand out moments!
The weekend started with Amak Mahmoodian talking about her beautiful book, Shenasnameh. Her talk started with a clip of old Iranian movies which cut through the clichés of representation of the country. She went on to describe her working process, for all her projects and then the ways in which the identity photograph of the Iranian Shenasnameh (which is a kind of Iranian Birth Certificate/Domestic Passport) is used. The book is connected very closely to the different ways in which photography is used in formal settings and how those uses reflect politics, culture, violence and power. But above all, it is a book that is personal, autobiographical and filled with a passion and love that transcends the subject matter.
Next came Craig Atkinson of Café Royal Books. He talked about painting, art, publishing and brutalist architecture. In particular he talked about how Café Royal came about, and the art of simplicity and pragmatism in making photobooks, and the ways in which these effectively became part of a brand identity. The cost-effectiveness of his books (he publishes one a week and they cost £7 each) means he can take risks with content and build books into part of a wider archive.
Susan Meiselas by the Reminders Photography Table
There was only one panel this year but it was a great one with David Solo, Olivia Arthur and Susan Meiselas talking about their books and the numbers of photobooks sold now compared to the past. Olivia showed the process behind her beautiful Stranger (but time didn’t allow her to show the multimedia piece with the soundtrack composed specially for the book – one of the most beautiful photobook presentations I have ever seen) while Susan talked about how her Central American work was published in the tens of thousands, as opposed to the hundreds we get now. The question is if photobooks sold so many in the past, is there an opportunity to sell more again. Is there an audience out there, or has time and the market moved somewhere else?
Francis Atterbury of Hurtwood Press gave a short but sweet talk that presented books from a bookmaker’s perspective. Interestingly, his skills as a bookmaker and printer mean he is completely ineffective as a publisher. “I love books too much to be able to edit them,” he said. He also talked about the “anti-humanist” nature of A-sized paper and that nobody should even think about making a book using A-sizes. The most simple of his advice for would-be bookmakers is to start by thinking of what your ideal book would be! And then work down from there.
Another book launch came in the form of Max Pinckers’ Lotus. This is his collaborative book with Quinten de Bruyne on transsexuals in Thailand. Max went into the mechanics of photography, the way we frame pictures in particular ways and the way such formal assumptions create an undercurrent of expectation. So it’s all about the framework of photography. One of the great things about this was seeing the installation shots of the Lotus exhibition, which constructed a set that you could get behind. So basically, photography is like the projection of the Wizard of Oz, and we photographers are the man behind the curtain pumping out the flames and the smoke! And it’s true.
The final talk of the day came from Dragana Jurisic who talked about her book Yu: The Lost Country. This book asks the question, what is your home when your home has ceased to exist? The book tells the story of how Dragana retraced the steps of Rebecca West on her journey to Yugoslavia. It’s the country where Dragana was born, it’s a country that no longer exists. Dragana also made the bold statement that “Nationalism is for stupid people” who basically have no identity and need a flag to peg themselves to. It’s an easy statement to make in soft and cuddly Photobook Bristol, but we like the fact that Dragana made the same statement at a talk she gave in Belfast – where it got quite a different reaction. Dragana is Charisma in like a bottle of concentrated charisma and her intelligence, sharpness and humour made for a great end to the first day.
The next day came and we didn’t quite know what to expect from some of our speakers. But at the same time Photobook Bristol remembered that social media is very important and started tweeting events increasingly frenetically till by the end of it the PBB Bristol Social Media Manager was like the caffeine-dosed squirrel in Hoodwinked. So here’s the rest of the weekend, courtesty of Twitter – but with the typos corrected so it actually makes sense.
Sonia Berger: Telling us how Blank Paper School took teaching beyond the academic and the technical
Sonia Berger: “We have made 8 books. By Ricardo Cases, Oscar Monzon, Jon Casanave, Frederico Clavarino…
Our Twitter correspondent got a bit carried away listening to Yumi, Hajime and Hiroshi and failed miserably at his tip-tip-tapping task.For more on Yumi Goto, read this interview here. Yumi is also speaking in London this evening, June 14th at the Swedenborg Society (and thank you to the Japan Foundation for helping fund Yumi’s attendance at Photobook Bristol. It is so very much appreciated). If you are in London, you should go. Hearing her talk and seeing the books she makes is a revelation in story telling through the photobook.
The danger of flooding. @Yumi_Goto and @caferoyalbooks both tell @PhotobookBS3 about the destruction of books.
Red String and Silent Histories came out of @Yumi_Goto ‘s first Photobook making workshop.
Hiroshi Okamoto and Mark Wilson at the Reminders table
Ivars Gravlejs shows us his first camera: bought for 20 cans of pop in the 1980s
Ivars Gravlejs measured developer temp using his finger. “If my finger felt good, the picture was good.”
Ivars Gravlejs shows the adult games pictures censored from his fabulous Early Works
Ivars Gravlejs and the teacher who told him that if you double develop film, you can see people without their clothes on
Ivars Gravlejs Useful Advices for Photography. Take the lens cap off before taking a picture.
Ivars Gravlejs: Being a photographer at a newspaper is “like a taxi driver profession.”
Ivars Gravlejs sings karaoke at @PhotobookBS3 So there’s a first. Nice voice too!
The audience simply adored Ivars’ Karaoke session.
Julian Germain: “That’s John Wark taking a penalty. You can see me in the crowd. I jumped early so I’d be able to see myself on TV. That’s me with the scarf. You see me?”
Chatting to Julian Germain @PhotobookBS3 we both saw Man City beat Ipswich 1-0 in the FA Cup Semis at Villa Park in 1981
Julian Germain shows his Steelworks pictures from 1980s Still looking contemporary
Julian Germain and the art of the archival power crop.
Julian Germain tells the story of Britain’s first luxury crisp. Phileas Fogg. Made in Consett in the 1980s. Eat your heart out Tyrell’s
Julian Germain shows himself celebrating as John Wark scores for Ipswich in the 1981 UEFA Cup Final
Julian Germain and the God of the accidental Photograph where light leaks and flare make works of art
Julian Germain talks about the fabulous folk art of Durham miners’ banners
Fascinating contemporary project by Julian Germain including recreations of 1930s Ashington paintings. Brilliant!
Ken Grant. “I became a photographer because my dad said it would be a stable living.”
Ken Grant: “When I want to study at Farnham I couldn’t get out of there quick enough. This guy called Martin kept calling to find out where I was.”
Ken Grant: “My dad never told me I could get arrested for driving the transit van to the timber yard when I was 12.”
Ken Grant: “Give Priority to Simplicity”
James Barnor in Conversation with Sarah Preston
James Barnor: “Should I look at the lens or out of the window?” Me: “Out of the window please.”
Sarah Preston: I’m going to be in conversation with James Barnor, but James will do most of the talking – he likes talking
James Barnor: shows his fantastic pictures of the Ghanaian boxer Roy Ankrah at home with his family
James Barnor: “When you take pictures of babies you have to be patient and you have to be alert”
James Barnor with Roy Ankrah, his wife, and Kwame Nkrumah, prime minister of newly independent Ghana
Jack Boy: Without money you can’t get money – slogan on a Ghanaian t-shirt from the 1960s
James Barnor: “If it hadn’t been for Sarah and Clementine most of my pictures would be in a box under my bed.”
Krass Clement in Conversation with Martin Parr
Martin Parr: “If you ask most curators, they don’t know who Krass Clement is.”
Krass Clement: One of the great European photographers, started as a film maker.
Krass Clement to Martin Parr: “I don’t understand this British humour”
Krass Clement: “The Danish people see themselves as happy and fun people. But ultimately they’re quite boring.”
Krass Clement. Incredible books with incredible photography. Now showing his pictures of ” the most brutal depiction of a parental demise”
Krass Clement was given a lifelong pension by the Danish government so he could continue making his with and Photobook
Krass Clement: “I love the modern world but I can’t support it.”
Krass Clement Old Skool: “I love Walker Evans,Robert Frank, I love Sergio Larrain. And Martin Parr and Christoph Stromholm.”
Krass Clement: “You can’t live without humour and at the end of your life you die. That’s what you’re sure of in life.”
Krass Clement – what a talk. One of the all time greats of photography
Krass Clement – what a dancer. One of the all time greats of photography festival dancers!
Ania Nalecka on photobook design: “The first rule of design. There are no rules, there are only consequences.”
Ania Nalecka: ‘What = message, edit, idea How = scenario, sequence, form.’
Ania Nalecka: “There’s nothing new under the Sun. Don’t be afraid to use a solution someone else has used before.”
Ania Nalecka: “As the partner of a photographer I can say traveling with a photographer is like shopping with a girlfriend”
Ania Nalecka: “The title in a book can be the key, or it can spoil everything.”
Ania Nalecka: “The cover of a book can be like the trailer to a movie.”
Ania Nalecka: “A Photobook gives you dots to connect, not drawing the lines. The question is how far you put the dots apart.”
Ania Nalecka: Final thoughts – “The book is a slow medium” and “Nothing is obvious.”
The audience try to recreate the pub feel from Krass Clement’s Drum.
Mariela Sancari in Conversation with Jessa Fairbrother
Mariela Sancari: “My father killed himself when I was 14. We kept this fantasy that he was still alive and we’d meet him in the streets.”
Mariela Sancari: “Every time I had a shoot I wanted there to be a storm or my camera to break so I wouldn’t have to photograph.”
Maria Sancari: “It was very weird seeing these guys wearing my (dead) father’s clothes.”
Jessa Fairbrother : “Having somebody brush your hair in the role of your father (who’s not your father) is so intimate and touching.”
Mariela Sancari: “And you can see he was coming my hair like I’m some weird animal.”
Mariela Sancari: “It was so weird having him comb my hair. That’s why the picture is out of focus.”
Jessa Fairbrother to Mariela Sancari: “There’s always the question if anyone will care about your very personal story.”
Mariela Sancari: “It might sound corny but I do believe in the healing power of art, both for the artist and the viewer.”
Laura El Tantawy: “If you live in Egypt, politics are part of everything, starting with breakfast.”
Laura El-Tantawy: “-When death is sudden, there are so many things left unsaid, so many emotions left unexpressed.”
Laura El-Tantawy: “What does actually being Egyptian mean?” @PhotobookBS3
Laura El-Tantawy:”In Egypt I always get the feeling that people are weighed down.” @PhotobookBS3
Laura El-Tantawy: “The Revolution gave the Egyptian people a sense of confidence.” @PhotobookBS3
Laura El-Tantawy: “The book was disappointing for me when it became about the Revolution.” @PhotobookBS3
Laura El-Tantawy: “This is not the image of Egypt I want to have with my name underneath it.” @PhotobookBS3
Laura El-Tantawy: “After photographing one, two, three protests, you’re basically done.” @PhotobookBS3
Laura El-Tantawy: “The narrative around the Revolution has been fragmented, and manipulated in every way.” @PhotobookBS3
Alejandro Acin, Creative Director of Photobook Bristol, with Laura El-Tantawy
Mark Power, Daniel Cockrill and Dominic Brookman
Poetry being read @PhotobookBS3 by Daniel Cockrill for the launch of Mark Power’s new book. Fantastic!
Mark Power: What can a foreigner bring, or see in another country that people in that country can’t see. @PhotobookBS3
Mark Power “What are you doing?” Dan Cockrill (his assistant): “I’m writing a poem.” MP: “I’m not paying you to write poems.” @PhotobookBS3
Mark Power: “This is Shit-Upon-Avon which Dan will explain later.” @PhotobookBS3
Dan Cockrill: “When my world turned upside down, everything fell out.” @PhotobookBS3
Dan Cockrill: “Let me shit upon Avon and piss on Shakespeare’s grave.” @PhotobookBS3
Dan Cockrill: “Margate is a long shadow, a broken windows… a fragile frown, things I’ll never understand, a dream land” @PhotobookBS3
Dan Cockrill to Mark Power on a hotel stay in Skegness: “You didn’t have a shower because you would have come out dirtier.” @PhotobookBS3
One of a million pictures taken over the weekend of Krass Clement taking a picture – in this case of Josie Atkinson and Mark the Baker from Mark’s Bread
And that was the weekend. We had poetry, singing, music,literature and poetry during the talks showing how photography is not just about photography – it’s about the arts, it’s about life, and the way that we live it. It’s about the great stories of the world and how we tell them. Photography and photobooks are just part of that, a small part of it, and the humbleness of speakers in recognising that is part of what made the weekend so special. There were many stand outs over the weekend, but one thing was extra special. A few months we had a post asking why more people don’t know Krass Clement. After this weekend, anybody who saw Krass in conversation with Martin Parr will never forget him; for his pictures, for his humour, for his intelligence – and for his dancing. Thank you Krass Clement!
Andrea Copetti of Tipi Books after tasting the local cider
Lewis Bush also has this review and has a fascninating take on complexity v simplicity in photobooks, on the accessibility of the photobook and the availability of former editions, questions that will be pursued in more depth in future editions of the event.
And finally, thank you to all the speakers who came, all the publishers and booksellers who had tables and connected the artists to the books, everybody in the audience who bought tickets, all the volunteers who made it run so smoothly, all the people in Southville and Bedminster who hosted our guests, and everybody at the Southbank Club for hosting the event. Photobook Bristol has a special spirit and that is what makes it so special. You all made it happen, and you all made it special.
Thank you for coming, thank you for being there, thank you for reading and see you next year!