Photobook Bristol 2016: The Last Post!

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!

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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.

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Photobooks can be Affordable!

One of the things we love about photobooks is they are so open. They do not discriminate against any particular kind of photography, they are not blinkered.

The trick is making the book design match the content, making the text flow, choosing the right papers, using visual, graphic and tactile strategies to get you looking at the work on the page, to get you to open the page in the first place.

So here are some of our favourite photobooks from recent photobooks. There’s  fashion, the historical, the personal, conflict and much more in there.

Of course some of them aren’t available. Some sold out in their thousands, some were made in tiny editions so are even more expensive and difficult to find.

So we’ve mentioned a few alternative great books, some of which are cheap and easy to buy. Starting from just over £1.50.

Photobooks are accessible. You just have to look to the past a bit and choose right! And take your eyes off all the ones that you didn’t buy.


The Student Book

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Christoph Soeder’s Clear Cut is sold out and he only made 35 copies of them in the first place.


But go deeper into the fashion scene and go for the ultimate student book, the ultimate skinhead book. It’s by Nick Knight and it’s called Skinhead. Made in the second year of his course in Bournemouth. Unbelievable!


The Historical


Ok so it’s going to be expensive to buy Kikuji Kawada’s Chizu, his narrative of Japan’s post-nuclear trauma. Even the facsimile’s cost a fortune.


But don’t complain. For less than £10, you can get the incredible Algerie by Dirk Alvermann. This is The Battle of Algiers in book form, but harder hitting, with added paranoia. One of the great photobooks of our time for less than a tenner!

The Personal


So you missed out on Anne de Gelas’ L’Amoureuse, a supremely sad French-language account of her struggle for self after the death of her husband (‘There is a never a right way to tell a child about the death of his father’).

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But then there’s Amak Mahmoodian’s Shenasnameh. This is a very personal account of the different uses and functions of passport photos. It’s personal, political and will be launched at Photobook Bristol. It’s not that cheap, but it’s beautifully made.

The Storybook


So you can’t get the original Love on the Left Bank by Ed van der Elsken. But you can still get it here for £24 – or you can get it for less than £20 on Amazon and play a part in shutting down the high street and putting independent book sellers out of business.


And for the same price you can get a more contemporary tale of life in bohemian Latvia, Only here the Left Bank comes courtesy of Ivars Gravlejs and his brilliant Early Works, with depressed looking Maths teachers in place of Parisian cafe-dwellers.

The Social

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One of the very best set of images in photobooks in the last few years. People dancing in night clubs! It’s like the late, great Malick Sidibe, but with apartheid added for extra dysfunction. It’s Billy Monk by Billy Monk and it’s freely available to anyone who wants to buy a copy. We think it is one of the great underappreciated books of the last few years.


The Internet-book

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We like Jan McCullough’s Home Instruction Manual. It’s a fun mix of bad advice on interior design from chat forums and McCullough’s gonzo home snapshots, and it’s one of the most engaging photobooks of the year so far.

The Propaganda Book


Few people will be able to afford the absurdly intricate Ten Years of Uzebeckistan with its Stalin cut-out looming at you throughout.


But for a look into a totalitarian past, there is the great Red Color News Soldier. Not only is it full of incredible images, the story of how it was made is also amazing. And it costs £25. Which is still alot, so…


The Budget


Still too much. Well for only 2 euros you can get Mc Hotel by Olivier van Breugel en Simone Mudde. This is how you do budget!

More shopping for books at


RRB Books
Photobook Store
Photo Eye

The Village Bookstore

Cafe Royal Books
L’Ascenseur Vegetal
Claire de Rouen

Le Bal

Ivars Gravlejs and How to Improve Your Photography

One of the great pages on Ivars Gravlejs is Useful Advices for Photographers.


It’s full of useful advice for how to take a good, conventional photograph that looks like a good, conventional photograph. And of course, it’s advice that has no bearing on what makes a good picture – that’s the point.


Here’s some advice that Thomas Struth followed (when he wanted to make his pictures as boring as possible).



And here’s some advice that Lee Friedlander ignored consistently.

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Ivars Gravlejs and his Early Works

One of the prize treats of this year’s Photobook Bristol is the appearance of Ivars Gravlejs. He’s the author of Early Works  a book made up of photographs made whilst at school. It’s a brilliant commentary on the school experience, its humiliations, its embarrassments, and its multitude lows – and that’s just for the teachers.

But Ivars’ talents go far beyond being able to nail the school experience in photographs in a way that is more recognisable than anyone else. Go to his website to see a whole series of projects that question the how, why and what of photography in a manner that is irreverent, anarchic and filled with chaos. But still with a core of questions that beg to be answered, or asked.. I’ll be featuring some of these projects this week, but in the meantime here is a review of Early works which originally appeared on Photo Eye).



‘I often felt nauseous before going to school because of the humiliation that I faced with my teachers. The only way to survive school was to do something creative…’ says Latvian-born artist, Ivars Gravlejs.
Continue reading “Ivars Gravlejs and his Early Works”