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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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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The Pleasure of the Photobook: It’s what makes us poor


In my post on Ken Grant, I mentioned the generosity you experience when talking with him. Rather than talk about his own work, he takes you out into the world. He recommends writers, poets, songwriters to you – people who you should read or listen to or experience not simply because it is worthy and culturally enriching, but because it is a pleasure to do so.

And I wonder if that generosity is not typical of the Photobook World as a whole, and also part of its downfall. Whenever I meet people involved in making books, in selling books, in writing about books, there is always a generosity there, an outward-looking quality in which enthusiasm and passion for photography, books, and ideas are paramount.

Part of it is the usual ‘have you seen this book, have you seen that book? It’s great.’

But the other part of it is a curiosity about the world and the way it works. So just as Ken Grant will talk about poetry and art, others will talk about the experience of seeing the Berlin Wall come down (Mark Power), or the terror of losing yourself in the hell of your religious teacher’s making at the age of 8 (Amak Mahmoodian), or the psychological dilemma of being from a country that does not exist (Dragana Jurisic).

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Listening to Ken Grant is like Being Smothered in Honey

Ken Grant is launching his book on Liverpool and football, The Topical Times for our Times at Photobook Bristol, but the other great book by Ken Grant is No Pain Whatsoever. This was published two years ago and brought a belated acclaim to Ken, who had been photographing on Merseyside for almost 30 years. It’s an example of slow photography, an antidote to the immediacy of news, photography and much of the photobook world. In No Pain Whatsoever you see images and ideas rooted in a community slowly coming to fruition, and you feel Ken having the confidence and knowledge to keep on making work, to keep on exploring the people and places of Liverpool over the years despite limited praise or recognition.

The book has a long history behind it. And interestingly, that trail extends forward. The more you go back to it, the better it becomes. It really is brilliant work that talks about people, place, about class, about politics in a way that is both poetic and profound.


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I wrote the article below for the BJP and it was an interview most pleasant in so many ways. Speaking to Ken is like being slowly smothered in honey. Not in a bad wasp-stuck-in-a-honey-pot kind of way, or in a supposed-to-be-sexy-but it’s-excessively-sticky kind of way, or even in a daft-photo-project kind of way, but in more of a soothing, calming kind of way, a honey-and-lemon tea kind of way, a warming kind of way.

To listen to Ken speak is to be submitted to the Ken-mantra where the words slip out and you are lulled into Ken-world. Whenever I hear him, I become a little bit like him, his voice and his spirit diffuses across the room and becomes part of me for some reason; my voice softens and  – just for a few hours – my tone becomes more mellow, my words more thoughtful. I slow down. I become kinder.

But despite all that soothing quality, I also leave strangely ennervated. I have a Ken-Buzz about me. Ken is one of those people who is generous in his words. So instead of just hearing about his own work, you hear about poets and writers and singers. You’re taken from the world of single-digit Liverpool wards to the quick rhythms of the streets of Glasgow, the dark brooding of the Deep South, the sullen skies of the midwest. And you leave ennervated, and improved. After talking to Ken for this article, I ended up reading Thomas Kelman and John Cheever, and seeking out poets and writers who spoke for the poor, the disenfranchised, the downtrodden, for those who survived ( like the blinded protagonist of Kelman’s How Late it Was, How Late ) against all the odds. Who beat the odds, or at least manage to live in such a way, with such a spirit that the odds are somehow transcended.

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