BJP #7836: The Book Club

The latest issue of British Journal of Photography is a celebration of the contemporary photobook, the primary art form for contemporary photographers.

We believe book-making, and the conceptualisation of books, has become the medium on which artists are now judged. There’s been an explosion of small publishers, and book-making rather than the simple creation of photography prints is now the dynamic area of modern photography.

As independent publishers Aron Morel and Hannah Watson say in this issue: “The book is the ultimate space for the photograph” and “the best way of getting your work out there in a cohesive way”. And Self Publish, Be Happy’s Bruno Ceschel points out that the really big projects of the last five years were published before they were exhibited – Cristina de Middel’s Afronauts, Lorenzo Vitturi‘s Dalston Anatomy and Nicoló Degiorgis’ Hidden Islam.

This issue of BJP includes interviews with publishers, designers, photographers and curators involved in book publishing. We’ve talked to photography luminaries like Michael Mack of the eponymous publishing house Mack, Simon Baker of Tate, and Michael Hoppen of the Michael Hoppen Gallery, and independent publishers like Damien Poulain of Oodee and Maxwell Anderson of Bemojake.

Two of London’s most important artistic institutions – Tate Modern and The Media Space – have recently included photobooks in their shows, or devoted entire shows to them by displaying them behind glass or in facsimile, on walls or on-screen. It’s an important step, but, as Baker concedes: “There’s a sense of wanting to see an original copy of something. We might also show a sequence of prints from a book next to a copy of the book.  A lot of historic artworks that are in the Tate’s collection weren’t kept under glass – they were circulated, touched and used.”

Baker has taken the bold step of inviting the Offprint book fair to the Turbine Hall this summer. “The nice thing about the Offprint fair is that it reminds people that photobooks aren’t always supposed to be hermetically sealed,” says Baker. “I think that’s really important; we often can’t let people touch works of art, but at something like Offprint you can buy your own copy or just browse.”

What matters, ultimately, is the quality of new photography, and so we have looked at how the  photobook has encouraged photographers to think about their work differently.

“I always knew I wanted to do a book, and it definitely changed the way I was thinking about photographing,” says Matthew Connors, whose forthcoming book, Fire in Cairo, is featured in this issue. “The work I was making before was very much meant to be on the wall, but I knew I wanted to incorporate writing, and when I was photographing I was often thinking about how the images would look in sequence and in relationship with each other.”

To be fully briefed on this important movement in modern photography, buy the June issue of British Journal of Photography from all good newsagents, or direct. Click here to find a UK retail store near you, buy direct from the BJP Shop or download the BJP+ app.

Tom Seymour

Tom Seymour is an Associate Editor at The Art Newspaper and an Associate Lecturer at London College of Communication. His words have been published in The Guardian, The Observer, The New York Times, Financial Times, Wallpaper* and The Telegraph. He has won Writer of the Year and Specialist Writer of the year on three separate occassions at the PPA Awards for his work with The Royal Photographic Society.