Martin Parr on Bristol’s new photobook festival

Martin Parr’s long and loving relationship with photobooks is no secret affair. The photographer has published over 100 of his own titles, as well as co-authoring the seminal three-volume anthology The Photobook: A History. Over the past 25 years, he has also built up a world-class collection of 12,000 photobooks, which was acquired by the Tate in 2017.

“The book is the most satisfactory form of statement any photographer can make,” says Parr, over the phone from his eponymous foundation in Paintworks, Bristol, which, in partnership with the neighbouring Royal Photographic Society (RPS) will host a new photobook festival for one weekend at the end of October 2019. “You will never find a photographer who doesn’t want to do a book,” he says. “There is no better way of putting forward a single project – it is the perfect medium.”

The Martin Parr Foundation and The Royal Photographic Society in Paintworks, Bristol will host the festival in October

BOP Bristol 19, which stands for Books on Photography, brings together 26 publishers predominantly based in the UK. “The foundation’s main remit is to support and celebrate the achievements of British photography,” says Parr. “There is already so much here. We have international talks as well, but the focus is on Britain.” 

The foundation’s gallery will host the book fair, which is free and set to include publishers such as GOST, Loose Joints, and Stephen Gill’s imprint Nobody Books. 

Book spread from Seabird by Bobby Doherty, published by Loose Joints, one of the 26 publishers that will take part in the new festival
Book spread from Approximate Joy by Christopher Anderson, published by Stanley Barker, another publisher that will also be showcasing their latest titles

Across the road, the auditorium in the RPS will host a series of ten talks by artists including Jack Latham, Aaron Schuman, and Poulomi Basu, among many others. “We want to encourage people to come along and take part,” says Parr, who felt it was important that the talks were affordable – tickets are priced at £5. “There is not a penny of public money going into the foundation or the RPS. We need this. We need and rely on people’s support and enthusiasm for what we do to help us make it more viable.”

As a lover of photobooks, for Parr, the greatest appeal of a festival like BOP is the opportunity to engage with innovative bookmakers and artists in an intimate environment. “So many books come out in such small editions, a lot of the time people will not have the opportunity to see them. This gives us the chance to encounter and discover new work” he says. “25 publishers is not overwhelming, it’s just enough to get your head around and discover some new books.”

BOP Bristol 19 will take place on 19 and 20 October 2019

Top Left: Jack Latham; Right: Sophie Green; Bottom: Lisa Barnard. Latham, Green and Barnard will all be presenting their work in an artist talk at BOP Bristol

Marigold Warner

Deputy Editor

Marigold Warner worked as an editor at BJP between 2018 and 2023. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Elephant, Gal-dem, The Face, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.