SPBH’s Bruno Ceschel reflects on 2020

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Betterland, 2019, by Gregory Eddi Jones — one of Ceschel’s favourite photographers he discovered this year.

This year marked Self Publish, Be Happy’s 10th anniversary. The celebrations didn’t go ahead as planned, but the year still brought about positive changes

Writer, curator, and publisher Bruno Ceschel is the founder of Self Publish, Be Happy (SPBH), an organisation established in 2010, which collects and publishes contemporary photobooks.

For the last decade, SPBH has played an integral role in amplifying the self-publishing movement, organising international events and workshops, building a collection of more than 2,000 photobooks and zines, and publishing photobooks by emerging and established artists including Cristina De Middel, Lorenzo Vitturi and Lucas Blalock, and Felicity Hammond.

Approaching 2020, Ceschel planned to celebrate an important milestone for his organisation — its 10 year anniversary — with a series of touring exhibitions and events. Instead, due to the pandemic, he spent the majority of the year indoors in Milan. But this period of isolation also brought about new opportunities.

Here, Ceschel reflects on 2020; how it still brought about positive changes, his experiences, and the highlights.

This year, Self Publish, Be Happy celebrated its 10th anniversary. The celebrations didn’t go ahead as planned, but the year still brought about positive changes

Writer, curator, and publisher Bruno Ceschel is the founder of Self Publish, Be Happy (SPBH), an organisation established in 2010, which collects and publishes contemporary photobooks.

For the last decade, SPBH has played an integral role in amplifying the self-publishing movement, organising international events and workshops, building a collection of more than 2,000 photobooks and zines, and publishing photobooks by emerging and established artists including Cristina De Middel, Lorenzo Vitturi and Lucas Blalock, and Felicity Hammond.

Approaching 2020, Ceschel planned to celebrate an important milestone for his organisation — its 10 year anniversary — with a series of touring exhibitions and events. Instead, due to the pandemic, he spent the majority of the year indoors in Milan. But this period of isolation also brought about new opportunities.

Here, Ceschel reflects on 2020; how it still brought about positive changes, his experiences, and the highlights.

2020 was supposed to be our year to celebrate Self Publish Be Happy’s 10th anniversary, with a touring exhibition, parties and lectures. That didn’t happen in the way we planned, but instead we have gathered a huge community with our online masterclasses.

At times had more than 600 attendees from around the world. It has been humbling to see so many people come together and form a community in ways I could never have imagined possible. 

This year, our collection of self published books has found a new home at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. This is so exciting and I cannot wait to see how the museum will activate it.

In a weird way, despite the difficulties of this year, 2020 has prompted positive changes in the organisation. It has sharpened our mission to provide a place for the exchange of ideas and education in contemporary photography

Music is such a powerful catalyzer. I don’t tend to listen to music while working as I’m already so easily distracted — I check the news constantly — however, before our online classes begin I have been DJing, and I compiled a Self Publish Be Happy playlist for our online masterclasses.

The Yanomami Struggle by Brazilian photographer Claudia Andujar at the Triennale in Milan was remarkable. Beautifully installed by curator Thyago Nogueira, it is an incredible project that is both an artistic and a political achievement.

I was sad to have missed the Masculinities exhibitions curated by Alona Pardo, with Jonathan D. Katz, Ekow Eshun and Tim Clark, at the Barbican. This is another exhibition that transcends photography and art, and becomes a prompt for a very timely social discussion.

Gregory Eddi Jones is one of many photographers I discovered this year. I ‘met’ Gregory at one of our online events and fell in love with his work. We will be publishing his first book next fall.

Betterland, 2019. ©  Gregory Eddi Jones.
Collective house near the Catholic mission on the Catrimani River. Infrared film. Roraima. 1976 © Claudia Andujar. From the exhibition The Yanomami Struggle at the Triennale in Milan.

The Black Lives Matter movement has also been instrumental in familiarising myself with some incredible work by black and brown photographers, like Ruth Ossai, Mimi Cherono Ng’ok, Atong Atem, Jon Henry and Clifford Prince King.

This year, I learned that the internet offers opportunities, in the democratisation and distribution of ideas. It has been a reminder of how the way we operate is often elitist, jumping from one megalopolis to the next. 

The one thing I will happily leave behind in 2020, is my bloody couch!

Marigold Warner

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. 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, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.