Portrait © Harry Mitchell.
Lewis Chaplin and Sarah Piegay Espenon — co-founders of Loose Joints — reflect on a productive year in the studio
Founded in 2015 in London by designer-artist duo Lewis Chaplin and Sarah Piegay Espenon, Loose Joints is an independent publishing house. Now based in Marseille, Loose Joints are known for delivering carefully considered and exquisitely produced photobooks, with recent titles by Jack Davison, Thomas Prior, and Mark McKnight. This year, one of their titles, Living Trust by Buck Ellison, was awarded Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation’s First Photobook Award.
All design, editing and production are delivered in-house, and it is this holistic approach that easily makes them one of the most exciting fine-art photobook publishers of today.
Below, Espenon and Chaplin reflect on what has been their busiest year yet.
We moved cities only six months prior to the lockdown, so perhaps luckily or not, Loose Joints was already very much working from home. We were still in the process of searching for a studio space, but are lucky enough to have a dedicated studio room in our apartment to shut the door on at the end of the day. Although by the end of 2020, it is looking extremely full.
Thankfully we live in striking distance of la Bonne Mère, Marseille’s iconic basilica which sits atop the city with an incredible view of the sea. On many weeknights, we would sit up on the rough and wild cactus-strewn hill next to the basilica and watch the sunset. We expanded our household by rescuing a pregnant stray kitten that we found up there. She gave birth in June, and created some true joy for us over the long months.
According to Spotify, the most listened to album in the studio was Jon Hassell’s Last Night the Moon Came Dropping its Clothes in the Street. It is a densely layered album full of mystery, dread, beauty and melancholy. The rest of the time it’s disco, funk and 80s music, especially when editing and designing. A big hit this year has been C’est la ouate by Caroline Loeb.
We were lucky enough to have a small return to normality in Marseille this summer, when Manifesta, the nomadic art biennial, took over the city for a few months. We particularly enjoyed Mohamed Bourouissa’s surreal sound installation HARA!!!!!!hAAARAAAAA!!!!!hHARAAA!!! which distorted and twisted the Marseillais slang words of ‘hara’ and ‘aouin’, that warn of the police’s arrival, to the point of unintelligibility.
We loved the modest, but very effective, Mother by Adrian Samson, designed by James Langdon and published by Rollo Press — a book originally proposed to us that sadly got lost in an email avalanche. We also loved Robbie Lawrence’s A Voice Above the Linn, but as publishers and designers we would have approached this work quite differently.
We are very happy to see Michael Snow’s legendary Cover to Cover back in print. This mind-bending conceptual artists’ book from the 1970s remains unparalleled to this day for it’s playful approach to page, sequence and physicality, and it’s a treat to finally own a copy thanks to Primary Information in New York. Cover to Cover deserves a spot in the artist’s publishing hall of fame and should be up there with Ruscha, LeWitt and all those others as a truly unique approach to bookmaking.
It was a shame that the Zanele Muholi show at the Tate Modern opened without the fanfare and excitement that such a bold and landmark exhibition deserved. We were honoured to design the accompanying catalogue, which is an extremely ambitious affair as well and a labour of love by all involved: nine new essays, and an overview of Muholi’s entire practice.
2020 was honestly our busiest year ever. Although we didn’t get to ease ourselves into some of the downtime our friends had, we did get to use some of our newfound availability to return to an active engagement with contemporary emerging visual culture, as well as reflecting on our own roles and responsibilities as a publisher to represent diverse voices and approaches to photography.
2021 will be another busy and exciting year for us. We spent a good portion of the summer researching, reaching out and developing new conversations with a range of exciting artists. We finally found the perfect working space in Marseille, and will soon be opening a public bookshop and project space, which is something to keep an eye out for!