Books on Photography festival returns to Bristol this October

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This article is printed in the latest issue of British Journal of Photography magazine: Tradition & Identity. Available to purchase at thebjpshop.com.

Publishers from all over Europe will gather to unveil new work and celebrate the importance of the photobook at the third edition of the festival

“You never meet a photographer who doesn’t want to do a book,” explains Martin Parr. “You create it, you take the pictures, you’re involved in the editing and the production and it becomes part of your legacy. It is the ultimate photographer’s statement.” Parr is discussing his dedication to photobooks ahead of this year’s Books on Photography (BOP) festival – a collaboration between the Martin Parr Foundation (MPF) and the Royal Photographic Society (RPS). Founded in 2019, this year the festival again brings together a wide-ranging group of publishers, booksellers and photographers from all over Europe.

Taking place from 08 to 09 October at venues across Bristol, BOP 22 will host some 60 stalls, including publishers Gost Books, Setanta Books, Café Royal Books, Magnum Photos and Overlapse. But, Parr says, the fair is more than an opportunity to discover new work; most significantly it is the photographic community coming together. “Although you can order books online, there’s nothing quite like leafing through the book at the publisher’s stand, talking to the publisher, often getting it signed and buying it there and then,” he says. “BOP is a very social event, that’s the really important part of it.”

To this end, alongside the opportunity to discover new books and publishers, BOP 22 offers a programme of live events and workshops. This includes a talk by cinematographer Roger A Deakins – whose photobook Byways came out in 2021 – and an in-conversation between BJP’s CEO and creative director Mick Moore and founder of Bluecoat Press, Colin Wilkinson. In addition, Parr and Ken Grant host a discussion of the work of Chris Killip alongside the late photographer’s family. The event will follow the opening of a major retrospective of the photographer’s influential career at The Photographers’ Gallery in London a few days earlier.

The aim of the events in Bristol – and of BOP itself – is to highlight the crucial and changing role of the photobook. “What RPS and MPF aim to achieve is to celebrate the photobook as a means of sharing photography and projects that have photography at their core,” explains Dr Michael Pritchard, director of programmes at RPS. “We want BOP to raise awareness of the importance of the photobook.”

And what is it that makes photobooks so vital? “If you’re a photographer, your history of photography is probably going to be found through looking at photographic books,” says Parr. “And so, by paying attention to photobooks, you can see from the viewpoint of the photographer, not just the curators and theoreticians. That’s why I think books are so important.”

Books on Photography Festival (BOP) runs from 08 to 09 October 2022.