Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Ania Nałęcka: On the problems of Being Repetitious, Enigmatic and Avoiding the Obvious

Die Mauer ist Weg by Mark Power

It is with great pleasure that we can announce another two speakers for Photobook Bristol 2016. Both Mariela Sancari (who launched her superb photobook Moises at Photobook Bristol in 2015) and Ania Nałęcka of Tapir Design will be speaking this year.

BRUTAL by Michał Łuczak

Ania is a superb book designer (one of her many skills) who has designed books such as the brilliant Die Mauer ist Weg by Mark Power, 7 Rooms, Black Sea of Concrete, and The Winners by Rafal Milach, BRUTAL by Michał Łuczak, Karczeby by Adam Pańczuk  Fibro Dreams by Glenn Sloggett, as well as designing and curating a whole range of publications and exhibitions for the Central European Photography Collective, Sputnik Photos.

In the Car with R by Rafal Milach

If you are struggling with a photobook, wondering how to match content and design with budget and communication. this is an unmissable talk!

I saw Ania speak at Vienna Photobook Festival last year and everything she said struck me for its clarity, simplicity and directness. These are some of the things she touched upon, as interpreted by myself.

Why Make a Photobook? It's not always the right thing!

The Relationship between form and content - and gettting that right.

The Importance of People understanding what you are trying to say in your photobook. You have to make them understand. It doesn't happen by accident!

The Book is something that you Construct! It's not an accident of pages that fall together. You have to make it happen.

How you can work with a Limited Budget. Being Poor forces you to be creative! Maybe?

The Problem of Repeating yourself. Visually, verbally, in every possible way. Don't do it.

The Problem of Being Enigmatic. Clarity and simplicity make for ease of communication. Unless you don't want people to understand you.

The Problem of Avoiding the Obvious. Communication is about directness and making yourself understood; avoiding the obvious does not help that. At worst it might make you enigmatic or (the close cousin of enigma) incoherent.

The Danger of 'Design'. 

Photography Always Comes First! That's why it's a Photobook!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Mik Artistik at the Southbank

If you're in and around Bristol on Saturday 6th February, there is no better place to be than the Southbank (home of Photobook Bristol) to see Mik Artistik (the voice of Photobook Bristol), and one of the only singers to ever sing a song about Photobooks.

See him sing Turning into Dad here. It's a song about turning into your dad. It's a sad song.

Buy tickets here.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Photobook World is a Ghetto

So yesterday we posted about Krass Clement along with the question Why isn't Krass Clement better-known?

It's a curious thing, because you'd expect Krass Clement to be a prime inhabitant of the Photobook Ghetto. But actually he's not. You'd think he'd be at least better-known in the photography world, but he's not. There are few articles on him or interviews, or major features on him outside his native Denmark. Maybe it's because his books are quite traditional in some ways, or generally unavailable, or he hasn't published too many in recent years or he isn't part of the social media clamour? I'm not sure.

Maybe it's because there isn't really such a thing as a Photobook Ghetto. The idea appeals (especially in Bristol, which is home to Martin Parr - if there were a ghetto, Martin Parr would be the Mayor!).

Say the word ghetto, and a couple of things come to mind. Firstly you get the Jewish Ghettoes, culminating in those of Warsaw, Lodz and Theresienstadt where the Nazis concentrated Jews in ever increasing numbers before they were sent to be worked or gassed to death in Auschwitz and beyond.

Or you think of the US idea of ghettoes where economics, urban design and a virtual apartheid system resulted in parts of cities with high concentrations of one ethnic group - African-Americans in particular.

So there's the ideas of closedness, both of not being able to get out if you're in a ghetto, but also of not being able to get in unless you fit some particular ingrained characteristic.

But the Photobook World is nether closed nor difficult to get out of. Look at the list of Best Books for 2015 and while there are old-er-hands in there like Alec Soth, or Boris Mikhailov, the top places are taken by photographers like Mariela Sancari, Dragana Jurisic, Daniel Mayrit, Laura El-Tantawy, Thomas Sauvin and Ivars Gravlejs (Mariela, Dragana, Laura and Ivars will be speaking at Photobook Bristol 2016 - not because they are on the lists, but because they make great books and are original thinkers :-) ), names which were completely unfamiliar to most of us even 2 years ago.

above images from Moises by Mariela Sancari

So it's not a closed world. If you want to be part of it, make a nice photobook that says something different. If it looks the same as every other photobook, if it doesn't have an opinion or attitude, if it's bland and tasteless, it won't cut the mixed-metaphor mustard. It really is that simple - if you ignore all the other complicated things that we won't talk about here.

So the photobook world is not closed to anybody. And if you don't want to be part of it, then you can just walk away and not come in. Or if you're a little bit interested or curious you can just drop in and stay for a little visit. You can leave any time. It's really quite open,

The key thing about the photobook world is it is not very big. It's niche. A full house for Photobook Bristol is 200 people more or less.

So maybe  Photobook Village would be a better term than Photobook Ghetto. But the trouble then is that along with the lovely, gentle imagery also comes accompanied with all kinds of negative ideas of insularity and backward-thinking. So perhaps it should be the Photobook Ghetto after all. We all know what we're talking about then and we can pretend we're all a bit badass while remaining on nice familiar ground.

Next in the Photobook Repeated Circular Arguments: How can we make the market bigger?

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Why don't more people know Krass Clement?

Krass Clement, Paper Journal

image above by Krass Clement from Drum

Buy Early bird tickets for Photobook Bristol 2016 here.

'Why is Krass Clement not more well known?'. That's what Jeff Ladd asks in this review of Clement's Novemberresse.

It's a good question. When people talk about photographic narrative, they often confuse it with sequencing of images. And very often this results in story-telling that is uncommitted, indecisive and vague. Clement's books (he's made almost 20 of them) are anything but vague. They tell stories which are transparent, direct and full of atmosphere and emotion. And it is beautiful. And sad.

This is what Ladd says about Novemberrejse.

image by Krass Clement from Novemberrejse

'The book opens with a prelude of sorts. We enter a town, it is dark and the air is hazy with fog, the interior of a barber shop shows signs of life and we watch from the window a few men finishing their days work. Quickly Clement establishes through just a few photos that we are looking through someone else's eyes. This is not photography as a fly on the wall omniscient observer, whoever this protagonist is, they're made of flesh and blood and like us, they are exploring unfamiliar territory.

image by Krass Clement from Novemberrejse

Novemberrejse, or November Journey, is an implied narrative of a stranger visiting a small town (Rubjerg in Denmark). You get the feeling he is a stranger first from the general tenor which is a bit dark, lonely and melancholy but also because he (it seems like a man to me) doesn't seem to be able to connect with the natural rhythms of the town. He wanders observing and re-observing the lay of the land and some of the repetition of the images act as a way of establishing landmarks - familiar territory - tracing and re-tracing steps. The white building on the book's cover is seen within the sequence twice as if passed multiple times on the street.

image by Krass Clement from Novemberrejse

He seems out of sync with life. The stores are mostly shuddered and for a short while the only human connection is observing a few people waiting at a bus stop across from his rooming-house window. When he is invited into the parlors or kitchens of the local's homes the warmth of new connections only lasts as far as the door's threshold before the mist and grey skies dampen spirits. 

image by Krass Clement from Novemberrejse

Towards the end of his stay he is met with different servants or guides; a man in a bowtie, the hotel staff, and finally a haunting image of a ferry worker directing us onto the ship. It is dark and after the implied stasis of the previous sequence, we may be entering a boat that will either provide escape or further loneliness. The tenor is not offering much in the way of promise.'

Krass Clement, Paper Journal
image above by Krass Clement from Drum

That lack of promising, that essential melancholy is echoed in Krass Clement's masterful Drum. This is not just a great photobook, it's one of the greatest photobooks ever made. Shot in one evening on 3 and a half rolls of film and several pints of Guiness, it’s a book about loneliness, isolation and growing old alone.

image above by Krass Clement from Drum

It starts on the country roads of rural Ireland, then moves into a busy but rundown pub filled with Irishmen down for the market. These men sit, drink, talk and laugh. All except one man, the man that Clement stalks with his Leica across the evening. This man sits alone, his eyes cast into the middle distance; to the floor, the ceiling, to anywhere they won’t be met. His back turns this way and that, always away and he stares rheumy-eyed into places where his gaze won’t be found. It’s the most cinematic of books and it has a leading man who is a study of loneliness. It’s heartbreaking.

Krass Clement, Paper Journal
image above by Krass Clement from Drum

Buy the Books on Books edition of Drum here.

See images from Novemberrejse on Krass Clement's website here

View the video of Novemberrejse here

Krass Clement will be speaking at Photobook Bristol 2016. Don't miss it.

We are also delighted to announced that Mariela Sancari and Ania Nałęcka will be speaking at Photobook Bristol.

So our latest list of speakers looks like this.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Julian Germain: Football, Charles and Classrooms


Happy New Year and welcome back to the Photobook Bristol blog. We'll be running occasional posts in the run-up to Photobook Bristol 2016 on 11th-13th June. For which you can buy tickets here.

Buy Early bird tickets for Photobook Bristol 2016 here.

We're delighted to announce that an Julian Germain will be an additional speaker to the list of speakers. Julian has made a mass of photobooks that cut across documentary, archival, and the personal to present a view of Britain that is

The pictures above and below are from his book  In Soccer Wonderland, one of surprisingly few photobooks on football around (of course there are loads of books on football with photos in them but are they photobooks? Please discuss, some place else. )

But at Bristol there will be a little football sub-plot going on with Ken Grant also touching on football (the subject of his upcoming new book).



Another book Germain is well known for is his lovely For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness, 2005. It's a '...series of photographs made over 8 years of the quiet, contemplative existence of Charles Snelling, an elderly man living alone in a small house in Portsmouth, shown alongside pages from Snelling’s own photo albums'.

It's the most gentle of books and with a fantastic title to boot.
‘For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness’


More recently, Germain has been working on Classroom Portraits.  This is a series of portraits of classrooms from around the world. The rooms, the walls, the tables, the clothes, and  the expressions all tell a story that on the surface  is very familiar but draws you into the detail to find the differences. Along with Raimond Wouda's School and James Molllison's Playground, it's one of several great contemporary works that look at the interactional dynamics of education.

It's also a project where you begin to recognise the classrooms and the students that you see. Have a look through - which classroom were you in?


Motor Mechanics in the Netherlands


Argentina, Buenos Aires, Grade 4, Natural Science


USA, St Louis, Grade 8, Basic Skills

Buy Early bird tickets for Photobook Bristol 2016 here.

Speakers at Photobook Bristol 2016 (with more additions to come)