PBC Coventry Meets PBC Paris in London next Saturday!

Next Saturday (14th), as part of the Straybooks festival organised by Akina books, I will be heading in to London to host a wee event with Emilie Hallard of the Photobook Club Paris. The event will start at 4pm and will be a relaxed affair in which we try to better understand the state of photobook culture by picking examples for discussion direct from the exhibition (though you can feel free to bring your own books too).

Although folks can drop in as they like, we plan to start with a group of 10-12 people so please let me know if you want to attend. 

Details regarding location etc can be found here. 

– Matt

The Box of Dummies is Ready to Ship

The Box of Dummies which was formed last year during the ‘Le Photobook Fest’ dummy award, is now ready to ship! The box features 12 awesome dummy photobooks which I hope will make their way to a whole bunch of different events around the world.

While I have already received some locations for stops, it would be great to have all interest expressed here so that the most efficient route for the books can be worked out. As before the only cost involved is in paying for the postage from the book’s previous destination. If you are interested – pop me an email matt@photobookclub.org.

The Box of Dummies Website

You can check out all the books by heading to the dedicated site – www.boxofbooks.photobookclub.org 

– Matt

Understanding Stanley

I have been thinking a lot lately about the readership of photobooks which is, in most cases, limited. Limited in quantity, breadth and diversity*. This is little concern for self referential and egotistical works but what about the bookworks that contain questions, answers and thoughts that a wider readership could benefit from.

One such project is ‘Understanding Stanley, Looking Through Autism‘ by Rosie Barnes, a “beautiful new photo book that gives a unique and powerful visual insight into life on the autism spectrum.” In the Kickstarter video featured below, Rosie mentions that she ideally wants this book to be seen by the person standing next to Stanley at a bus shelter who through reading the book may better understand and be more inclined to find out more about autism – what a powerful idea. The book is affordable, a digital edition would make it more so, perhaps this is a photobook that will really break the photobook bubble, find it’s way into school’s curriculums even?

Anyway, you can find out more and fund the project here. 

*Lately newspaper works have sought to fill this need but they are few and far between in relation to good photobooks and could be said to ignore people under 20/25 for whom the medium is un-relateable and cumbersome.

Midwest Dirt by Nathan Pearce

Now it’s just after harvest time, my favorite time of year. The fields are almost cleared and I’m barefoot on my porch with a beer in my hand. I can see for miles.

For over a year now I have been working with Nathan to bring this fantastic project into corporeal existence and with the aid of Akina Factory who who created the book concept and design, the result is beautiful.

One of the toughest elements of editing this work is something Nathan has pointed out in a recent interview with Darwin Magazine – how the projects needed to move away from cliched depictions of the rural midwest but at the same time not disown culture and environment. While the geographical location rooted in the midwest, this project for me has always been about home, about home as a constant for good and bad. For this reason I hope it appeals to many.

If you are interested in buying the book you can head here.

To see more from the series, head here.

Midwest Dirt
Nathan Pearce

Edited by Matt Johnston
Book project by Akina Books Factory
Edition of 135
Hand sewn binding

Parr/Badger Book Winner – Lloyd Spencer

Congratulations to Lloyd Spencer who was the lucky winner of the signed Martin Parr and Gerry badger tome ‘The Photobook: A History Vol III‘. Lloyd is a photographer based in leeds, UK and for those with a curious mind, he selected André Kertész’ ‘Hungarian Memories’ as a book never to be sold.

Approximately 300 people entered the prize draw with a random integer created to determine the winner. Huge thanks to Phaidon for providing the signed book which is available to purchase here.

The book will be posted following an event with Martin Parr, Gerry Badger and David Campany at Foyles bookshop, Charring Cross on April 9th. 

Free and Signed – The Photobook: A History Vol III

If you want to skip my waffle and head straight to the competition, scroll to below the book cover!

The list has troubled me, and many others for some time. My initial reaction to the first two Parr/Badger books were to shun them; they made access to many influential photobooks incredibly difficult. I have had the same knee-jerk response to the end of year lists we are all familiar with yet I still chose to produce a version myself. Some of my pain from those early books has subsided with a good number of works being reprinted and available for very reasonable prices yet there still remains an uneasiness with the effect these lists can have on the market. This is inevitable and is the same in many industries – restaurants have the Michelin guide, literature has the Pulitzer and cinema has the Oscars (the latter two examples dealing mostly however with reproducible content online the finite resources of a restaurant or editioned photobook), all we must do is take it with a pinch of salt.

The Oscars might encourage us to view a film but rarely will we be persuaded only by an award with no initial desire to engage with the work. Likewise with the new Parr/Badger book those of us who fall outside the die-hard monetary collector or prospector spectrum can see it as a personal reference, an individualistic guide and ultimately a perspective. There is no doubt however that this is an important book for the photobook community at large – for some it will be confirmation of choices, for artists it might be recognition of work produced and for many others it will act as a well produced and coherent guide through some fantastic photobooks produced right up until 2013.

I am grateful to the kind folks at Phaidon who are offering a new and signed copy of The Photobok: A History Vol III to a competition winner! The book will be posted following an event with Martin Parr, Gerry Badger and David Campany at Foyles bookshop, Charring Cross on April 9th. 

Just fill out the form below and a random name will be selected on 28th March (Deadline for responses 12 noon GMT on 28th) – this individual will be contacted for a postal address and then the book will head on to you!

The Box of Books in new Zealand

An update from Anita Totha of the Photobook Club Auckland of the Box of Books visit to New Zealand…

The Photobook Club’s “Box of Books arrived in Auckland from Toowoomba AUS in late February. Photobook Club Auckland held its meeting in conjunction with the Tangent photo collective and brought together 20 photo book lovers. We thoroughly went through the box and all of its mementos and zines included from other clubs around the world. A crowd favorite photo book was Mrs Merryman’s Collection by Anne Sophie Merryman (Mack Books). We shared some other new titles too and had some great overall conversation around photo books and publishing in NZ. The box will be off soon to our friends in Victoria, Canada…


The Natural Collection

There are some fantastic photobook collections the world over – collections that focus on indie or handmade books, collections that are driven by rarity and monetary value, collections based on location and many based on specific events or happenings. The Photobook Club has never been and never had a collection, occasionally kind folks have sent books through to me and I have sought wherever possible to take them with me to Photobook Club events and talks but no more.

Paul Gaffney – We Make the Path by Walking

Now, I find more and more I have been asked to bring collections of books to events, Universities and so on – I respond by bringing my own collection but it is a young and sparse collection lacking curation and coherence. At the same time I have been thinking a great deal recently about a thematic collection, a collection that, while not seeking to be exhaustive, does seek to provide both broad and deep reading. A collection that can be visited in my home, a collection that will be viewable online and a collection that can travel in whole, or in parts, to different locations.

Lucas Foglia – A Natural Order

I figured such a theme would need to be narrow enough that it could near a completion of sorts but in reality this will never happen. I have chosen instead to openly begin a collection with a broad headline, which can then be shaped both by works submitted and interest in it’s contents. The theme chosen I believe speaks not only about photography and it’s history but also relates to the indie photobook movement, the interest in the generative artefact and a quest for a less hectic way of life.

The Natural Collection
– Photobooks, zines and papers that explore our relationship with nature and the natural landscape.

As mentioned above, this is broad, but will be shaped in time. As a set of books to offer a well known guide, I would consider the likes of John Gossage’s ‘The Pond‘, Lucas Foglia’s ‘A Natural Order‘, Ricardo Cases ‘Palomo al Aire‘, Ron Jude’s ‘Lick Creek line‘ and Oscar Tuazon’s ‘Leave me be‘.

The call

I would be grateful to anyone, established or otherwise (incl publishers) who would be willing to send works through to the collection, these works will be featured on the Photobook Club website, will be taken to various book club events and will be open to anyone willing to pop by for a cupa! The condition of the works is not of paramount importance so any misprints at publishing would be welcomed with open arms!

The Natural Collection
The Photobook Club
10 Granby Avenue



B*@t of 2013 and bad choices

As has been the case for the last few years I have produced this list, I am not really bothered if the books were made in 2013 or not – I just don’t spend a great deal of time with enough books each year.

This years list is made up of books that in one way or another have moved me; created or recalled an emotional reaction. For that reason, ‘The Pigs’, ‘Various Small Books’, ‘The Looking Game’ and ‘Control Order House’ are not included – although they are some of my favorite books of the year…

Paul Gaffney
We Make the Path by Walking

Rein Jelle Terpstra

Kadir van Lohuizen
Via PanAm

Joshua Lutz
Hesitating Beauty

Will Steacey
Down These Mean Streets

Vanessa Winship
She Dances on Jackson

There are a wee stack of books that I either regret not buying or simply can’t afford right now. I hope that in time I either realise I have little interest in these books, or that they are such a failure I can pick them up for peanuts in a few years*.

(These books have also been selected in relation to the reaction they have caused rather than their merit as an exemplary unit of the medium)

Bryan Schutmat
Grays the Mountain Sends

Verena Blok
I Smell Like Rain

/\ Damn this is great image making and emotionally engaged storytelling. Blok creates something here which taps into a popular aesthetic but brings genuine weight and the ability to move an audience. I wait on the sec on edition to get a hold of this.

Dagmar Keller and Martin Wittwer

In no way whatsoever related to my inability to afford the above, here are some books that are so awesome everyone should own them, and it just so happens I am looking to move them on. They are all my favourite books and I ail cry to see them go blah blah blah.

Truthfully – these books do not interest me anymore but by selling I might be able to get some that do.

Richard Billingham’s Landscapes – Gee whizz this book sucks

Magnum’s ‘Postcards From America‘ – I wrote a glowing review here, quite an advertisement I think

Taryn Simon’s ‘Kaleidoscope of Entropy‘ – Actually this is kinda interesting but hey, maybe selling this will buy me a copy of American Index and a few others

There are so many more books I want to move on to better homes but barely seems worth mentioning them here as most can still be bought new for £20 odd. I wonder whether I can tell more about myself and my book-love through these books than through those I think are worthy of elevation to a curated shelf.

Some of these books were bought in regards to some of their parts – I was interested solely in sequence or binding for example, and it turns out that this just doesn’t cut it for me – the book needs to work on a holistic level. Some books, I am ashamed to say were bought as I thought I might like them and was scared I wouldn’t be able to afford them several years down the line. Turns out these books have rarely become collectible and have continued to illicit in me a particularly neutral feeling – fail!

Other books have occupied that desire to collect knowledge and to be interested by ideas and concepts, these books I think of as my ‘studium libre’. I appreciate their position on the shelf as I write lectures looking for strong examples of certain themes, but they rarely make it to the table – perhaps this is the life they are destined to live and maybe I should come to terms with that. I just wonder whether a printed version of a front cover would provide the same effect.

On read through, this is rather a sombre end to a post, and a great year of books so let’s finish with one more great book…

Jo Metson Scott
The Grey Line

– Matt

*This already seems laughable as many have made the ‘best of’ and I wish no ill fortune to any hard working photographer or publisher

Meetups in Belfast/Gibraltar and a few book highlights…

News from the Photobook Club Belast and Campo de Gibraltar first:

Wednesday 11th December (nb: change of date – originally listed as 12th)

Hosted by Belfast School of Art Photography Artists in Residence Jan McCullough & Lewis Rankin at Belfast Exposed

Returning to our regular format, this month Jan McCullough and Lewis Rankin will be presenting a selection of photobooks from their personal collections. Both avid collectors, we are excited to see what surprises they have in store! There will be a festive twist for our last event of the year, with mince pies and mulled wine for all attendees.

– Hannah Watson

This Friday 29th November

We are going to run the 2nd Session of The Photobook Club Campo de Gibraltar, next Friday 11/29, at 19:00 pm, in The Public Library of La Línea de la Concepción. Attached you can find a little diptych with the announcement, and punctual info at our Facebook fan-page.

– Angel L. Duarte Sastre

Campo de Gibraltar
Campo de Gibraltar

I did not talk about books in the recent Paris review, and these few books are not limited to those I found in Paris but just a few recent highlights (more to come as I work through a huge stack of books on the desk).

Kadir Van Lohuizon’s ‘Via Pan Am’
Paradox/Y doc

Via Pan Am

I plan to write more, much more, on this book – one that is, for me the most important book of 2013, perhaps of the last 3/4 years. This publication is not only a triumph in design and content but also raises (and in some cases answers) some big questions that surround the photobook in the digital age. This book proves the unique power of printed work and does not attempt or need to justify it’s physical manifestation in fetishistic design or production. More soon.

Douglas Stockdale’s ‘Pine Lake’
Self published

Pine Lake

Memory seems to be a focus for photographers in the 2010’s, so too is the creation of super-limited books with various pieces of ephemera or memorabilia. Whenever I come across either of these, I am keen to separate the genuine from the imitation, the art from the gimmick. Stockdale’s ‘Pine Lake’ falls easily within the bounds of the former in both cases.

In Stockdale’s own words this is ‘a semi-fictional story about a multi-generational American rite of summer.’ I wouldn’t argue with this but would posit that for the vast majority of readers this will not speak solely of America, nor of Summer, but instead ask us to recall, regret and reflect on our various life experiences/events and memories thereof. It is surprising that this book can create such strong reactions as it does with only a handful of images and some clever editing and wonderful surprises and is a testament to the author’s clear vision and awareness.

Ariana Sanesi’s ‘Dispersal’
Self Published dummy


In some ways, ‘Dispersal’ takes on a similar form to Pine Lake but beyond the surface their are few similarities. This book is so many things all at once and I am finding it hard to write about it at all. Fortunately, their are many images and a video via the link above so have a look at your own leisure at these beautiful images rooted in nature and the hunt. Comparisons to Lick Creek Line are perhaps inevitable but where ‘line’ dictates our journey (albeit a loose one), ‘Dispersal’ presents us various avenues and narratives to wander freely.