I was interviewed by Alice Compton for Photoworks a few weeks ago…Here’s the result
– In your opinion, what makes a great photo book?
I was interviewed by Alice Compton for Photoworks a few weeks ago…Here’s the result
– In your opinion, what makes a great photo book?
This week’s movie from the Daniel Meadows Archive, held at the Library of Birmingham.
April 1974, from the Free Photographic Omnibus. John Payne, aged 12, with two friends and his pigeon Chequer, Portsmouth.
And then there’s this painting, named after the pigeon in the film…Hm
This week’s publication is by Homer Sykes—Biddy Boys Ireland 1972. An edition of 150, 36 pages.
I have published several books by Sykes, the First being Blitz Kids, Skins and Silver Spoons. There are three more planned for this year.
My first documentary photographs date from the late 1960s, during 1970s – 1990s, my principal commissions in Britain were for what used to be called the “weekend colour supplements” such as The Telegraph, The Sunday Times, The Observer, You and the Sunday Express magazines. I also shot weekly news for Newsweek, Time, Now! and New Society magazines.
I always worked on my own personal photographic documentary projects. These include work on aspects of British Society, and documenting traditional British folklore customs, that I started in 1970 and completed seven years later resulting in the publication Once a Year: Some Traditional British Customs (Gordon Fraser). I have in recent years been revisiting many of these annual events and finding ‘new’ annual customs that I had not photographed in the 1970s.
More recently Café Royal Books have published ten limited editions books from my British archive.
My work is represented in private and National Collections.
I have had numerous exhibitions through out my career. A mini retrospective exhibition of ninety photograph, Homer Sykes England 1970-1980, was held at Maison de la Photographie Robert Doisneau, Paris for over three months in 2014. This was principally from my projects on aspects of British Society. I was the first British photographer to be shown there. There was a publication to go with the exhibit, Homer Sykes This is England (Poursuite Editions), was published on the occasion of the exhibition.
My vintage prints are represented by the James Hyman Gallery London.
In the last 35 years I have gone from shooting about three editorial commissioned magazine stories a week, mainly one and two days assignments, to about one commission per annum. Which suits me fine, as 90% of my time is now taken up managing my archive, and shooting stuff that interests me.
This weeks window on the Daniel Meadows archive held by the Library of Birmingham:
March 1974, Stratford-upon-Avon, from the Free Photographic Omnibus. Mrs Byford and her friend Jean, are on their way to the cemetery to put flowers on the graves of loved-ones.
As you might know, the photographic department, archive and accessibility of that department of the Library of Birmingham is in danger. Proposed cuts in funding threaten to destroy what is of national and international significance. One of the most important photographic collections in the UK. Doing this, could potentially help prevent the disaster from happening.
I’m working with Ken Grant on a series of four books. Here’s a potential cover for the first book, Shankly, out next month.
I use a digital press. For the limited run that I print which is an average of 200 copies, litho is prohibitive in terms of cost. I like to keep the books affordable to make and to buy. The best digital presses can output very very close to litho plate printing so it’s not a concern, it just means they lack the scent of ink!
At every stage an image can be altered and the alteration can affect the print out put. A basic example is below in the picture. Images can be sent to a mono machine as RGB, CMYK or grey files. They can be sent as desaturated colour files. They can be sent as colour files embedded in a PDF which is then converted. Alternatively the machine can convert. The machine can ‘enhance’ or be not. Really there are infinite options, each with it’s peculiarities.
One thing is for certain, as with litho but to a slightly greater extent, every print run will differ. Like no two cans of custom colour mixed paint will be exactly the same.
Every book is different. For what it’s worth, this book by Daniel Meadows, the top right will work best!
I wrote this for RRB Photobooks, it was published on December 14th 2014.
Café Royal Books is ten next year. As happens in a decade, a lot has changed; some planned changes, some happenchance. The reason I started CRB was to enable me to disseminate affordably my own work, quickly, internationally, and to many places at the same time. I had spent the previous decade painting large abstracts which were prohibitive due to their size and weight, so decided to return to drawing for its simplicity and speed. ‘The book’ worked as exhibition spaces, and ‘the multiple’ as a ‘rapid fire’. The content of the books was unfocussed and production fairly DIY, but considered. The excitement was in the making and in using the book as a container.
Somehow, online mainly, word spread and I ended up collaborating with other artists, illustrators and some photographers, publishing their work as small editions of around 50 copies. Around 2006 my practice began to shift from pen to lens based, partly because I could work faster and more simply without as much ‘interference’ as happened with a pen / pencil; also because I started to value more the recording of information, possibly for the future. We had our first child around the same time which probably had an impact on my way of thinking. Of course, as my own practice and interests changed, so did what I wanted to publish. It wasn’t until around 2010-11 that I started to become more focussed and direct about what I was to publish, and about what I wanted to make in terms of my work outside of Café Royal.
There has always been a bit of a clash, time-wise mostly, between the things I do. I’m a full time lecturer on three separate degree courses. I make work, exhibit etc my photographs – generally focussing on Brutalist estates and the urban environment. I have two children, 3 and 6. Café Royal has become a full time business, still run out of a small room, and only me…It’s hard work but really enjoyable and it’s a privilege to work with so many artists and photographers.
What I do now is publish a book each week. I can’t possibly publish all the work I’d like to, so have to remain pretty focussed in terms of subject. The subject tends to be work that documents an aspect of change; social, architectural, geographical…I don’t know what drives people (or me) to take photographs of things. It’s a strange compulsion, but somehow there is a need. ‘Now’ is happening – people know ‘now’, so the photographs, to my mind at least, become something else when the ‘now’ has passed and is no longer accessible first hand. They gain historical value or importance perhaps.
My experience of working with photographers is that generally they work for ‘the now’ for various reasons. One is financial. We all need money and work and so are focussed on ‘the now’. Others, who have perhaps had their commercial career, may have other interests: books, travel for example. In most cases there are vast archives of work that are untouched, mainly because the photographer has no reason to touch them. Feedback from many collaborators has been that CRB has offered the photographer opportunity to revisit their much forgotten archives. This has sometimes led to a rethink of current work and to other opportunities for sales and exhibitions of older work. None of this is intentional, it’s not why I started Café Royal, but knowing that this occurs means a lot and has become an aim of what I do.
My books are inexpensive, both to produce and to buy, in comparison for example to a coffee table hard back. They are limited run, generally of 200 copies. The conflicts with my desire of getting this forgotten archive work seen by many. However, many galleries and museums now collect my books. They are in a lot of ‘special collections’, photobook collections, artist book collections, exhibitions and so on. This makes them publicly accessible, looked after, ‘locked in’. So essentially anyone can gain access to them without
owning them. This has become a strong element of what I do. To have the work collected by galleries is important, if for no other reason than to fill the gaps in UK gallery photographic archives, which are fairly slim. Of course there are other reasons. To know MoMA, Tate, V&A and other major international galleries want the books enough to collect them means a lot. To have many shops stocking them and to have so many customers from the website is priceless. To meet Peter Mitchell, Ken Grant, Martin Parr, Daido Moriyama and discuss books, their work, their past work is amazing. I think publishing has allowed me to do a lot that perhaps otherwise I wouldn’t have done.
I once lost all of my own books, collected over 30 years – about 800 books, in a flood. I now have a strange relationship with books – I make lots of them but am still fearful of buying too many. Publishing allows me to make the books I’d like to collect; albeit a strange way of going about it!
The future. I’d like to start a PhD but need to fine-tune the question. It might relate to some of the above. I want to continue to publish small affordable well produced books / zines showing moments of change. I see Café Royal Books as a kind of meeting point. I don’t just publish the work of well known photographers but I do only publish work that I like and often subjects or times that I couldn’t get access to myself. As long as it’s enjoyable I’ll continue. There’s a lot of important work that needs to be seen! In many ways I see what I do as a long term project, cataloging the not too distant past.
Recently I’ve started a new project, ‘Notes’, which will hopefully become a reference tool and work as contextual support for the books I publish.
The original article can be seen here.
From about 1999-2006 I used to photograph a lot of protests on the streets of London, I was never much interested in the cause of the protests more the act of ‘protest’ itself. It was its own kind of street theatre, with its own cast of characters and roles to be played out.
Mayday in London had been a flashpoint for the last couple of years and in 2001 the police penned a couple of thousand protestors in Oxford Circus; one of the first examples of ‘kettling’. The day had started quite slowly, the standard march, the standard slogans, the standard photographs, the standard rain, however at Oxford Circus things changed, the police sealed off the four exits holding the protestors in the middle of the road junction.
“You are being detained here to prevent a breach of the peace and criminal damage to property. You will be released in due course.” was the police line. The ‘kettle’ was in place, the ‘normal’ police blocking the exits were replaced by those in their full riot gear. Any attempt to leave the cordon was met by shields and batons.
The rain continued to fall, by now my equipment was getting a real soaking, my cheap flashgun gave up the ghost and the Nikon F4 got water in the body resulting in only half rewinding a film, ruining some pictures when the back was opened. Luckily the old Leica M4-P had no electrics to go wrong, so soldiered on.
I had not been in London long and was still finding my feet as a photographer, going back through contact sheets and dusty negatives I found that I’d spent a lot of the time photographing the police rather than the protestors or the protests themselves. It was the first time I’d really seen riot police in their storm-trooper uniforms (quite strange if you’d been brought up in a place when the police’s most high-tech piece of kit was a Mini Metro), and quickly became fascinated by the only section of them that was visible, through the visor of their riot helmet. It seemed that I had spent the whole day concentrating on this little window of humanity. Once I’d found this angle I started to work, at the same time watching the game of chess between the police and protestors unfold, the clashes, the insults, the boredom.
At this point in time I did not have a press pass, I shot really just for myself and the camera gave me an excuse to witness events I was interested in, so when I saw press photographers showing passes and being able to leave the kettle I felt a pang of jealousy but at the same time felt determined to stick it out. I was finally released from the kettle at around 6/7pm. At least the rain had stopped.
Images and text ©Brian David Stevens 2015
Brian David Stevens (B 1970) is a photographer based in London UK. He has been published and exhibited worldwide. His current exhibition of portraits of war veterans is on show at the Royal Armouries Leeds until Feb 2015. The show moves to Fort Nelson, Portsmouth in March.
sound system box-set now available
This week’s insight into Daniel Meadows’s archive, held at the Library of Birmingham, is a movie of Robert Bloomer—a chain maker from Cradley Heath.
The first book I will publish in 2015, this Thursday, is Stockport Gypsies 1971 by Daniel Meadows. It’s the the first in a series of eight books I’m publishing with Daniel. The books accompany the release of one of his movies; each offering an insight into a part of his archive which is held, in its entirety, by the Library of Birmingham. There are 40 movies in total, I will make a post here as each is released.
The eight books will be printed as editions of 150-200 including a very limited boxed set (ed/50) of all eight, and including a DVD of the eight corresponding movies.
So here is this week’s movie from Daniel:
Stockport Gypsies 1971
14cm x 20cm
Edition of 200
The first in a series of eight books by Daniel Meadows.
There will be a boxed set published as a very limited edition
of 50, included in the edition of 200 mentioned above. The
boxed set will include all eight books and a DVD containing
eight corresponding movies. The movies, Daniel is releasing
weekly over forty weeks, each offering an insight into his
archive which is held at the Library of Birmingham.