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Monday, 9 June 2014

Photobook Bristol: We've All Been Touched!

Martin Parr by Anouk Kruithof and Anouk Kruithof by Martin Parr

Well, Photobook Bristol was fabulous. It was like a joining of the European clans, with cabals of photo people coming from all over; the Dutch, the Spanish, the Belgian, the Portuguese, the Germans were all there, with students, photographers, academics, publishers, dealers and movers all mingling in the unique surroundings of Bristol's Southbank Club in sunny Bedminster.

Above and beyond the fascinating talks and presentations, and the mass of newly-printed books and the incipient buzz forming around so many of them, it was the casualness of the festival that made it such a delightful and relaxed experience where the greatest pleasure came from chatting to so many lovely people from all around the world.

It was a gathering of 200 obsessives, a gathering that in previous centuries might have been found in some kind of asylum for the harmlessly insane; The nerdometer had to be turned up to 11 as the essential questions of photobook-ology were raised and, as is the nature of these things, never quite answered.

On the Saturday night, entertainment was provided by Mik Artistik from Leeds. He summed up the weekend, and everything to do with photobooks, in a few simple lines that he rattled off in a piercing improvisation.

This is what he said.

You all like photobooks, don't you,
And you've all been touched,

There's a shop upstairs with picture books,
You've all been touched, 
I don't mean touched in a dirty way, 
You've all been touched.

A few drops of water on a window,
A picture of a boy with a wolf mask on,
You've all been touched.

There's a lady with her top off, 
Let's take a picture of that, 
You've all been touched. 

Which sums up photography as a whole really. But through all the talks and presentations and panels, important questions were raised, but never really answered - maybe because there isn't really an answer, maybe because half the questions were statements.

What is a photobook?

Is it a vehicle or a medium?

Why do books have a spine?

Let's make books we can pull apart.

Let's not make any more photographs.

Let's not make any more photobooks.

The Dutch have great design.

Design and form and content?

Forty pounds for a photobook?

Who is going to buy that?

Don't consider your audience?

It's great to have a patron!

Don't give up the day job!

There are far too many photobooks.

There's far too much of everything.

Everything is bad.

Everything is good.

The book as a fetish is bad!

Look, Touch, Feel, Desire!

Never trust a publisher!

Except for the nice ones...

Let's make it more available.

Let's make it less available.

Let's put it in a box.

And sell it with a print.

We don't know how it works.

We haven't got a clue.

Let's put it on the walls!

Let's put it on the ceiling! Now that is fucking mad.

It's good to be free!

It's bad to be broke!

It's bad to be rich.

I'm a real artist me.

Fuck, this box is heavy!

It's sold out now.

We've all been touched.

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