New Wave 1: Photobookshow

For the first audio interview in our New Wave season we go to Brighton. One recent development in photography has been the growth in interest in photobooks and self publishing. Photobookshow, an organisation that exhibits independently made photobooks, epitomises this trend. I made an arrangement to meet William Sadowski and Kevin Beck in a pub. Then, like a scene from a 1970s thriller, they drove me across town to their headquarters (a former abattoir). But, despite this noirish setting Sadowski and Beck turned out to be cheerful enthusiasts, very happy to talk about the books they had collected and their ambitions for exhibiting them.

En route we talked about what was going on in Brighton. As well as Photoworks (who employ Beck as a Digital Product Manager) they mentioned Jim Stephenson's miniclick talks and Matt Martin's Photocopy Club as parts of the photography scene in the town. If you look at what these organisations do, it does appear as if Brighton is a hive of photographic publishing, from the most improvised to the most polished type of zine or book.

On arriving at their studio they showed me their shelves and filing cabinets of books, submitted to previous shows and donated to their collection. I am still not entirely sure I understand what an exhibition of books is for but this might just be the idea of an exhibition, perhaps it is better described as a temporary library. Both the organisers placed great stress on their openness to different kinds of work and their desire to show the books in the best way possible. Reflecting on it, there has been a growing tide of exhibitions of this kind from the Martha Rosler Library, shown at Stills in 2008 to the recent Japanese Photobook show at the Photographers' Gallery last year. There are also a number of similar projects being undertaken elsewhere in the world such as the Indie Photobook Library in the US and more recently the PhotoIreland Library Project in Dublin.

Sadowski and Beck are animated by a keen interest in photobooks, as was clear when they opened the latest batch of submissions they had received. They have also included their own books in the shows (Sadowski, Beck). And finally, they are enterprising – their current show at the John Hansard Gallery is the eighth event they have been involved in. Their next ambition is to go to Japan, where I'm sure they would be made very welcome.


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