HOXTON MINI PRESS
In the end, all photographers want to see their photographs in a beautifully printed, exquisitely bound and painstakingly proofed book that will sit on someones coffee table, with his or her name embossed in gold on the side. However, most of these coffee tables are also usually owned by a narrow market of people who can afford to spend upwards of £35 on a book entitled ‘The Anger of Aubergines’, ‘The Aesthetic of the Japanese Lunchbox’ or simply ‘People’s Poo’. This generally means the publication of most photographers work in a ‘fine art’ photography book is merely a pipe dream. Or a pipe dream that will cost them their own money to have realised. It is this unacheivable nature of ‘fine art’ photography books that Hoxton Mini Press aims to provide an antidote for.
Photographer and founder of Hoxton Mini Press Martin Usborne, is familiar with the hoops you have to jump through in order to get a 3 year body of work published by a renowned photography publishing house. His series ‘Dogs in Cars’ was published 2 years ago by Kehrer Verlag and by all accounts was a great success but the air of ‘arrogance’, as Martin puts it, that surrounds most large photo books remains. ‘A lot of photo books seem arrogant to me. As if they’re saying “don’t pick me up unless you know what you’re doing.” One of the main aims for Hoxton Mini Press was to make beautiful yet affordable books that people want to pick up and look at.’ The first title to be released by Hoxton Mini Press was a reissue of a photo story that Martin had shot over a number of years while living in Hoxton Square. It is the story of 85.5 year old local Hoxton resident, Joseph Markovitch, and includes beautiful photography of Joseph paired with quotes on anything from his ‘bastard boss’ at his first job as a riveter on Old Street to his favourite Nicholas Cage movies. From this reissue Martin was able to work out what was really important to the HMP brand, ‘The books we produce are as important as what goes into them. They are important as objects. With so much previously printed material going online now, it is important that the objects that are left behind justify their presence. We put a lot of consideration into the paper stock, printing and binding so the feel and smell of the book itself is just as rewarding as the photography.’
Hoxton Mini Press produce books that are exclusively about East London. The bulk of their titles are photography based but they also include the work of illustrators, painters, and writers. The only stipulation when it comes to choosing the artist is that the work revolves around East London in some way. The first of their illustrated series is by Adam Dant and consists of his signature watercolour sketches of all the people we stumble across in Hackney including the ‘Postcode Gangster’, ‘Screw-top Rose Girls’ and, everyone’s favourite, the ‘General Dickhead’. This playful outlook on all things East London is a characteristic of all the HMP books and goes hand in hand with the story-telling thread that also runs through them. ‘Storytelling is hugely important to us. One of our upcoming books titled ‘Drivers of the 1980’s’ by Chris Dorley-Brown. In the 70’s, it was Chris’ dad’s job to follow ambulances on a weekend and pick up the wrecked cars after the many drink-driving accidents that would occur. Chris would often accompany his father to and from the scenes of accident and, when the chance arose, sit in the wrecked vehicles. The clock in the car would often be frozen at the time of the accident or there would be blood on the windscreen. Years later, as a photographer, he was traveling to photograph the shares sale of Rolls Royce by Thatcher, but because the traffic was so heavy he found himself drawn to the static cars, their drivers hanging out of the windows. When putting this book together he realised the first ever image he shot as a child was of his father in his car, looking out of the window. Only now does he realise the personal significance of those images.’
By focussing solely on East London, Hoxton Mini Press have been able to embrace and celebrate all aspects of the area, its inhabitants, its myths and legends. Although Martin understands this may end up limiting their output it hasn’t discouraged him from continuing to keep pushing the books they make, ‘as we expand it will get more difficult to tell unique stories about East London.’ Often, it is the restrictions, whether self-imposed or otherwise, that help create success and in the case of Hoxton Mini Press, it certainly is.