Hoxton Mini Press publishes photobooks about East London’s unsung stories. The knitting subcultures that exist in the city, the urban dirt bikers pulling stunts in its streets and the laundromats frequented by locals. The small team at Hoxton has proven that community focused photobooks hold an undeniable allure. Editorial manager Faith McAllister offers insight into how they decide who to work with.
Words by Eleanor Scott
You could say it all started when photographer Martin Usborne, the co-founder and creative director of Hoxton Mini Press, came across 86-year-old Joseph Markovich standing alone in Hoxton Square. The area had long been a hub for young people and Martin couldn’t resist taking a portrait of the seemingly out of place elderly man. But as they got to chatting, Martin quickly realised that if anyone was out of place in East London, it certainly wasn’t Joseph, who revealed that he had been living in the area all his life and had only left once to visit the seaside with his mother.
After an increasingly interesting and sometimes strange conversation, what was meant to be a quick portrait turned into a five-year project entitled I’ve Lived in East London for 86 ½ Years that delightfully depicts the stories and observations of a man who was born just beside the Old Street round-a-bout, loves Nicolas Cage, and takes five sugars in his tea. According to Faith McAllister, Hoxton’s editorial manager, it was the success of this self-published book that led Martin and his partner Ann Waldvogel to believe that there is “a market for affordable, but still beautiful, photography books that tell stories about this diverse part of London” – and so Hoxton Mini Press was born.
“The best photobooks are the ones which resonate on a human level.”
Since founding the small indie press, Martin, Ann and their small team have kept true to their goal of making books that “both the collector and the non-specialist can enjoy – and that everyone can afford.” From East London Swimmers, which features Hackney’s swimmers braving all conditions to escape the city, to Shoreditch Wild Life, which contains “unflinching photos that capture the extreme variety of street life in one of London’s most iconic and colourful areas”, each title displays the rich diversity of East London through a unique and raw lens. The area is truly filled with unseen stories that the small team behind Hoxton Mini Press are determined to seek out. In fact, that’s what their logo represents, “an urban fox… curiously minded, street-wise, snooping out new and old territories of London, which is kind of what we do too,” Faith explains.
With that in mind, we decided to have a quick chat with Faith to find out a bit more about Hoxton Mini Press’ publishing process, from what draws them to certain projects to the advice they’d give photographers looking to publish their work.
What would you say are the ingredients to a great photobook? How do you decide what you’re going to publish?
The best photo books are ones which resonate on a human level; projects covering universal topics that people can relate to, whether that’s through a nostalgic insight into a time gone by, or a story about relationships, or something that makes you smile or laugh.
What’s your process like with the artist when it comes to developing the work, printing and publishing?
It’s a very collaborative process and the photographer is involved from start to finish, helping us fine tune. We are a very small team and so we often work with freelance writers and designers too.
“It’s important to find a publisher that fits your vision as much as you fit theirs.”
What’s one of your favourite photobooks you’ve published and why?
Every book is special in its own way and so it is difficult to pick one. We recently published London Underground 1970-1980 – a book by Mike Goldwater. It definitely encompasses a lot of the qualities we mentioned that we look for in a book, the photographs capture London’s familiar underground in the 70s; catching moments of intimacy, humour, smoking, kissing. It highlights the extraordinary in the everyday.
What advice would you give to photographers who’d like to publish a photobook?
This is a tricky one, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Every project is unique to each photographer. It’s important to find a publisher that fits your vision as much as you fit theirs, it needs to be mutual.
“Photography is a universal language.”
Lastly, what do photobooks mean to you?
Photobooks are unique from any other type of book. They communicate visually, which can say more than words. Photography is a universal language.