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Book of the Week: A Pick by Rudi Thoemmes

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Rudi Thoemmes Rudi Thoemmes selects Café Royal Books as Book of the Week.

Mersey Passion Play. By Colin Thomas. Café Royal Books, 2016.
Rudi Thoemmes selects Café Royal Books as Book of the Week.

“My book of the week pick is not a book but a publisher.

I tried hard, including five days of staring at books at Arles, but any half-decent 2016 publications already had their outing on photo-eye. Sure, there were plenty of cleverly designed books but content-wise, most looked — well, not that interesting, to me anyway.

So as an antidote to over sophistication and design indulgence, bring on Craig Atkinson’s Cafe Royal Books, a one-person outfit (and that is part-time too) that has published over 250 titles in the last ten years. Craig publishes weekly, in the same format, mostly in black and white, costing between £5-£8 on aspects of change, usually British documentary, between 1970-2000, or in his own words: ‘Generally concerned with various aspects of the urban or man-made environment, usually Brutalist. Interested in observations of the everyday.’

So in one sense CRB are fairly retro, helping to revive and preserve a British photographic tradition, which clearly is not in fashion or much demand. In fact one of the paradoxes speaking as a Bookseller, is how little interest there is in anything published in the 20th Century in spite of what is now a pretty good list of histories and bibliographies of photobooks.

But to me CRB goes beyond this retro niche; the list reminds us that there is rich heritage and history to documentary photography that is often brushed aside in the latest rush for the must-have top of the pops. Recent photographers published by CRB included Dan Meadows, Ken Grant and Martin Parr, so fairly substantial names not just in the history of photography but also as contemporary practitioners. Martin’s recent volume on Yates for example (published in June, now out-of-print) dates from the early 1980’s, long before he became a photographic anthropologist and is genuinely interesting and there are many other gems on the CRB’ backlist, so do take a look.” —Rudi Thoemmes

View publications from Café Royal Books

East End '76 Poplar & Hackney. By Thierry Girard. Café Royal Books, 2016.

Clayton Ward 1978. By Daniel Meadows. Café Royal Books, 2016.

Rudi Thoemmes is founder and organizer of Photobook Bristol and also has an online retail business at RRB Photobooks. More recently publishing has been added with an emphasis on documentary photography including Peter Mitchell who is represented by Rudi.