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Paradise Street book cover

By George Griffin

My first brush with zines was back in the mid-70s, the era of the early punk zines. A friend who was heavily into punk music brought one into school and I think the whole school ended up reading it. It was very basic, handwritten articles, typewritten with a typewriter whose ribbon had seen better days but it was something to behold: a magazine written and photographed by people like us.

The next time I saw zines was at football matches, by the mid-80s football club programmes had become very commercialised and the fans were looking for something new to inform them about their club. Again, the early versions of these were rough and ready but over the years they became full-colour and high-quality items.

Over the years I collected quite a few of these football zines, and it became a thing to buy one at every away ground you visited. I still have a few tucked away in boxes in the attic.

Moving on to photography, since returning to it, I have built up a reasonable collection of photography books, such as ‘The Americans’ by Robert Frank, and ‘All That Life Can Afford’ by Matt Stuart.

With their high prices, I knew it would be impossible to continue with photography books on a regular basis.

Around this time I found out about two independent publishers; the first being Hoxton Mini Press, which has been around since 2013. The early books concentrated on East London where they are based but over the years the books have expanded to incorporate all parts of London and other areas.

The first book I bought from them was in 2014 another Dougie Wallace’s book entitled ‘Shoreditch Wildlife’. Since then I’ve collected a few more, social documentary-style books that deal with a bygone age, books like ‘Paradise Street: The Lost Art of Playing Outside’ which includes images from Shirley Baker and Roger Mayne.

Shoreditch Wildlife

Another wonderful book is by Paul Trevor called ‘Once Upon a Time in Brick Lane’ which shows Brick Lane like a lot of people have never seen it back in the late 1970s and early 80s.

Recently Hoxton Mini Press has started to produce modern books on London and beyond like ‘Launderama’ – a look at some of the 462 launderettes in London and London shop fronts of London’s iconic storefronts to new modern designs.

Over the years they have built up quite a library of books on different subjects and the prices are pretty reasonable costing within the £15-30 range, although still a highish price.

The second of these independent publishers was Café Royal Books which has been producing photographic booklets or zines since 2005. I bought my first CRB zine in 2017, a copy of Ed Templeton’s ‘Lick’. This first zine has led me to become a collector of zines and many from CRB which include well-known photographers such as Martin Parr, Shirley Baker and Daniel Meadows amongst others.

These zines are not always well-known photographs you would expect from these photographers. One of Martin Parr’s is called ‘Abandoned Morris Minors of the West of Ireland’. Daniel Meadows’ ‘Factory Records 1979-80’ includes images of John Cooper Clarke, The Buzzcocks and Joy Division, with images from one night’s recording of the Pennine version of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’.

Paul Trevor's 'In Your Face'

The majority of CRB’s output is pre-2000 and does have a nostalgic feel; it also takes me back to my childhood and early adult life living in the UK.

Along with the big names CRB also publishes work by photographers I’ve not heard of people like Richard Davies. He was one of the first photographers to shoot Nirvana on their first UK tour in 1989, which appears in the zine ‘The Post-Punk Years 1979-1990’.

CRB really is a one-man band and it is all run by Craig Atkinson, who has managed to produce a new issue every week for the last 15 years. CRB has released around 950 books/zines to date. Recently it has received the Royal Photographic Society’s award for photographic publishing.

It may seem unfair to call these publications zines but they do have similar core values to the earlier zines of the punk movement or the rise in football fanzines in the late 1970s and early 80s. These core values are small quantities, lower-quality paper stock and best of all a cheap way to collect famous people’s work.

'Once upon a Time in Brick Lane'

With the resurgence of interest in film photography there has also been a new wave of photography zines, produced by amateur photographers.

With social media, people don’t really get a chance to look and study an image. It’s just a quick look and move on to the next. You can’t make a coherent study of a particular subject this way, but by putting a zine together everything is in one place.

These photographers are producing small-run issues (25-50+ copies) on such diverse subjects as mini golf in America to brutalist architecture.

These zines are fast becoming my favourite ones to collect. There is so much creativity and original thought. Ideas can range from shooting with a particular camera or toy cameras (such as Holgas to Lomography Sprocket Rockets) and also shooting with an unusual film stock.

Some of my favourites from this year (2022) are Andrew Keedle’s ‘Tripping on Trichrome’, documenting his experiments using black and white film and colour filters to produce colour images. Another is from Stefano at Uhm Zines! He specialises in brutalist architecture and his latest zine is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Trellick Tower in West London.

Although the next one falls into the DIY ethos (calling it a zine is a bit harsh) as it is a perfect bound book, unlike the usual saddle stitch of most zines.

Toy golf by Garon Kiesel is an 8½  by 8½ in book all in colour of miniature golf in the USA. All of the images were shot with a Holga and Lomography colour film but processed in ECN-2; the are images cross-processed and combined with the Holga’s soft lens they take on a pastel colour. This zine shows off the amazing architecture of America’s mini golf courses and is a visual spectacle to behold.

koamo Foto 'The 36 Frames' comic

Even Kosmo Foto has joined the zine party with their issue of ‘The 36 Frames’, as part of the Kickstarter for Agent Shadow film. (You can now buy this as part of the Agent Shadow Briefcase Box.)

I hope you have enjoyed this little insight into my collection of books and zines. I am sure there are plenty more people out there producing interesting work and I have only scratched the surface.

Searching hashtags for zines on most social media sites will bring up plenty, and Etsy is also a good starting point.

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