Books on Photography Festival 2021: in conversation with Dr Michael Pritchard

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Created by The Royal Photographic Society and the Martin Parr Foundation, the Books on Photography (BOP) festival will take place late October.

Now in it's second year, BOP started up in 2019 as a new annual event to celebrate photography books.

Unable to host the event in 2020 due to Covid-19, the festival postponed it's second year until this year.

This year, the event is is collaboration with Bristol Photo Festival.

"It will bring together a wide-ranging group of UK and European photobook publishers and booksellers, providing an opportunity for book lovers, photographers and collectors to seek out new books directly from publishers and artists."

BOP 2019

Held at the Paintworks Event Space, which is home to both the Royal Photographic Society and the Martin Parr Foundation, the Royal Photographic Society House will host photographer and artists talks.

The event will run from October 22 until October 24.

We spoke with Dr Michael Pritchard - Director, Education and Public Affairs of the Royal Photographic Society and Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society (FRPS) - about the event.

Hi, Michael. Can you give me a little bit of background about the Books on Photography Festival?

Yeah, so BOP is a joint photographic book or photo book fair between Martin Parr Foundation and The Royal Photographic Society.

We're both located literally 20 metres from each other on Paintworks in Bristol, and in 2019 Martin spoke to us about jointly organising a book fair.

As you may well know, Martin has got a very big photo book collection and a very extensive library and collection at the Foundation.

So, we decided to organise a joint photo book fair in 2019 and the first edition took place in October 2019.

That consisted of publishers selling books through our building and Martin's building, and a public programme of talks and all of those sold out.

The highlight of that was probably Stephen Gill, who doesn't do many talks, but he agreed to do a talk and take questions.

People were in the aisles for that.

The first edition was really popular; we had over 1500 people attend over the two days.

You mentioned the Paintworks Event Space in Bristol. What is this?

So, Paintworks is one of Bristol's creative hubs, there's a whole range of different companies and organisations on this site, and the site owners basically have a site for events.

We ran out of room last year so all the publishers will be in the event space, which gives us more room and doesn't interfere with our own exhibition at MPF or RPS.

We got quite congested in 2019, so it'll help spread out the crowds.

The event space is only another 100 metres away from the two buildings, so it's just a more practical space to have tables for people selling books.


Is this your first year in collaboration with the Bristol Photo Festival?

In 2019 it was just us and MPF.

This year, because the Bristol Photo Festival is taking place - and that's running from May right through until October - they asked if they could support the fair as well.

It's a sort of three way partnership really.

They're going to help promote the fair to the people who come to the festival.

It just makes sense that we're all interested in photography and we've all got different audiences.

Do you often do other project with Martin Parr?

Yeah, we do.

As organisations, we've both got different areas of interest; Martin is very much focused on documentary photography and has his archive there, and RPS has got a much broader remit across photography.

We do collaborate because there's clearly an area of overlap.

We've got a really good auditorium here so we've done joint film screenings together, obviously BOP, and joint live talks normally, that we hope to start up again in Autumn.

As an example, we did a joint event with the students of the University of the West of England, the third year graduates.

We had a sort of Open House at both our premises and the UWE students did a series of talks about their grad work and they launched their student book as well.

What can we expect from BOP21?

It's a similar format to 2019; it'll be a series of photo book publishers offering books for sale, artists and photographers with their own books doing signings as well, and again a public programme of talks.

At the moment, we've got a waiting list for tables so that's a good sign, and I don't think we'll have any problem selling tickets for the live talks.

Martin will chair the first day of talks and I'll chair the second day, which is similar to how we ran it in 2019.

Thank you for talking to me, and I can't wait for BOP21.

Thanks a lot. Nice to talk to you.

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