In 2005 I set up Café Royal Books, an independent publishing house based in Southport, England. Originally as a way to disseminate drawings and photographs, in multiple, affordably, quickly, and internationally without relying on 'the gallery'. Since 2012 I have been making an ongoing series of publications, the broad subject of which is British Documentary Photography since 1960. This includes international photographers working within the British Isles, and photographers from the British Isles working internationally. There are a few exceptions.
This type of work has historically been neglected, in the UK and overseas by major institutions. It is often neglected by the photographer too, possibly because there has been no outlet, as such, for it. What I hope to do with Café Royal Books is source, gather, and re/present this work as a collective whole. I publish at least one title every week, presenting, generally, one series by one photographer. Every 100th title, I publish a limited edition boxed set of those 100 books — aimed really at public collections, so the books remain accessible.
There are lots of interviews online, where I answer questions around process and reasons. For example, the British Journal of Photography, Photoworks, The Photographers' Gallery. I also, when time, keep a blog about the subject, surrounding ideas and related work.
The publications I make have carved their own path. They don't fit exactly into the worlds of the photobook, zine, artist book, history book for example. But they do integrate into all of those fields. For that reason I'm never really sure what to call them, book is perhaps something else. Zine is maybe more DIY in construction. Artist book perhaps a stronger craft or concept. Comparisons can be drawn to educational resources, by Café Royal Educational Resources doesn't quite roll off the tongue. Overall, they become an archive, or collection. Regardless of type, kind, or sort, I want the books to be affordable, democratic, utilitarian and useful, without fuss or decoration.
Café Royal Books is just me.
Subscription is available.
"...the work you are doing with Café Royal Books and British documentary photography 1970-2000 is very important. That so much unpublished work is at last being seen, collected and entered into the archives of institutions is fantastic. Apart from the enormous amount of pleasure you generate, what you have done and are continuing to do will give researchers of the future some quality material to get their teeth into. You are literally making a new history. And I love it."
"It is very hard to become a production powerhouse, consistently releasing titles every few weeks…its another level entirely when what your releasing is so fucking good - and important.
I can completely see a few years down the line all of Cafe Royals books being compiled into an incredibly important book or exhibition. These are incredible social releases and i dont forsee that changing anytime soon. Get whatever you, whenever you can because not only are these documenting historic images, but they are becoming important historic documents themselves. "
Tim Head, Artist, Producer, Curator, Publisher, London
"The most important thing to happen in British Photography in the past 10 years"
John Darwell, 2018
"A great archive of much forgotten documentary from the 70s and 80s"
"NW England's Café Royal Books -- which releases a book every Thursday (!!) -- is one of the best indie photo publishers operating right now"
Pete Brook, Prison Photography
"I think CRBs books have an honesty and rawness, which sadly is lacking in many publications today. Also they seem to be acquiring cult status. And, of course, a real pleasure to work with."
John Claridge, Document Scotland
"No doubt that Café Royal Books is fast becoming the most important supporter of British photography in 2013"
Grant Scott, The United Nations of Photography
"Best small run publisher in the world".
"At a time when digital images are available instantly most everywhere, these slim, softcover volumes still bring a thrill. They have a samizdat feel, a natural urgency that leaves me torn between clinging to my lone copy and pressing it on someone near to me."John McIntyre
Café Royal Books are available globally. Foyles in London and The Photographers' Gallery take every title. There are many, many excellent independent book shops, galleries and museums who stock selected titles, so please check with your local outlet if there is a particular title you'd like. Most are open to suggestion, so if you'd like them to stock Café Royal Books, please suggest them to me or vice-versa. I no longer list all stockists here because there are so many books and stockists it becomes simply a list of bookshops, of which there are many available online already.
Gallery and Library Collections
Faculty of the Arts,University of Porto, Portugal
Museum of Modern Art, NY, USA
Barnard College Zine Library,NYC, USA
Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, USA
The National Gallery of Canada
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art,Kanazawa, Japan
Booklet Press, Japan
University of New South Wales, Australia
Similarly, there are hundreds of private and public museum, gallery, library and educational collections globally, housing Café Royal Books. I will try, over time, to make this a comprehensive list, because of the importance of these titles and the work within them being made accessible to all.
If you are part of a library that houses Café Royal Books, please let me know and I will add it to the list.
The National Art Library,Victoria and Albert Museum
The British Library
Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives
National Library of Scotland,Edinburgh
Glasgow School of Art
Camberwell College of Arts Library
London College of Communication Library
Leeds University Special Collection
University of the West of England
University for the Creative Arts
University of Central Lancashire
Winchester School of Art
Centre for Fine Print Research Special Collection
Bodleian Library at Oxford University
Cambridge University Library
National Library of Scotland
National Library of Wales
Trinity College Dublin
Loss / Damage
I send most orders using Royal Mail. Very rarely items are damaged or lost. If that is the case, please follow these steps:
Any non-arrival of items must be reported to CRB by email within 21 - 40 calendar days of the original order being placed.
Any damage to an item must be reported to me by email immediately upon receipt of the order. To process a claim for damage I will need photographs of the damaged packaging and goods (Royal Mail terms), and may need you to ship both back to me. Please keep all damaged goods and packaging until I have spoken to the Royal Mail.
Wholesale / Trade
Please email me if you're interested in stocking Café Royal publications. Wholesale discount is 40% excluding shipping. Shipping is based on weight and location. Payment is upfront and in full for your first order and 60 days in full thereafter. For many reasons, I no longer work on a sale-or-return, or consignment basis. All wholesale orders should be emailed to email@example.com noting your shop / museum / gallery and delivery address, and your purchase order number if you have one.
All orders are processed securely online using PayPal. You can also use your credit / debit card through Paypal without having a Paypal account.
UK £2.00 per order, £0.30 each additional book.
International £3.20 per order, £0.40 each additional book.
Orders are usually posted within three working days.
I use high quality all-board envelopes and twin-wall boxes. All items are either sealed in archival sleeves or wrapped in acid-free tissue paper before posting.
You are covered by distance selling law. You will need to pay return postage and any refund except for damage or loss in transit (see below), will be minus the original postage cost.
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