Hoxton Mini Press Launch Party
East London. Once one of the most impoverished areas of the Capital. Now, arguably the most vibrant, gentrified and exciting. That is at least, according to photographer Martin Usborne. At the launch of his new Kickstarter project, Hoxton Mini Press, Usborne spoke about his passion for the area which inspired the creation of his new publishing company.
The aim of the project is a simple one: to create books which celebrate ‘London’s most vibrant and diverse area’. The moral behind it is certainly to seek quality over quantity, as it begins with the publication of two stunning hardback books, each presenting different aspects of life in Hackney and the surrounding areas. Usborne hopes they will be works which readers will show their grandchildren.
“I come from a family of publishers,” Usborne explained. “And as a photographer, I love books as objects. I wanted to make a series of interesting books that embrace all aspects of East London.
“I liked the idea of doing something very bespoke and niche. We would like to start a community of creative people who will share the same passion.”
‘Bespoke’ and ‘niche’ are certainly the words to describe the first two published works.
Book one from the East London Photo Series, I’ve Lived in East London For 86½ Years, follows the life of Joseph Markovitch, through a series of photographs and heart-warming quotes from the man himself. In an almost documentary style, the book captures the life of a true East-Ender who was born on Old Street roundabout in 1927 and lived in Hackney ever since. We are offered his views on everything in the universe from religion and ethnic diversity to Jennifer Lopez.
The photos capture Markovitch against the backdrop of the East; his wrinkled face and fragile frame juxtoposing the loud colours, trendy cafes and young hipsters which now define Shoreditch.
There is no doubt that East London has changed since the day Joseph was born in 1927. What is perhaps most wonderful about this book is that it projects the voice of a man who may otherwise have been drowned out by the great sea of gentrification.
It was announced during the press launch that Joseph has fallen ill recently and the money raised from his book will go towards his care. It is touching that through giving so much character to East London, the people of the East can now give something back.
Book One from Illustrated East London is another collectable piece by Shoreditch artist Adam Dant. On each page is a caricature and witty summary of the kind of person you might expect to meet in and around Hackney. From the Left-Wing Dads, to the Barge Dwelling Fantastists to the General Dickheads, Dant has recorded the current faces of East London with comic accuracy. Having recently moved to Hackney and spent some time observing my surroundings, I can safely say that there were certainly a few familiar faces.
Both books are beautiful, unique and designed to perfection. Whether you love, hate or know nothing about East London, it seems impossible not to fall in love with them. Perhaps this is the secret to their incredible success so far.
In a time when austerity is hitting all small businesses and print publishing is seen as a dying industry, it seems like an obscure time to start up a publishing company which relies so heavily on there being a market for print.
Usborne himself is under no disillusions about the potential struggles ahead.
“Who can say what will happen?” he said thoughtfully. “Who knows whether it will be a success… it has been so far.”
It seems he has every reason to feel confident however, as it was public support which has brought Hoxton Mini Press to life. The company was funded by Kickstarter. It is with the support of 466 backers and more than £15,000 of pledges that the dream of the Hoxton Mini Press has become a reality. Who says print is dead?
I was intrigued as to how Usborne became so passionate about East London. For a man who grew up in North London his affinity to the East seemed peculiar. It is something Usborne seems to struggle to explain in words.
“I moved here about 13 years ago,” he said. “And I feel strangely at home here.
“It feels alive and ever-changing. There are a lot of interesting people, a lot of interesting shops and it just… has a good vibe.”
Wherever Usborne’s passion began, it undoubtedly exists in his work. It is a clear that a whole lot of love has gone into the production of the books and the project as a whole. What matters is not the financial success but the fact that a dream has been achieved regardless.
So, what’s next for the Hoxton Mini Press? There are four more books on the horizon for a start. And, provided the support of book-lovers, artists and East Londoners continues, our grandchildren will be admiring the works in years to come.