Zines and Subversion: Café Royal Books photo exhibition on show until 12 June

New exhibition Zines and Subversion showcase Cafe Royal Books over the years
From the CRB zine ‘The English at Play’ (Image credit: © Patrick Ward / Popperfoto / Cafe Royal Books)

This new exhibition, Zines and Subversion, celebrates the work of publishing house Café Royal Books. Established in 2005 by Craig Atkinson, the publication and independent family run publisher focuses on post-war documentary photography in relation to Britain and Ireland, shared in an accessible weekly zine format.

Featuring 500 zines and 167 photographs, by 70 photographers published over the years by Café Royal Books, the exhibition opened on 14 April and will be available to visit at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, UK until 12 June 2022.

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Each week Café Royal Books publishes a new zine priced at £6.50 ($8.15) and usually focuses on a single body of work that is largely previously unpublished. The zines feature work by photographers from all backgrounds, and those whose work has been either forgotten or previously excluded from the mainstream media with a distinguished focus on post-war UK documentary photography.

From the CRB zine ‘Punks 1980s’ (Image credit: © Nan Levy for the estate of Shirley Baker / Cafe Royal Books)

Renowned British documentary photographer, Martin Parr himself, commented that: "Café Royal Books have produced a remarkable archive of British documentary work by a rota of photographers that may have otherwise been overlooked. The Martin Parr Foundation is very pleased to present an exhibition of these zines and to show many images that they contain. Our remit is to give a platform to British documentary work, so this is a perfect marriage."

From the CRB zine ‘Parfett St Evictions 1973’ (Image credit: © David Hoffman / Cafe Royal Books)

Every 100th title, Café Royal Books produces an archived box of the previous 100 published zines, and this new exhibition presents the 500 CRB zines from the first five of its archive boxes. These zines have all been published between the years of 2012 and 2022. Each title of the zine presents a single story by a single photographer, collectively aiming to gather and organise a specific genre of photography that has often been neglected and shied away from. 

From the CRB zine ‘Notting Hill Carnival 1974’ (Image credit: © Chris Miles / Cafe Royal Books)

Many of the works that Café Royal Books publish are previously unseen, and the zines on display will be switched around on regular rotation, with 300 zines and 3 of the 5 archive boxes on display at once, changing throughout the duration of the exhibition so you're guaranteed to see something new on multiple visits.

From the CRB zine ‘Eton’ (Image credit: © Homer Sykes / Cafe Royal Books)

Founder of Cafe Royal Books, Craig Atkinson shared that "The aim for Café Royal Books has always been to gather, uncover and make this work accessible. We’re very grateful to the Martin Parr Foundation — this exhibition will help expand the reach of the books and importantly, the work they include. Café Royal Books is always open to submissions and are particularly interested to hear from underrepresented photographers."

From the CRB zine ‘London Subculture 1979 - 1981’ (Image credit: © Yan Morvan / Cafe Royal Books)

From the CRB zine ‘Black Power Black Panthers 1969’ (Image credit: © Janine Wiedel / Cafe Royal Books)

Craig Atkinson will also be in conversation with Martin Parr at the Foundation during the exhibition event on 17 May 2022. Be sure to check out the exhibition and head to the Martin Parr Foundation's website for more information.

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Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.