In light of his debut book ‘I’ve Lived in East London for 86 ½ years,’ ELL talks to London photographer Martin Usborne about his work with Hackney local Joseph Markovitch, and how it led to the Hoxton Mini Press.
A year ago, London photographer Martin Usborne and his wife Ann decided to set up Hoxton Mini Press, an independent publishing house in Hackney. Now, Usborne’s first book, ‘I’ve lived in East London for 84 ½ years’, has been published.
Eighty-five-year-old Hackney resident, Joseph Markovitch, was the subject of Usborne’s successful debut. His eccentric and amusing contemplations, alongside Usborne’s charming photos, have made him a local celebrity.
“I’m interested in the universe,” says Markovitch in the book. “In how things began and what’s out there on other planets and lumps of energy that are millions of miles away. It’s more interesting than rivets. Hey, if a meteor landed in Hoxton Square, you think anyone could survive?”
After spotting Markovitch on a street in Hackney, Usborne was compelled to work with him: “It started as a labour of love” he explains, “after meeting Joseph a few years ago I decided to do a book about him. We found it sold very well and I thought maybe there’s a market for doing local books just about East London.”
Markovitch’s charming persona captivated Usborne’s readers, and has provided him with the opportunity to explore East London and its people.
“I’ve lived here now for about 14 years and there’s a lot of diversity and so much interesting stuff going on, all the time across East London” he says. “It occurred to me that I know so many photographers and illustrators within the area, so it would be nice to use some of those to tell the stories of people like Joseph.”
Usborne used fundraising agent Kickstarter to source £5,000 to create Hoxton Mini Press and fund the publication of ‘I’ve lived in East London for 84 ½ years.’ The response was overwhelming and Usborne received a total of £15,000 in donations.
Now Hoxton Mini Press books are being stocked by major booksellers such as Waterstones.
“I think people like the idea of small independent publishers and there’s been a recent shift towards local produce, with food or drinks and now books,” said Usborne. “The books also have an appeal to everyone, not just London locals, there’s a richness to the people here that people find universally interesting.”
Although ‘I’ve lived in East London for 84 ½ years’ can be bought in bookshops, Usborne is still keen for people to purchase the book directly through the Hoxton Mini Press website: “All the books are available from us in collector’s editions. These editions are in boxes and signed by all the artists, but you wont find those in any major bookshops.”
He added: “There’s only 250 of each of those and the idea is that you can only get those direct from us, either from East London shops and our website” he explains, “The first book with Joseph has already sold 150 collectors editions already.”
With the trend of photographers using blogs as an easy and accessible device to exhibit their work, it is unusual for Usborne to want to present his work in a physical book.
“As things become more online they become more throwaway. Therefore the book as an object is more important than ever. People want books to keep and touch and love to have a collection and something to put on their shelf.”
“We’ve thought carefully about these books so the there’s that will come out will be the same size with the same spines. They will eventually become a collection that people hopefully will keep for a long time.”