East London Cool: The Hoxton Mini Press
East London is cool. Sometimes it can feel impossibly cool, verging on inaccessibly hip. If you don’t have a perfect hipster beard or a great pixie haircut dyed pastel pink, can you really fit in? In between the Silicon Roundabout (with all the cool kids of tech) and the Shoreditch fashion scene – East London is where young vibrant Londoners seem to flock.
Yet, amongst all of this, there is a man who’s lived in East London for 86 ½ years. His name is Joseph Markovitch, he takes 5 sugars in his tea and pulls off a checkered blazer beautifully. He likes Nicolas Cage. He’s left London only once in his life, to go to the seaside with his mother. The reason I know all of this is because Martin Usborne, Photographer and Creative Director at the Hoxton Mini Press published an entire book about Markovitch, a man whose (extra) ordinary life is a beautiful lense on the history and feel of the East.
This is the sort of project that no mainstream publisher would touch with a ten foot pole – but that armed with great talent and precision, the Hoxton Mini Press has made into a resounding success. Moreover, taking a personal story like Markovitch’s and interweaving it with the contemporary vibe of East London constructs a beautiful portrait of personality and place – making the book at once accessible and irresistible.
So it is that somewhere in Hoxton, Martin Usborne, Ann Waldvogl and their dogs Moose and Bug run their press turned cult publishing (mini) house. How much the dogs really get done we can’t attest to, but Usborne and Waldvogl are a publishing powerhouse duo. Their books are all collectible little gems, accessible art books made to be be read, enjoyed and kept. “Our goal is to bring photobooks to a wider audience…and make them so beautiful you’ll keep them for your grandchildren,” the pair explain.
Founded in 2013, the project focused on solely on East London, but the Hoxton Mini Press has since started broadening its horizons further afield to document and comment on the richness of urban life more generally. “Gradually we are broadening out to other areas and topics, but always with an eye on the urban and niche” – projects that include a monograph of artist Emily Stein’s work in Bubblegum, or the incomparable, Hand Jobs: Life as a Hand Model.
Usborne and Waldvogl’s ethos of producing beautiful photography books but keeping them accessibly priced makes the Hoxton Mini Press a rare bird of publishing. Overall, no sort of publishing is quite as hyped (and affected) as the business of publishing photography and art ‘coffee table books’. You know, the sort of book that is often more of a decorative object than it is a real book. Part of the beauty of the Hoxton Mini Press is how their book are photography monographs that are, in fact, books to read and handle in your hands – not rarified objects or status symbols. Usborne and Waldvogl have not given in to the siren call of the overpriced coffee table publication. Instead their titles retail for prices between £12.95 and £30.
Since its inception, the Hoxton Mini Press has published 23 books, selling over 50,000 copies, and making the case that print is not dead. Perhaps people still love books. Perhaps people will always love books. Provided, of course, that they’re good, beautiful, and (dare we say it?) cool enough. All of those qualities, the Hoxton Mini Press has in abundance. Here’s to print and the little Mini Press from Hoxton that could.