Spotlight on: Hoxton Mini Press
By Amy Tighe
Around this time of year, there's the sort of coffee-table book you dread to receive – a hefty tome that will take up space, gathering dust, until one day when moving house you 'accidentally' leave it behind – a book of photos of South American birds when you've expressed no interest; a hip-high History of the World Through War; a nothing-new-to-see-here guide to the dresses of Marilyn Monroe, and of course Kramer from Seinfeld's Coffee Table Book about coffee tables that has its own legs and is itself a coffee table. All the kind of gimmicky gift that can give enough to warrant a flick through its pages.
But then there's the kind of books whose creamy pages casually announce themselves, pique your interest and make themselves at home. Hoxton Mini Press is the reigning champion of this kind of book, with a heavy interest in all things British, especially London, they bring to life the backstreets of your borough, tickle your fancy with tales from the past and fill you with enough facts to win a pub quiz all on your own.
The categories are free-flowing and inspiring, for example, the mini-series of Dog-Friendly City Guides, which promises to introduce even the dwellers of said cities to unknown parks, pubs that have dog biscuits offered as standard, hotels that allow dogs at the end of the bed and canine-friendly cafés. The books marry stylish photos, quirky maps and biographies of small-business owners (and their dogs, naturally) giving a classy gloss to the kind of behind-the-scenes peek that the TikTok generation take for granted.
The Opinionated Guides to London pocket guides is for people who don’t want more information, they want the right information. By cutting through waffle and not trying to appeal to a broad range of people, these slim volumes manage to make any visitor feel like a local. An Opinionated Guide to London Green Spaces slashes the 3,000 parks available in London down to the best fifty; An Opinionated Guide to Independent London interviews the owners of a range of small business, from local independent shops and artisan delis to stationery hubs and cheese-mongers, with unashamedly opinionated points of view about all of them; if you want to escape London, there's a guide on the best places to visit that are just a train ride away from central London.
The East London Photo Stories are incredibly diverse, while all focusing on a relatively small patch of London. With less text, a compelling story can be told, such as in The Crash, wherein Bethnal Green-dweller Stephen McLaren chronicles the 2008 financial crash, sharing stories with images as simple as an expensive tie tossed over the shoulder of a suit; or the cloth-covered photobook East London Swimmers, which quietly tells the stories of London Fields Lido swimmers, with over fifty colour photographs of swimmers dressed for normal life and in their swimming gear, combined with piercing personal quotes; Adventures in the Lea Valley is a gentle tale of a part of London swallowed by the 2012 Olympic Games; Polly Braden and David Campany documented its strange and surreal beauty, before it was transformed forever. Esteemed portrait photographer Jenny Lewis carefully stitches together an intimate collection of portraits and stories of Hackney residents at every age from birth to one hundred in One Hundred Years: Portraits of a community aged 0–100, revealing the multitudes that a neighbourhood can contain. Although it may be too soon for those of us still recovering from our pre-Christmas stubborn snow, London in the Snow offers adorable images of Ruby the elephant clearing snow with her zookeeper at the zoo in 1958, and a family of three sharing a toboggan down Hampstead Heath in 1937.
The idea of a staycation has become popular again, but nothing quite matches the wholesome fun of the “glamorous grandmother” competitions and relentless, endless entertainment of Butlin’s in the 80s, like in Butlin's Holiday Camp. The glorious images by Barry Lewis shine despite the particularly wet Skegness summer.
With most of their publications being carbon neutral and offering first editions, collector’s editions and beautiful prints to boot, as well as covetable notebooks for bad ideas and imperfections, Hoxton Mini Press really has that elusive something for everyone. Run by Ann and Martin (and their two dogs, Moose and Bug), who have said their goal is to bring photobooks to a wider audience... and make them so beautiful you'll keep them for your grandchildren.