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© Malcolm Groves, Gwlad Arrall, North Wales. 1980s

Silverhill Press – A Unique Publishing Venture

Ian Land talked to Jude Montague about Silverhill Press – a photography (and associated arts) project, which is currently taking a publishing break.

Silverhill Press – when did it start and why?

We started in 2017. I wanted to make a small book of a project I had photographed to do with the Battle of Hastings, and spoke to Paul Thomas at Martel Colour Print about the possibilities. He got excited and suggested we set up a small publishing company. I asked a designer friend, Richard Depesando, if he would do the design and the rest is history. We launched at the Printworks that year with a show and books by me, Alexander Brattell, Nigel Green and Richard Depesando.

What were your overall aims for the press? Do you think you achieved  them? How many books have you published to date and by how many author/photographers?

The aim was always to produce books by good artists, with high production values and a strong overall design language, but that were affordable to buy and not limited edition collectables. I love photo books but I hate the way short print runs and luxury production has increasingly made them expensive indulgences for those who have money. I also wanted to avoid anyone having to pay us to make a book with them, so from the beginning we had a policy of covering all production and distribution costs from sales rather than from asking the artist for money.

We’ve done around 35 books now, some of them very small runs with limited commercial prospects, others – like the two Bob Mazzer books, and Mick Williamson’s book – which have a much higher profile and have sold well. I’m really proud of all the books we’ve made, but I’m particularly proud of the books we put together that might otherwise never have seen the light of day as books, either because the artist didn’t feel they had the profile to make and promote a book without us doing it with them, or because of the amount of work involved in bringing an idea to print in the first place. Most commercial publishers – even those who request payment from the author – are not prepared to invest time in speculative or niche projects.

 Tell me about the aesthetic of the press – they are very distinctive books

That’s mostly down to Richard, our designer. From the very beginning both Richard and I were very clear that we wanted a consistent design language. I love the fact that nearly all of our books look the same from the outside – simple grey boards with the title – but when you open each book they are very different on the inside. It’s a way of inviting the viewer into the artist’s universe. We also applied that consistency of design to our exhibitions, which I immodestly think have all been exceptionally coherent and interesting events.

Of course you can’t pick a single work out but could you select a couple of highlights – two or three books that stood out for some reason, maybe for a story in the making, or just for including particular photographs that you admire or love.

I like them all, but for me Mick Williamson’s book is the one I’m proudest of. His photography is astonishing and of international reputation, he’s a wonderful and modest person, and I think his book is important, yet it may never have happened if it wasn’t for my stubborn desire to get it done. I give myself some credit for doing that, and it’s a really nice feeling to see it in print. Malcolm Glover’s Gwlad Arrall book, his photographs from North Wales in the 1980s, is beautiful, and, again, important. But I also love the less high-profile books we have made, Amanda Jobson’s Cuckoo Trail book about Hellingly, which is beautifully photographed and resonant, Elaine and Ken Edwards’ Bulverhythe Variations, which is a music piece with Elaine’s photographs and Ken’s words attached, Andrew Moran’s Box Brownie book, Guy Batey’s A Death Foretold.

You called your press Silverhill – it’s a great name and after a local area in Hastings but it is very evocative and could have multiple resonances – such as the use of silver in photography. Are there any meanings in the name that have occurred to you over the years.

I never really thought about it much. Paul Thomas suggested it because Martel was based in Silverhill. Richard’s logo design, which looks like flowing river, is so strong and memorable the name immediately stuck.

Although, sadly, the press is on a publishing hiatus the books are still very much alive and available. Where and how can people get hold of one?

Sadly, Paul Thomas has decided to close Martel and get himself a proper job! Although I completely understand his reasons, it means for now we are on a pause while we work out how to continue. We don’t really want to make Silverhill Press a commercial entity. If we charge artists to make a book with us it changes the whole dynamic, and makes it much more a customer/supplier relationship rather than a collaborative exercise, and it also means I, as editor, would have to think about whether a book would sell enough copies to make it worth doing, which has not been a factor in any of my decision making to date. Watch this space, we’ll work something out. Books we still have stock of are available to buy from

Are there any venues / institutions that have been particularly important to the life of Silverhill Press

The Printworks initially. Lorna Lloyd at the Printworks was very supportive of our launch season. In more recent years Colin Booth at Electro Studios has been an amazingly generous host of our shows and events, and a large part of the success of our exhibitions over the last few years has been down to his support.

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Posted 17:54 Tuesday, Jan 23, 2024 In: Arts & Culture,Arts News,Photography,Visual Arts

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