Having a word with… Café Royal Books & Craig Atkinson


Craig Atkinson is an artist and lecturer at UCLan in Preston. He has become increasingly well known in photography circles for his series of photo books, published under Café Royal Books; they have recently featured photographers such as Hugh Hood, Jim Mortram and Phil Maxwell.

As well as publishing and promoting other photographers in this beautifully presented series, Atkinson takes pictures himself. A continuing subject for him is Preston Bus Station, which is also the subject of his most recent publication, Preston Bus Station Exit Town Centre.



Craig was kind enough to answer a few questions for BITE:

Where did you study?

I studied Fine Art to Masters level. I kind of found myself on that path and stuck to it. I don’t regret it, I think there is a lot of room within ‘fine art’ to manoeuvre and explore. My work has changed a lot since graduating. I did my degree at Leeds Met and my Masters at UCLan in Preston, which is where I’m now a lecturer.

What format do you like to shoot in and why?

I like taking pictures, and I like editing. So really anything is good. On the other hand I’m into tech and gadgets and testing things. At present it’s all digital. I like the freedom digital allows – purists will hate me! I like to shoot and edit and then sleep on things for a while before doing any more. I love film like I love printmaking but the processes are too slow for me. The way I do use film is my ‘Someone Else’s’ series, where I use film that’s left undeveloped in 35mm cameras.

What inspires you to create your photographs?

I like recording. I like control. I like the fact you can press a button and keep what you see. It becomes more important, perhaps, when the thing you can see no longer exists, so the photograph becomes an historical record. So I collect, hoard, record, document – whatever you might call it. I am a collector naturally I think, but I have a very hard edged minimalist side too which really battles with the collector. Digital images are great to collect, they take no room!

What inspires you to create photobooks?

Initially I wanted a way of exhibiting work quickly, that was easy to disseminate, affordable to make and buy, collectable and very well produced, leaving the production, in general, to someone else.

I used to paint big heavy abstracts, so it’s all a kind of response and opposite to that process.

I like to publish books that are a little like old National Trust type leaflets. Kind of informative precious little things. They started as zines but I don’t really see them as zines any more. I’m not sure why, perhaps they are less DIY. I see them as small books.

How do you feel about the photography scene in the North today?

I don’t really know. It’s strange really, I’m not into scenes. I like to make the work I want to make; if it falls into a scene, style, place etc it’s accidental. I work with photographers from all over the world so I’m not much good with specific local knowledge! UK photography seems to be very London centric, as does UK creativity. It shouldn’t be, it’s just a hangover from earlier last century I guess with the big art schools. I like living and working in the North though, it gives me more room and London is only a train ride away. Scenes though, I don’t know, I’m sure there must be lots happening somewhere. Liverpool have some good shows, Bluecoat, Open Eye…’Soft Estate’ at Bluecoat is excellent.