Instagram – it has singlehandedly revolutionised the way in which fashion is communicated (even more so than Facebook dare I say): documenting up-to-the-minute product arrivals on store shelves, the frenzy of fashion weeks, the envious shopping hauls of rich kids as well as countless other never-before-seen scenes of the fashion world. It’s no surprise that Anna Wintour recently hosted a dinner in Paris in honour of its mastermind Kevin Systrom. Now, thanks to prodigious app, second-hand book dealers such as November Books have been given a new lease of life. From working in antiquarian bookshops to accumulating enough material for a successful independent online bookstore of his own, Paul Lawrence of November Books is one of Instagram’s pioneering purveyors of rare art, fashion and photography publications.
The Paula’s crew photo – Toni Riera from Pache – El balle 1966-1993 / Miguel Trillo – 1982 / Alchimia Milano – 1985
While some might argue that newsfeeds on social media and Whatsapp text messages on their iPhones are the only things kids read these days, Lawrence believes Instagram has contributed to the cultural conversation and simply reflects modern life in the western world. “Many of my best regulars are kids and they find me on Instagram! Like anybody else, I am always on my telephone. It’s culturally rich. It can also be a huge distraction and that’s a problem I don’t know how to solve yet, but text messages and news feeds are certainly not the enemy.”
In a technologically obsessed contemporary culture, plenty has been said about the demise of print media. Its progress is often thought to be sluggish, and its forecast, discouragingly gloomy. However, Lawrence resolutely refutes the popular “print is dying/dead” claim. “People still enjoy printed media, and seem happy to pay for it too. Books satisfy an enquiring mind in a way that no other media has yet accomplished. Books and paper artefacts are also scraps and traces of time, and the Internet can only ever be a reproduction of one.” Well said, and we couldn’t agree more.
Here, Lawrence shares his top five favourite publications that live in boxes under his bed (“Being surrounded by them all day makes me rather allergic to the sight of them at home!”).
Jean Christophe Ammann – Transformer – 1975
Transformer explored cross dressing and blurring gender roles in fine art and popular culture. Amman got together, what is retrospectively a dream cross section of artists and cultural practitioners: The Cockettes, Luciano Castelli, Katharina Sieverding, Klauke, Walter Pfeiffer, The New York Dolls, Eno, Bowie, Jagger and Candy Darling. What a dream!
Teen Angels Secret Signals ca. 1981
A killer and insanely rare document that shows West Coast Chicano hand signs. And small enough to fit in a schoolbag too.
Claude Nori – Vacances a L’Italienne – 1987
An amazing portrait of teenagers in Rimini, Sicily and Naples in 1984; on the beach, riding Vespa’s, camping, going to the funfair etc. Looks like a lost Eric Rohmer film. Super stylish and very amazing.
Exceptionally scarce. Series of 6 artists’ books incorporating performance, photographs, writings and collages. Extremely charged and original. Will appeal to fans of Walter Pfeiffer, Manon, Transformer, and Kitsch. OCLC traces institutional holding of only a few of the issues.
Tom Wood – Looking For Love – 1989
Truly amazing first book from award winning photographer Tom Wood, who together with Parr and Graham represented the first generation of British fine art colour photography. Shot from 1982-1985 at the Chelsea Reach nightclub, Liverpool. Incredible portrait of youth in the early eighties. One of the best books ever.
Words by Aravin Sandran