/ 14 October 2019

Week of the Festival: Madrid, Spain

BookJockey Sessions. The Pleasure is Mine.

Stories about photography books


Let’s put it this way: I invented the BookJockey sessions for others to tell me stories about photography books. Then, for the first session to take place, it took me a long time - six months. It wasn’t easy to get the conditions to put into practice an innovative and experimental activity. I have to keep thanking everyone who participated in the organisation, for many reasons. Seeing a format that you have created grow and evolve is something very beautiful, Seeing how the people who participate, both the BookJockeys and the audience, understand and connect with what was once only a possibility, too. And above all, seeing them enjoying it.


A BookJockey session is not that weird. It is just one of those ideas that resonates in your head until it becomes something real, one that you have to put into practice because there is nothing similar and you clearly see that it is necessary. It was necessary. It started as a simple game in which the books began to talk with each other, like when you enter a bookstore with a friend and start commenting on the books you see on the shelves. Discoveries, recommendations, memories appear, some books take you to other books, to other movies, to other places... What if we could listen to that conversation? What if those books ended up on a table and the others could flip through them?


It started in November 2012, a moment of effervescence for the Madrilian photobook scene. There was still a lot to do, but contour conditions were also being established. So, among the first intentions for the format was to be a light spectacle, an alternative to the static book presentation talks in which a clear hierarchy between the author and the public is established. And also that, on some distant horizon, it could become an idea laboratory, in which the audience, the stage and other new elements were integrated into the event. Humour, provocation, digression...all would be welcome.


In a session, the mise-en-scène is important, and the connection with the audience, too. The audience can be only a spectator but also can participate actively. This is something that the BookJockey has to decide. That is why it is usual to see BookJockey sessions scheduled at festivals or fairs closing show, since it is usually a very colourful event halfway between the paper and the screen, in which the parallel with the DJ session is common. A dark room with books on a table, lit by spotlights and a camera that shows the image of what happens on the table against a large wall. One or several BookJockeys handling the books in the light of the spotlights and the music that accompanies the entire process. A provision devised by the historian of photography, Horacio Fernández, which has been established as standard. The books come and go across the table in the hands of the BookJockeys, and they are piled to one side. Sometimes they speak, but it is not necessary, as the books tell their stories without further help. Some images follow others, the pages of a book connects with those of another book, sometimes it is not photography, and a new story emerges, created from other elements, breaking the rhythm of each book, connecting images and books, in layers that overlap, a multi-dimensional assembly. People finally come to the table to look more carefully at some of the books. During the session it is not necessary to show them whole. It may have been the first time that someone has heard of photobooks or that someone has touched them. Surely music, which involves everything, has made it easier.


Unlike text books, it is not easy to ‘tell’ image books. But they can be ‘danced’. What is a book with text? In most cases, it is a repository of words waiting to be said again. On the other hand, the images are not said, you cannot use the voice to articulate images, we can only articulate words. You can ‘read’ images, you can describe them, go through them with your eyes, with a laser pointer, group, label, classify... but the only way to share an image, as long as we don't aim for telepathy, is to show the image that you see. (I speak of this ‘image’. I cannot say this ‘picture’. I cannot use the voice to transmit images). You can use the voice by putting it at your side, with words, with sounds and music. Once they come into action, visual books can cause other emotions, which the spoken word does not reach. Sounds play with space, books can also travel through space, and with them the body, a whole new world of possibilities to discover.

By Bonifacio Barrio Hijosa. He has lived in Madrid since 1973, where he is dedicated to cultural management. Between 2014 and 2017 he worked with MOB, culture in networks, together with Miren Pastor and Olmo González, in the development and implementation of communication campaigns in networks, and development of cultural management projects around photography books, such as Fiebre Photobook Festival or BookJockey Sessions. Since 2012, he has participated in the coordination of the PhotoBook Club Madrid, of which he was founder with Juan Cires and Ricardo Garrido, and in the coordination of the BookJockey Sessions.

Edited by Sergio Fanjul