PAPERLUST Photobook Fest 2019

Art and self-publishing as a tool for social change

by Fresh From Poland & Paper Beats Rock
24.05–14.06.2019 Krakow


PAPERLUST Photobook Fest is a new biennial on the map of photographic events in Europe, stemmed from love to paper. The first edition of Paperlust starts on the 24th of May, in parallel to the  Krakow Photomonth Festival. Paperlust is one of the first festivals in Poland dedicated solely to photographic publications.

PAPERLUST is built on the basis of regional collaborations and aims to present the local self-publishing scene to a wider audience. The motivation behind the festival is to allow the discovery of lesser-known European art scenes, encourage mutual artistic exchange, and explore the power of self-publishing as an offline medium, co-existing in the era of the Internet.


The first edition of the festival, Art and self-publishing as a tool for social change, is focused on the Visegrad region and was created in close collaboration with the festival’s partners from Poland, Slovakia, Czech, and Hungary.

All Visegrad countries were affected by totalitarianism, and therefore share a history of self-publishing rooted in samizdat – low-cost publications used by the opposition for social and political reasons. Samizdat was a tool to convey anti-system propaganda, run underground patriotic organisations, and create art outside of mainstream aesthetics. Today self-publishing still holds the potential to be a low cost, independent and accessible medium to support social change. In that sense, self-publishing can be compared to the Internet.

However, a printed copy allows a photographer to reach out to the right public and be noticed much easier than an online publication.  

The PAPERLUST Fest introduces the concept of various approaches towards an art book in its relation to the capital, format, motivation of the author, and the distribution model. Three exhibitions, forming the core of the festival, are designed to express this division. The purpose is to stir a discussion around the photobook’s role in society, and new ways of approaching the medium in the era of the Internet and online communication.


PHOTOBOOK. STORYTELLING (Fundacja Sztuki Nowej Znaczy Się, 24.05–14.06.19) is a carefully designed exhibition that presents the most interesting samples of the photobooks from the Visegrad region that have been made out of the need to convey, usually a personal, story, and published in the low- budget small editions.

Zines and low budget publications can be compared to Instagram or blog feeds and what unites them is the democratic aspect (there is no one to judge who has a right to publish their works and who doesn’t).

Zines are also democratic in means: everyone can afford to make a few publications using the simple printer or photocopy machine. Distribution usually happens in closed circles, not easily accessible for those on the  ‘outside’. Publications often act as a statement against the rules of capitalism and the institutional commercial art market. There are not many opportunities to explore these works, as the network of zine and photobook fairs is in our part of Europe shattered and weak.

Albums and photobooks produced with a substantial budget, either by the artists themselves or by publishing houses, are presented at the PHOTOBOOK. ASSET (Galeria i!, 24.05–14.06.19) exhibition. This exhibition focuses on economic and prestige aspects of art publications.

Photobooks created with proper resources became an important tool for artists focused on building a career within a conventional art market. Being chosen by a publishing house and invited to work on a new book is synonymous with ennoblement, and many young artists try to reach that goal. It usually comes not only with a budget for high-quality production, marketing, and distribution but also with a whole team of experts: designers, writers, printers, etc. If a book gets noticed, it can become the starting point of a career, similar to what would happen with a widely appreciated exhibition. The difference lies in the range of both mediums: an exhibition is only available to a geographically and temporally limited audience; a book can reach any part of the world at any time.

The third exhibition, PHOTOBOOK. PROCESS (Nośna Gallery, 24.05–02.06.19), complements the two shows. The display focuses on the production aspect of publications, describing different ways and phases of creating a book, also emphasising the role of a team working on more advanced productions. To bring the audience closer to the process, we invited two artists to work on their photobooks during the show. Viktor Kopasz is an artist based in the Czech Republic who will be working on his new piece in the gallery over the first weekend of the Fest. Tomasz Laczny is a Polish photographer living in London. He will make his book from scratch, starting from printing (developing) pictures to stitching them together. Tomasz will work at the gallery over the second weekend. Both artists will be available in the gallery during the weekends opening hours.

In addition to the exhibitions, PAPERLUST offers a series of accompanying events. PHOTOBOOK AND ZINE FAIR is an opportunity for publishers and art makers to display and sell books during the opening weekend of Paperlust and Photomonth festivals. An intense 4-day free of charge photobook WORKSHOP with leaders from Visegrad countries will help young artists develop their practice. PHOTOBOOK DUMMY REVIEW gives authors an opportunity to consult face-to-face with experts about books that are in progress. The carefully designed programme of talks and presentations will bring the ideas around self-publishing much closer to the audience. CHILL ZONE + Kids Zone will be a kid-friendly place to sit down, relax, and spend time with books from our library – a large collection of publications from Visegrad Countries.

The structure of the festival is based on cooperation with local partners and experts in the field. As a recurring event, every edition of PAPERLUST will focus on different parts of Europe and work with regional institutions, aiming to become an important photobook hub on the contemporary art scene.


PHOTOBOOK. PROCESS – 24.05–02.06.19

The project is co-financed by the Governments of Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia through Visegrad Grants from International Visegrad Fund. The mission of the fund is to advance ideas for sustainable regional cooperation in Central Europe.

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