Café Royal Books: Preserving, promoting and making accessible, at-risk post-war photographic archives

Café Royal Books was established by Craig Atkinson in 2005 to enable the exhibition, distribution and collection of art outside of the gallery system, using democratic and affordable publications. Since 2012, Atkinson has focused on preserving, promoting and making accessible at-risk post-war photographic archives, specifically documentary photography linked to Britain and Ireland.

He has created a new democratic and affordable model for publishing photography and has provided a platform on which photographers’ work can be acknowledged. Atkinson’s research has led to changes in major international gallery collections. Café Royal Books has made it possible to collect a whole genre of photography that had previously not been comprehensively collected, much of which was unseen and unpublished. This research has become the only comprehensive, live and accessible archive of this type of work. Atkinson has made accessible over 500 bodies of work by over 300 international photographers, publishing 475 titles. There are over 100,000 of his publications in circulation, many acquired by major international galleries and libraries, including: Tate, MoMA USA, National Gallery of Canada, Victoria and Albert London, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan. His research is used in many international universities, including Harvard University, University of South Wales Newport, University of Oxford and University of Gloucestershire. This research has re-defined the history of British photography, led to changes in education and learning, and has inspired the production of major new cultural artefacts.

From April 14 – July 2022, the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol will host a retrospective exhibition of Atkinson's research as Café Royal Books. The presentation will include 500 publications and work by over 50 photographers, who Café Royal Books have published — most of which was previously unseen.

Research team

  • Craig Atkinson
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