August 2024

A Humble Abode

Small House BooksSmall House BooksSmall House BooksSmall House BooksSmall House BooksSmall House BooksSmall House BooksText: Nathan Corum Images: Small House Books

Charlie Hillhouse, started his DIY book publishing efforts, under the label Small House Books after completing degrees in both design and photography. Realising that artist monographs and art books were expensive and pretentious in style, Charlie felt that a more hands-on, immediate aesthetic was needed to allow emerging artists to showcase their work.

The first two zines Charlie made for Small House Books were paired with an exhibition, Small Stints to Nowhere, at Nine Lives Gallery – showcasing Charlie’s and, now Melbourne based photographer, Jared O’Sullivan’s work. The idea was that people could purchase a book in order to take away the experience of the exhibition.

Since then, Charlie has released several more publications, and the first illustration based book, Cats by Lou, will be out on the label later this year. Having just begun, Small House Books is growing into a diverse publishing house, showcasing the work of contemporary emerging artists.

Nathan Corum: What made you start publishing photographic books?

Charlie Hillhouse: I really like collecting work people have made, but most of the time I can’t afford to buy the artists actual pieces, whereas if they had zines or posters I could collect those. I also enjoy helping people and friends display their work and get it out there. I found that publishing small artist books was the best form in which I could achieve this.

NC: What kind of stuff do you have in your collection?

CH: I mainly have small zines that I find on people’s websites but have larger books from the more established independent publishers such as Nieves and Kaugummi. My highlight is definitely a poster that I have of Linus Bill’s which came free with his 2006 bookPiss Down My Back and Tell Me It’s Raining. It’s the one of the guy in red stockings and what I think is a brown paper bag on, it’s really cool.

NC: Having looked at the books you have published thus far, one can see that they share a similar photographic style… maybe that is the wrong term, a similar photographic approach seems right, How do you define this aesthetic approach to photography?

CH: Most of the photography I enjoy to look at and publish I believe has an honest and immediate feeling behind it. I am really interested in the DIY aesthetic. I don’t believe you need good equipment or necessary technical skills to create something really interesting as long as you have the right idea and willingness to create something.

NC: It sort of brings up that idea that everyone takes photos, everyone owns a camera, so what makes a photographer a photographer? Because in the past a professional photographer could be distinguished by the expensive equipment, or format of camera they used…

CH: Well I think it’s a lot more difficult to tell these days. I know some people really hold onto the idea of being a photographer, but I don’t really care about it too much. I think everyone is a photographer, the main difference now is what you photograph and the way you do it. If you have a desire to create better pictures each time then I think you are definitely a photographer.

NC: You have released three impressive photographic publications already, is Small House Books strictly about photography? Are there any other visual mediums to look forward to?

CH: I am actually just in the finishing stages of completing a book for a local artist Lou Hourigan that’s called Cats by Lou and is an illustration book. I am also talking to two other Brisbane-based artists whose works are heavily drawing and painting based. I don’t really have a preference to the medium that I like publishing. With Small House Books it’s more based on this DIY immediate feeling.

NC: How do you work out the edit, style or theme for a publication? Are you trying to achieve a specific concept with the artist?

CH: Yeah definitely, I usually work very closely with the artist and we talk a lot about the work and what we want to achieve.

NC: Will you continue to publish only monographs?

CH: No, the other title which is also in the finishing stages is called All City No Stars which is a catalogue from an exhibition which my friend George Whelan and I organised. The exhibition was held in an empty building and the practicalities of getting many people there just didn’t work so we decided to document the whole progress and everyone’s work and produce a book.

NC: The book for that would really work like a basic time capsule in some way. It would be hard to comprehend now but with the styles that are being formed and presented in your books they are really going to be interesting as historical documents in 10 or 20 years, similar to Ed Ruscha´s Sunset Strip artist-made book that came out in the ’60s

CH: For me, at this stage, I am enjoying being involved in capturing the people and places around me. I’m not out to consciously define a time and place. I hope some Small House Books publication is floating around somewhere in 20 years, but 20 years from now is really hard to imagine for me at the moment.

NC: Looking at the sizes and edits of each book, they seem to work well as small, portable exhibitions of an artist’s work, I mean there isn’t any fat or filler so to speak.

CH: I guess that is just me, I am really impatient, small is immediate. But I think the size lends itself to the concept of the medium. These zines are small, portable and cheap. They are a non-precious commodity, and I want to move away from the idea that art has to be expensive to be worthwhile. The images are accessible and can be shared around to a wider audience.

NC: What are some of your favorite self-publishing book makers out there that you think more people should be aware of?

CH: My favourite at the moment is a Canadian guy called T Reilly Hodgson. He produces small photocopied photography zines for a website I think he co-runs, called Blood Of The Young. They are really great. I have currently got four zines that he was involved with. Another great not publisher but distributor of zines and small run books is Byron Bay based company Teeluxe. It is excellent it has just about absolutely everything you could need.

Small House Books

Charlie Hillhouse

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