A space dedicated to dialogue and discussion on visual arts within a photography school. In conversation with B.strO’f’s curator Mariella Boccadoro.
The bookshop and café B.strO’f opened in 2010 in Rome. It began as a collaboration betweenOfficine Fotografiche and Alessandro Vogliono, as a sales point for HF Distribuzione, an online specialised photography bookstore. Mariella Boccadoro joined in 2012 and is now in charge of the library and the bookshop. Before working at B.strO’f, Mariella already had a passion for photography books, having worked at Magnum Photos in Paris. Over time she became more involved in the selection of books and now prides herself on her particular attention towards the selection of the projects, the narrative and the quality of photographic prints.
B.strO’f is located within Officine Fotografiche, a photography school that has been active for the past 20 years. Being in this environment, talking about photography, seeing exhibitions, attending classes, seminars, editorial presentations, meeting Italian and international photographers, all encourage the circulation of ideas and projects. The bookshop is fortunate to be situated in a space where there is also a library entirely devoted to photography books. «Our aim is to spread a culture of images, to present various photographical languages, so that people can understand them, elaborate on them and create new ones when possible» explains Mariella Boccadoro, «on top of that, we also aim to help those who want to become part of this environment and don’t know where to start from».
As B.strO’f is part of Officine Fotografiche, it participates in each activity of the association. Officine Fotografiche is a school and the bookshop is integral to its functioning. The choice of location in Milan was dictated by the need of an exhibition space. In Milan there is a library where members can order the books they wish to purchase and benefit from a discount. The café bookshop, B.strO’f, is located in Rome. The clients are mainly members, they benefit from discounts and B.strO’f’s ideal location. All the students who attend courses at Officine Fotografiche can either read or buy every kind of photography book. Students are the main clients, whilst non-members tend to visit when there are special events.
B.strO’f is a space where people can talk about photography, share their thoughts and ideas about their current projects, look for suggestions and pointers on how to reach their goals. Officine Fotografiche and the bookshop provide what they are looking for: meetings, free seminars, working groups and lessons with practical workshops. With exhibitions, there are often tours that provide the opportunity to meet the photographers, so visitors can ask questi
ons and converse with professional photographers. Book talks are ideal events to broaden the horizon of customers and members. «We love to create exchanges and debates. For us this is the perfect way to enable the diffusion of visual culture and culture in general» comments Mariella Boccadoro.
B.strO’f organizes many events for members, some are also open to the general public. The artistic directors, Emilio D’Itri in Rome and Chiara Oggioni Tiepolo in Milan, organize the exhibitions. Mariella Boccadoro organizes book talks based on her personal interest or following suggestions and exchanges with colleagues and friends. Everyone works together, listening to each other and keeping their minds open to new possibilities. Each event that B.strO’f organizes has a special meaning, as the artistic directors focus on topics that interest them the most, decisions are linked to either a personal preference or a group choice.
Mariella describes the process of choosing magazines to stock in the bookshop, focusing on the ‘different facets of photography’: «It is a subjective choice. One can find many magazines with amazing images but no text and a magazine has to be broad, open to different themes, places, times and genres. If a magazine doesn’t have this broad outlook and is not supported by a good quality text, then it becomes a photo album, it doesn’t stimulate a discussion. It becomes impossible to decode without the author and for me it loses its value. I look for magazines that make me think and I choose them based on this criteria».
The publishing world has changed enormously in the last few years. The new generation of photographers has started to publish their projects using mainly independent publishing houses or even self-publishing. So photographers can also become publishing houses. The pros and cons are easy to imagine: large publishing houses have in their catalogues famous photographers, retrospective publications and the classic works of photography. You can only find out about new photographers through independent publishing houses. In order to keep the bookshop and the library representative of this reality, B.strO’f has had to expand their list of suppliers. So now, besides stocking large national and international publishing houses, they also stock a selection of self-published books and independent publishing houses. Mariella adds, «in the future there will be an even greater influence of web publishing and traditional publishing houses will have to find new formulas to produce photography books».
Via Giuseppe Libetta, 1