This, the first publication by photographer Chris Brooks, revives and reimagines his own family’s publishing house, The Brooks Press, some forty years after its closure. Making the publication has taken him on a journey, revisiting not only his family’s history, but exploring a chapter in the wider history of the print industry as it existed in the middle of this very English landscape.
For over ten years Brooks has been returning to his childhood home in Derbyshire to photograph the land and research the story of his family’s printing press, a business which he knew very little about due to the death of his father when he was a teenager.
An imprint founded in 1898 by his great grandfather, F.W. Brooks, The Brooks Press published a wide range of material from travel guides and poetry to books on self-improvement. It finally closed its doors in the early 1970s, having passed from father to son for three generations, winding up just before Brooks was born.
By employing a mixture of exquisitely composed, atmospheric, large format colour portraits and landscapes combined with archival fragments and pages of hand-printed letterpress, Chris Brooks examines the pull of history and the complicated nature of belonging and family. By doing so, he draws our attention to the constantly changing meaning of what it is to be ‘in’ and ‘of’ England.
The Brooks Press of Wirksworth is thus a timely meditation on changing notions of nationhood, identity and the power of place.