In the spirit of continuing our support of the print medium this June, we thought we’d switch ‘In Residence’ up a bit and ask a small business we love to do a residency at Paramount by The Office Space. Enter BIG EGO Books. BIG EGO is a specialty bookshop whose stock list encompasses both the rare and the emerging in print media, but is ultimately composed of beloved print editions collected by founders Emily Hunt and Raquel Caballero. Herewith, Emily provides some up close and personal insights into their business.
Tell us about BIG EGO Books. When did you start and why?
We officially launched BIG EGO Books in September 2015 at the first Sydney Art Book Fair (organised by Art Space and Printed Matter, New York). It had been over a year in the making – us discussing how we wanted BIG EGO to operate, gathering stock, building our website and promoting through Instagram. We started BIG EGO because we’d had over 20 years combined bookshop experience and because we’re totally obsessed with books. We had this dream to open a bookshop which we were all set to do. We even looked into shops for rent. Of course we quickly realised that a physical bookshop would be impossible to sustain in Sydney, what with ridiculously high rent and all. At the same time, we were following some international booksellers who were very successful selling online and noticed there wasn’t anything like this in Sydney, so we thought why not do it ourselves?
What inspired BIG EGO? Was it a love of books?
Most definitely. We wouldn’t be doing this unless we loved books so much. We have a rule that we won’t sell any book we’re not personally into. We want BIG EGO to be like our dream bookshop, the kind where you start hyperventilating because you want to buy every single book!
What’s so special about BIG EGO’s books? Is it their uniqueness, rarity, content etc.?
Every BIG EGO Book has been hand-picked by us and most of our titles are one-offs, or very rare, or just plain hard-to-find. Years of bookshop experience and hunting bookshops and markets has honed our senses for finding gold. Sometimes we feel like we may be ahead of the Zeitgeist with some of our choices For example, we have some pretty incredible books on mural art from the 70s which we know is going to make a big comeback, but when? Maybe two years from now when we’ve moved on to other interests!
What do you think of the print medium? Is it a dying art form?
No, print will never die. One of the most irritating questions we get asked is ‘but aren’t books dead?’ Obviously the people that ask this question are people with no taste or foresight. Physical bookshops may (sadly) be dying, but there will always be books and there will always be print. If anything, books will just become more specialized, so we’ll see more interesting and innovative print materials. We have nothing against kindles or e-readers, we only wish they’d live up to their potential (i.e. stop printing the latest best sellers, Lonely Planet guides and text books and have them strictly in e-reader format. Enough garbage!)
Why do you think it’s so important to support print?
Because print is ideas; it is art and it is personal. And such creativity should be fostered because it’s what keeps the wheels of culture moving. Even if you look at something and think ‘What the hell is this? I don’t understand it.’ That at least is the beginning of a conversation. Anyone can make a zine or a photobook these days – you don’t even need that much money for a small print run and there are so many independent publishers that will support you. But they need to be supported too. We hate when people say there’s nothing happening, that no-one is doing anything. Look around! Go on Instagram, follow booksellers and small publishers, go to their openings, support their fundraisers, make your own books, sell them at fairs! There is so much happening but people think there isn’t because it’s not being served to them on a silver platter.
We invited Big Ego to choose their current 10 favorite books (from within their collection) and install them in our Paramount office space for the month (you’ll find them on coffee tables in the foyer, on the kitchen shelf, at reception, and one or two gems in the magazine rack). Here’s what they chose:
- Beyond Metabolism –
A superb, sought-after survey of post-metabolic developments in Japanese high tech architecture circa late 70’s. $120
- Let There Be Neon –
This is the ultimate book on the history, creation and sculpture of neon. $70
- Tempest in a Teapot –
Peter Shire’s teapots were an important element in the development of the Milan design movement, Memphis, in the early 1980’s. $100
- The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller –
The first complete presentation of the life and work of the architect, engineer, mathematician and inventor-designer, Buckminster Fuller. $150
- Archigram –
A very hard-to-find and important title on the British avant-garde pop-architecture and design group, Archigram. Experimental in the extreme. $550
- Worlds in a Small Room –
On assignment for Vogue in the 50s and 60s, Penn travelled the world as an “ambulant studio photographer,” renting storage buildings and barns, converting them into daylight studios. Every set was the traditional-style portrait photographer’s studio; its neutral backdrop allowing Irving Penn to remove his subjects from their “natural circumstances” and all the noise of the outside world. $250
- Cat People –
Cat lovers will rejoice and feel great affinity with the cat owners, nay, obsessives in this book (including Robert Indiana, Roberta Flack, Liz Smith and Susie Frankfurt) as they relate anecdotes and opinions about the majestic feline, totally self-aware of the nuttiness that overcomes you when you come into possession of a cat. $65
- American Denim –
A celebration of the craft of Denim Art in all it’s airbrushed, patchwork, bedazzled, embroidered glory, American Denim is more than a collectable book – it’s a CULT reference book. $90
- A Summer’s Day –
A spectacularly beautiful book by one of our most favourite photographers, Joel Meyerowitz, A Summer’s Day is a photobook about the glorious feeling of summer. $90
- Fashion and Surrealism –
A must-have reference for fashion, art and design students interested in costume as wearable art. It contains fantastic photos with a detailed history of the Surrealist movement’s influence on fashion. $90
All books are available for sale, please see reception for further details. Find the BIG EGO Bookstand at Alaska Projects (in the Kings Cross Car park), Saturdays and Sundays, 1-5PM or by appointment, as well as on Alaska opening nights.
BIG EGO will also be guest presenting Welcome To The Dollhouse at Golden Age Cinema on Wednesday July 15th.
For more information visit: