Great Independent Art and Photography Bookshops Around the UK and Ireland

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ArtwordsImage courtesy of Artwords

To celebrate Independent Bookshop Week, we rounded up the best art and photography bookstores to visit across the UK – from Reference Point in London to Burning House Books in Glasgow

Claire de Rouen Books, 260 Globe Rd, Bethnal Green, London, E2 0JD

Founded by the late Claire de Rouen in 2005 as a specialist fashion and photography bookshop, Claire de Rouen Books was formerly located above a sex shop on Soho’s Charing Cross road. Now under the directorship of Lucy Kumara Moore and Lilly Markaki, this week, the cult bookshop has just opened the doors to its new space on Globe Road in Bethnal Green. With a lush selection of prints on sale by photographers including Jet Swan, Lewis Ronald and poet Barby Asante, Claire de Rouen Books is especially interested in desire, the female intellect and authenticity in photography. Sustainability will be at the core of the new space, with minimal waste practices and partnerships with Tekla and Haeckels.

The Photographers’ Gallery Bookshop, 16-18 Ramillies St, London, W1F 7LW

Located in the basement of The Photographers’ Gallery in Soho – the UK’s foremost museum dedicated to the medium – is a cavernous, specialist shop selling books, journals, zines and magazines on art, photography, theory, cultural studies and design – and even analogue cameras, with a range of over 150 different types of film. Titles by more emerging photographers like Nadine Ijewere and Ethan James Green are nestled in amongst those created by industry legends, like Nigel Shafran and Judith Joy Ross.

Idea Books, London (online) or at Dover Street Market, 18-22 Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4DG

Branded “the coolest publisher in the world”, Idea Books crashed the scene in 2009 when founders, Angela Hill and David Owens, opened their first space at the front of London’s Saint Martin’s Lane Hotel. Dealing with both vintage and new photo books and magazines, from Nadia Lee Cohen to Willy Vanderperre, their archive boasts some of the coolest and collectable pieces of print around. They’ve even started merch, and occupy spaces in Dover Street Market London, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo. You can read the founders’ interview with AnOther here

Reference Point, 2 Arundel St, Temple, London, WC2R 3DA

Reference Point is a library, bookshop and bar in 180 The Strand specialising in post-war radical art, architecture, design, fashion and culture. The reference library offers an opportunity to research and browse through thousands of rare and inaccessible works of visual literature and printed matter, while the bookstore combines hyper-curated new editions with esoteric first editions, scarce, beautiful art books and shelves of critical theory. In the evening, the bar opens and the space is programmed four nights a week with DJs, live music, book launches, chess nights and spoken word evenings.

Koenig Books at The Serpentine South Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London, W2 3XA and Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High St, London, E1 7QX

Europe’s leading independent bookshop – Koenig Books – stocks a selection of titles you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere. With two locations – in the leafy setting of the Serpentine South Gallery in Hyde Park, or in Whitechapel Gallery in east London – Koenig Books features a thoughtful, wide-ranging array of titles on modern and contemporary art, photography, architecture and art theory.

The Library Project, 4 Temple Bar Street, Dublin, D02 YK53

Set over two storeys, The Library Project exists in the heart of Dublin’s city centre. First conceived as a photography festival to celebrate the beauty and talent of Ireland’s image-makers, it snowballed across the years to include a shop and resource library which stocks artworks from the likes of Luis Alberto Rodriguez and David Farrell, and photo books from Nigel Shafran to Eamonn Doyle. 

Donlon Books, 75 Broadway Market, London, E8 4PH

Donlon Books is an independent bookshop and publisher located on Broadway Market in London Fields. An intimate, blue-walled space filled with rare titles, periodicals and printed matter, the shop reflects its founder Conor Donlon’s acclaimed taste in the realms of photography, art, critical theory, LGBTQ+ literature, music, fashion, counterculture and erotica. The shop hosts a regular programme of book launches, readings and screenings from the likes of Wolfgang Tillmans, Olivia Laing, Charlie Porter and Viviane Sassen.

ICA Bookstore, Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, St. James's, London, SW1Y 5AH

Located inside the Institute of Contemporary Arts on the Mall – a legendary arts space that has supported radical art and culture in London for over half a century – the ICA Bookstore specialises in publications with a focus on art, design, writing and cultural studies. The ICA Artists’ Editions series has seen the gallery create limited-edition prints with artists including Penny Goring, Jenny Holzer and Alasdair McLellan, while the bookshop’s wide-ranging free events encompass everything from poetry, music, writing and book design.

Knot Bookshop, Glasgow (online)

Operating exclusively through Instagram, Knot Bookshop is a Glasgow-based online shop selling rare magazines, ephemera and books on photography and contemporary art. Books by the likes of Harmony Korine, Nobuyoshi Araki and Harley Weir are curated alongside Japanese movie pamphlets and old, sought-after issues of magazines like Fran Burns’ Print Publication and Dutch Magazine.

Burning House Books, 446 Cathcart Rd, Glasgow, G42 7BZ

Founded by Aimee Bea Ballinger in 2016, Burning House Books seeks to promote books with a focus on art, experimental writing, counterculture and queer history. Named after the burning house depicted in many of David Wojnarowicz’s paintings – Ballinger found the inspiration for her bookshop after reading the late American artist’s searing memoir, Close to the Knives – the shop stocks experimental novels, magazines, and art and photography books. Ballinger also runs a popular book club through Patreon, and sends out a thought-provoking monthly newsletter about capitalism, sex, politics, writing, art, personal history, and books.

Village, 10-12 Thorntons Arcade, Leeds, LS1 6LQ

Filled with an extensive selection of self-published and small press zines from artists and photographers around the world, Village is a hotbed for emerging image-makers. Located in Leeds (Village has another outpost in Manchester), the bookshop and gallery stocks contemporary art, design, fashion and photography publications – as well as hosting regular exhibitions, book launches and artists talks.

Ripe, Barras Market, Moncur St, Glasgow, G40 2SB

Inspire by her love of the flea markets in Paris, Linda McIntosh opened Ripe in Glasgow in the city’s famous Barras market in 2019. With a focus on fashion magazines and photo books, Ripe stocks titles by acclaimed image-makers like Dash Snow, Vinca Petersen and Ewen Spencer.

Climax Books, London (online)

Founded over lockdown in 2020 by Isabella Burley, Climax Books has a focus on hard-to-find ephemera, periodicals, erotica, VHS tapes, anthologies and books on art, photography and counterculture that have often been overlooked. With an eclectic mix of rare art and photography books by Yayoi Kusama, Cindy Sherman, Nobuyoshi Araki and Sofia Coppola (alongside work by emerging talents like Liv Liberg and Somaya Critchlow), the website is also a treasure trove for creative referencing and research. Burley has a strong history of working with visual artists (she was formerly editor-in-chief of Dazed, and is currently creative editor of Acne Studios).

Artwords Bookshop, 20-22 Broadway Market, London, E8 4QJ (lead image)

Established in 2001, Artwords Bookshop in east London specialises in books on contemporary visual arts and visual culture, with titles on fashion, graphic design, architecture, photography, fine art and visual & critical theory; they also stock an extensive collection of fashion magazines.

November Books, 7 Cecil Court, London, WC2N 4EZ

Paul Lawrence worked for a fashion house before founding the independent online and instore bookshop, November Books. Primarily consisting of photography books and magazines with a gritty fashion leaning, including collectables by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Pater Sato, their Instagram curates a dense and beautiful archive of their stock, and acts a digital celebration of the joys of print. Appointments can be made to their space in Covent Garden via November Books’ website.

Tenderbooks, 6 Cecil Court, London, WC2N 4HE

Tucked away on Cecil Court in Covent Garden (nicknamed Booksellers’ Row since the 1930s), Tenderbooks is a space for independent publishing founded by Tamsin Clark. Specialising in a selection of both new and out-of-print books on art, design and photography, niche fashion magazines and printed matter, the bookshop hosts a programme of regular events including book signings and art installations. They are currently running TenderChats, a series of 30-minute conversations on Instagram TV, where Dal Chodha interviews figures working in the realm of printed matter.

Peste {AD England}, 70 Oldham Rd, New Cross, Manchester, M4 5EB

Described as an “old, local impiety shop wisened for browsing”, Peste {AD England} in Manchester sells books, records and art. Opened by Helenskià Collett in 2021, the space stocks titles on Carolee Schneemann and Francis Bacon, while hosting regular Q&As and music evenings with writers, artists and musicians.