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HOW MANY HOPES LIE BURIED HERE MOTHER | Remembering James Carter Irwin

How Many Hopes Lie Buried Here Mother Roelof Bakker Negative Press London 2016

The inscription on the headstone of James Carter Irwin supplied by his mother Jennie Carter Irwin was the inspiration for the title of the photo book HOW MANY HOPES LIE BURIED HERE MOTHER

On Sunday 31 July Roelof Bakker from Negative Press London launched his photo book HOW MANY HOPES LIE BURIED HERE MOTHER at the grave of Canadian soldier James Carter Irwin in Nunhead (All Saints) Cemetery in south London. He delivered a short remembrance speech and laid flowers on James’ grave in the company of close friends.

The photographs in the book show ages on headstones in war cemeteries tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The book is dedicated to James Carter Irwin and his mother Jennie Carter Irwin.

The speech is reproduced here.

Remembering James Carter Irwin, 31 July 2016 – Roelof Bakker

Since 2007 I have been working on a project photographing ages on headstones of fallen soldiers in cemeteries tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I have photographed in cemeteries around Ypres in Belgium, municipal cemeteries in London and in Arnhem/Oosterbeek war cemetery near where I grew up in Holland.

I’ve come to Nunhead cemetery a number of times since 2008 and the first time I was here I noticed the epitaph on James Carter Irwin’s headstone and photographed it. These words kept haunting me over the years as I visited other war cemeteries and I came back several times to photograph this headstone. It slowly dawned on me that the epitaph summed up what my project was about, what I was trying to express.

Once I decided to take these words HOW MANY HOPES LIE BURIED HERE MOTHER as the title of my photo book and project, I wanted to find out more about the person whose gravestone this was and who it was who had supplied the wording for the inscription.

James Carter Irwin was a seventeen year old Canadian bank clerk from Ontario, who lied about his age when he enlisted the army in 1915. He joined the Princes Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in the field on 30 May 2016 near Sanctuary Wood in Ypres and was seriously wounded on 2 June 1916. He was taken to the UK to King George Hospital in Stamford Street, SE1 where he died on this day 100 years ago aged eighteen.

His mother Jennie Carter Irwin, instructed the inscription, asking the question herself, How Many Hope Lie Buried Here? (signed) Mother. We will never know, but I want to remember James and his mother Jennie today as I am now involved with them, they’ve inspired me, and as they’ve both become a part of my project I have dedicated the publication to both of them.

I feel honoured to lay these flowers on James’s grave and to pay tribute to both him and his mother.

Thank you James, thank you Jennie and thank you all for being here today.

HOW MANY HOPES LIE BURIED HERE MOTHER is available from the Negative Press online shop

More information at


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Strong Room at London Art Book Fair 2014 | Whitechapel Gallery

Strong Room is represented by Kaleid Editions at the London Art Book Fair 2014 taking place at the Whitechapel Gallery, London E1 from Friday 26 to Sunday 28 September. More information here London Art Book Fair 2014 Strong Room

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Strong Room in Tokyo as part of F Book Show

Strong Room is included in the F Book Show at 72 Gallery in Tokyo from 26 March to 13 April 2014.

Tokyo Institute of Photography website

F Book Show photobookshow strong room

F Book Show Tokyo

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Strong Room | published 21 January 2014

The next publication by Negative Press London is Strong Room, a collaboration between artists Roelof Bakker and Jane Wildgoose. Strong Room is published is on 21 January 2014 and includes twenty-eight photographs with two essays. More information at

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A negative birthday…

Today is our first birthday and we are feeling remarkably negative about everything in a positive kind of way.

A big thank you to all the writers involved for making Still happen. Many thanks too to the readers, bloggers and shops (particularly Foyles and Tate Modern) for your treasured support.

Exciting times lie ahead as our next print publication Strong Room will be out before the end of the year. More details to follow soon.

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‘Still’ | A collage and slideshow of photographs from the anthology

Actor and fervent reader William Rycroft, posted a concise review of Still on his blog on 3 January 2013, alongside some other books he recommended as essential reading (including Nicholas Royle’s First Novel).

‘The anthology is incredibly diverse, featuring some writers I had heard of and read before like Richard Beard, Nicholas Royle and Evie Wyld. Others were completely new to me and that of course is the joy of an anthology. The pictures are wonderful and each reader is sure to find new voices they will want to keep an eye on.’

It was nice for the photographs (by Roelof Bakker) to get a mention, so Negative Press London are happy to present a collage and slideshow (just click on one of the photographs to activate) of some of the photographs from the book. Enjoy:)





All photographs ©2012 Roelof Bakker


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Story | ‘Mini-Opera for Ernst Mahler’ by Blair Reeve

The third in a series of short-listed stories from the Still/Foyles short story competition is by New Zealander – and Hong Kong resident – Blair Reeve.

Blair says he knew nothing about Mahler when he wrote his story. ‘When I saw the photograph of the piano, the first word that popped into my head was Mahler. I was pleased to discover on Wikipedia that he was in fact a pianist, and had written a never-performed nor published opera for his brother, Ernst – titled Herzog Ernst von Swaben – and there came the impetus for my story, ‘Mini-Opera for Ernst Mahler’.’

For the competition, writers were invited to contribute a new story (maximum 500 words) inspired by the photograph, ‘The Stage (Piano)’ – which was not included in literary art book/anthology Still.

Mini-Opera for Ernst Mahler

The Stage (Piano) by Roelof BakkerGustav unpicked a depressed middle C with a disappointed fingernail. It came unstuck. He tapped it again. A faint thud and stick. The hushed auditorium absorbed the boy’s flat puzzlement. Brother Ernst, currently decomposing in Iglau’s Jewish cemetery, his still-itching, month-old corpse heavily ravaged from the typhus that had starred his torso red, could hear it too – this maladroit pause in the score of his eponymous opera. His wizened skull-face smiled, approving the prank. The rickettsia multiplied feverishly in the mush of his fetid dermis.

Professor Pospisil hovered in the wings. Old though it was, the piano had played well during Gustav’s morning rehearsal. What had gone wrong? Cracked key in the balance rail hole? The felt bushing binding against the front rail pin? An unglued jack flange? Broken hammer shank? Poor fastidious fool, for in fact it was the chip-thin forint Gustav had found that morning, which he had jammed deep between the ivories in posthumous perpetuation of a game that his dying brother had dreamed up on his death bed several weeks earlier.

At the first pass, a giggling Gustav had found the coin in his inkpot and extracted it after staining his fingers a dark blue that would take Mother an hour to scrub off. He responded by fitting the forint inside the cap of Ernst’s medicine flask. Ernst then hid it in the lining of Gustav’s blazer, Gustav in the spine of Ernst’s favourite book, Ernst inside Gustav’s pillow, and so on, every few days, until Ernst finally outwitted Gustav by wedging it beneath the spat of his brother’s left pump from where the future composer had only just retrieved it this morning.

As Gustav delicately danced his hands out of this faked predicament into the second theme, the mediums of light and sound re-jigged their relativities in the eyes and ears of his audience. Everyone, Professor Pospisil included, could see the boy pianist’s cheeks puffing in concentration, his shoulders heaving, his arms pumping, but all that could be heard of ‘Herzog Ernst von Schwaben’ was a sustained silence, a period stop to the boom of heavy notes still echoing among the rafters.

That prolonged mute note, the eerie stillness of Ernst’s sarcophagal home, had expanded like a bubble and encased the performance space inside an abiding emotion. Out of the piano’s gaping mouth, an apparition rose, hovering above the vibrating strings, crescendoing on a wavering stave of love – Ernst Mahler as visible music, an evanescent revelation forever dying through the farewell portal his brother had contrived to seal the ends of their fraternal bond.

BLAIR REEVE was born in 1968 and began writing and performing poetry at the Robbie Burns readings in Dunedin, New Zealand, during the 1990s. Since then, Blair has been a featured poet at events in Tokyo (where he lived from 2001-2007), New York and Hong Kong where he has been living and writing fiction since 2008. His poems have been published in various New Zealand journals as well as in ex-pat publications in Tokyo and at His first short fiction was published in the Asia Literary Review’s 2011 special edition on Japan. Blair is currently enrolled in the City University of Hong Kong’s MFA program.


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Q&A | AJ Ashworth, winner of the Negative Press London/Foyles short story competition

Interview by Roelof Bakker 

AJ Ashworth Negative Press LondonToday is the end of this year’s National Short Story Week, a perfect occasion to post an interview with AJ Ashworth – winner of the Negative Press London/Foyles short story competition and writer of the award-winning short story collection, Somewhere Else, or Even Here (Salt, 2011).

I found your story ‘Piano’ – winner of the Negative Press London/Foyles short story competition – incredibly evocative even though it has less than 500 words. Did you enjoy writing to a word limit?
It was a bit of a challenge as I’ve never written such a short story before. My stories are usually around the 3,000 word mark so having to stick to 500 words was interesting! I usually stop when the story reaches a natural conclusion and when I’ve said what I wanted to say – the same applied with this one.

Where did your inspiration for ‘Piano’ come from?
Most definitely from your photograph – there was no story until I looked at that piano on the stage. I just got the first line in my head and had this idea of someone standing in the wings waiting to go on stage. And instantly I knew it was a woman looking back over her life as she neared the end of it, remembering a childhood event which had happened on that stage – an event which had caused ripples throughout her life.

Did you play the piano as a child? If so, was it a happy, sad or frustrating experience?
I did – for about a year – but there were reasons why I couldn’t continue. I have felt sad about it since, because it’s something I’d really love to be able to do. I just don’t feel as if I have the time to do it now though… maybe one day.

Does music play an important part in your life?
I like music but it doesn’t have as big a role in my life as it used to. And I can’t write or work and have music on in the background – I prefer silence.

When did you start writing?
I’ve written since childhood but have had long periods of time throughout my life where I haven’t written anything at all. I got more serious about writing seven years ago and took some courses, which really helped. It’s a big part of who I am and if I don’t have some kind of writing on the go then I don’t feel right.

Somewhere Else, Or Even Here AJ AshworthWhy short stories?
Because I love them. They’re so concise and precise and are therefore quite a challenge. I like that they only contain the essential, the necessary (or they should do) and that everything – every word, every incident – has to count and contribute to the whole. They’re such a rewarding read too – you get so much for so few words.

What or who inspired you to write?
I’ve always wanted to write but I don’t know where that comes from. There are people who’ve fuelled that fire – people such as Raymond Carver and Woody Allen – but I’ve no idea what the inspiration was, except a love of language and wanting to use that to communicate some feeling or mood.

How do you find combining writing with working full-time (in publishing)? Do you set time aside to write?
It can be difficult, especially if you’re busy in the day job – the last thing you want to do is to start again when you get home. I don’t write every day. I don’t worry about it though. I just trust that I will write when the time is right for me.

What are you working on at the moment?
More short stories and a novel, which I’ve just started.

Any advice to budding writers?
Write for the right reasons (because you love it) and don’t let rejection stop you.

The short story ‘Piano’ is exhibited both in the Gallery and Café at independent bookstore Foyles, 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0EB (until end of November 2012).




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Q&A | Jos Buivenga, type designer

Interview by Roelof Bakker

Jos BuivengaJOS BUIVENGA IS A DUTCH TYPE DESIGNER who is part of a new wave of designers who publish their own typefaces. He runs type foundry Exljbris publishing beautiful typefaces with classic appeal. I discovered Buivenga’s typeface Museo when researching Dutch typefaces for the design of Still. I believe in chance encounters and like the fact that Buivenga studied and lived in Arnhem, where I grew up before I moved to London many years ago. His typeface Museo was used for the design of Still.

Where does your love for typography come from?
It originates from art school in Arnhem, The Netherlands, where people like Fred Smeijers, Martin Majoor and Evert Bloemsma fired up my interest for type design.

Who and what are your influences?
I’m sure I’m influenced by a lot of things and people, but most of them not type-related and therefore hard to pinpoint.

Still, Negative Press London (2012), edited by Roelof Bakker

Headline styled in Museo 500 all caps

Museo has been around since 2008 and was used throughout the design of Still. The moment I styled the word STILL in all caps MUSEO 500, the book cover design seemed to come together. I was looking for a modern typeface that would also express a Modernist/1930s mood. Designers seem to respond to the flexibility and versatility of Museo, what do you think makes it such a versatile multi-functional font?
One part of it being versatile is that it is available also in sans and (full) slab. The other part is more difficult for me to determine. For being flexible and versatile, a typeface (family) has to be able to perform in a lot of circumstances, and that can only happen when in a lot of circumstances people have the feeling – like you did – that it feels a right choice.

What has been the most special use of any of your typefaces?
One memorable highlight for me was that Dell started using slightly customised versions of Museo and Museo Sans for all their communications.

Apart from the book’s title and individual author story titles, the body copy in Still was also set in Museo. Any thoughts on the design of Still and use of type?
The title looks great I think, but I also think I would have preferred Museo Sans for body copy. It runs more economic and it’s easier to read for body copy.

What projects are you involved in right now?
I’m working now on Museo Slab extended Cyrillic together with Russian type designer Irina Smirnova. With Martin Majoor, the designer of Scala & Scala Sans, I’m working on the Questa project – an extended font family that will have a display, a text and a sans variant.



Museo by Jos Buivenga

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‘Still’ on sale at Tate Modern exhibition bookshop

Still available at a special Tate Modern bookshop part of the William Klein and Daido Moriyama exhibition.

Still on sale at Tate

Still available to buy at Tate Modern


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