Björn Almqvist for Dokument Press
Up magazine, photo cover
Classic Hits, Cover by Alan Fleisher & Paul Iovino
Postscards from NYC Cover by Martha Cooper
Shirt Kings, cover by Edwin Phade Sacasa and Alan Ket
Dishu: Ground Calligraphy in China by François Chastanet
Concrete Messages Cover by Zia Krohn & Joyce Lagerweij
Cholo Writing: Latino Gang Graffiti in Los Angeles Cover by François Chastanet
Street Art London, Cover, by Frank Steam156 Malt
Dokument&Martha_Cooper" From left to right: Jacob Kimwall, Björn Almqvist, Malcolm Jacobson, Tobias Barenthin Lindblad, Martha Cooper, Per Englund, Torkel Sjöstrand, Andreas Nejström. Outside Dokument Press' office. From 2007 when Martha was here, working on her book Tag Town. Photo: Paola Langdal
Björn Almqvist in Gothenburg, In front of piece by Nate, 2013. Photo: Lena Nielsen
Independent publishing is born out a passion for print, a love of images and text that demands complete commitment. It is born from a need to tell the untold, to honor the legacy of lives lived by sharing them with the world. Book publishing is a calling, a mission unto itself, an opportunity to spread love for the culture from which we come.
Dokument Press was founded by Malcolm Jacobson in 2000 when he released his book, They Call Us Vandals: Swedish Graffiti. But Jacobson began his publishing career back in 1992, when he partnered with Jacob Kimvall and Tobias Barenthin Lindblad on the famed graffiti magazine, Underground Productions (UP). When Jacobson expanded into books, Björn Almqvist and Torkel Sjöstrand joined the company to handle the publishing program. Dokument has released nearly fifty titles, as well 45 issues of UP, establishing itself as one of the foremost independent publishers of street culture and style around the world today with books by Charlie Ahearn, Martha Cooper, and Alan Ket.
As Björn Almqvist, publisher and senior editor, explains, “Our mission is to publish books that we love, about things that we love. We believe that many of the books that we publish wouldn't exist if it wasn't for Dokument Press, and maybe they makes the world a slightly better place…well, at least for us, they do. To present ideas and phenomena, and make them accessible all over the world is kind of magic. It is also a statement; our culture is important and needs to be taken seriously. If there is a common reference for the body of work that we publish, other than art and street culture, I would say it is tolerance; tolerance for culture and expressions that isn't the mainstream.”
Dokument is all of these things and more; it is a repository for one of the most transient and uncommodifiable forms of art: the writing on the wall. Graffiti, which has become both a bane to the system and a voice of the people, is a form of expression that defies the establishment at every turn. It is practiced and documented by true believers, by those who believe freedom of expression superior to laws protecting private property. It is through publishing that graffiti has spread across the globe, most powerfully through the photographs themselves, photographs that long outlive the original itself.
Be it books showcasing graffiti on the barrier between Israel and Palestine in the West Bank, the Latino gang graffiti of Los Angeles, or the earliest days of New York City subway graffiti, Dokument is committed to preserving the art in its many forms, as it adapts to the needs of each respective community, becoming an expression of style, art, and cultural iconography.
Almqvist notes, “I think that graffiti and street art are among the most interesting forms of cultural expressions today. And we still have so many aspects of it to explore. We are interested in people who have been dedicated to their art for years and live it every day, or stories about specific cultural phenomena that involves many different participants. Mainly I think a good story should be entertaining, inspiring and educational.”
He continues, “A book can be many things and have many purposes but they are all small little objects who holds their own worlds within their covers, just waiting to get explored. You can read it fast or take your time and reflect, go back to it and discover new things again and again. What makes the book so special is that it's knowledge in a physical way, something that you can actually hold in your hands. The way the book is done also affects your perception of the content. The binding, the cover, the thickness of the paper used and the smell. The book gives an opportunity to think and reflect and represents a counterbalance to our times exaggerated speed and flow of information. It's a piece of art in itself and together with the content it forms the final outcome.”
With new books coming out this season including Street Art: London, Dishu: Ground Calligraphy in China, and the Shirt Kings, who pioneered Hip Hop fashion as they moved aerosol off the walls and on to the garments, Dokument continues to recognize the leaders of a culture that is receiving its due as one of the foremost art movements of our time.