I was recently shortlisted for a Creative Fellowship at the National Library of Australia. Even though I was not successful in receiving the fellowship, this level of recognition for my project is very exciting. For a long time I have been dreaming about a project in which I can unleash the bunyip from its exile within the contemporary narrative of children’s books. Muzzled by anthropomorphism, this chimera of the dark swampy corners of Australia may seem to be docile and quaint, but I believe there is still a sublime wildness within–waiting to surface…..
This was my proposal for the National Library of Australia’s Creative Fellowship
The bunyip was once a feared monster of Australian waterways and swamps. In this project I ask: Where is this chimera of Indigenous and early colonial storytelling and myth to be found in contemporary life? Has this fearsome spirit been tamed through parody or clichéd as the mythical swamp creature found only in children’s storybooks or travel brochures?
Perhaps as Henry Rankine, of the Ngarrindjeri tribe in South Australia, proposes in Robert Holden’s 2001 book ‘Bunyips, Australia’s Folklore of Fear’:
‘So the Bunyip (the Mulgewongk) he is still in our Dreamings. He is still there today, just like we have fast jets in the sky, we still have got that fellow in the river’.
Through the opportunity provided by the Creative Fellowship, I had hoped to build upon preliminary research highlighted in my PhD[i] by engaging with the National Library’s substantial collection of material on the bunyip. I had intended to build a visual and textual resource to underpin my development of an alternative concept of the bunyip.
Ultimately this work would form the basis of creative visual narratives that are intended to challenge, re-imagine and re-establish a sense of wonder and respect for this arcane, sublime phenomenon.
The Project Continues:
Strongly guided by the contemporary theory of Solastalgia[ii], both Doug and I plan to continue this research as an integral part of our individual and collaborative practice. Our Nocturne Projects and many bookworks are created in response to the current issues of living with this transforming human/nature relationship.
Glenn Albrecht , Gina-Maree Sartore, Linda Connor, Nick Higginbotham, Sonia Freeman, Brian Kelly, Helen Stain, Anne Tonna, Georgia Pollard Australasian Psychiatry Vol. 15, Iss. sup1, 2007
It’s not everyday that you wander into an art gallery bookshop and you stumble across a book with your work in it…! A favourite gallery bookshop for me is the QAGOMA bookshops in Brisbane – it’s always worth spending a little time there to see the latest books, to do a little in-store pre-reading, and to check out the ‘Specials’ table where the unaffordable book often becomes affordable.
The other day I’d escaped from some research work at the State Library of Queensland by walking through the preparations in QAGOMA for the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial to drop by the gallery bookshop. I held and flicked through a few books when a large volume entitled Poetics of Light with a big white reduced price label – $99.95 to $59.95. The title seemed familiar to me – then I saw the sub-title Contemporary Pinhole Photography, ‘yes, I remember that’, I thought to myself.
I flicked a few pages at the front of the book and one of my pinhole/zoneplate photos … a few pages on there was one of Vicky’s … I kept turning pages and I witnessed a compendium of amazing lensless imagery …
The last couple of years for us have been full of life-changing experiences and dealing with the issues of the moment, my being made redundant at TAFE and the subsequent time spent job searching, selling our house, lecture and writing commitments and amazing house-sit opportunities for friends – I’d completely lost track of this book and the exhibition that it compliments.
The Poetics of Life exhibition and book celebrates the donation of the pre-eminent Pinhole Resource Collection to the New Mexico History Museum (NMHM). The Pinhole Resource was founded by Eric Renner in 1984 and became the world’s centre for all things pinhole. Through personal research, workshops, networking and publishing Renner led the resurgence in pinhole photography, its techniques, images and its discourse. In 1989 Renner was joined by Nancy Spencer as a co-director of Pinhole Resource and co-editor of the Pinhole Resource journal.
Over the years Renner and Spencer amassed a unique collection of pinhole and camera obscura images, cameras both old and contemporary and texts, books and references about the art and practice of pinhole photography. Much of this material was donated by practitioners as a way of contributing to the ‘Resource’.
The Pinhole Resource Collection became part of the permanent collection of the Photo Archives of the New Mexico History Museum in 2012. This research archive is has the largest collection of pinhole photography and paraphernalia in the world with over 6,000 photographs, cameras, documents and books, as well as an entire run of Pinhole Journal. The NMHM has a website with images available to be searched by author’s/artist’s name, and also includes education resources and a blog.
So what is it about the pinhole image – why would anyone want to make photographs with a lens-less camera…? Renner and Spencer, in the book comment that: ‘describing the mystery of pinhole images is difficult, the concepts of soul, depth, yearning, timelessness, and archetypal feeling all contribute to the kind of visual reality produced, one perhaps only seen in a dreamlike state.’
We both felt privileged to have been selected for this book and exhibition and felt excitement at the opportunity to be recognised for our long practice in this worldwide movement.
Whilst much of our contemporary work centres on the camera obscura each year we participate in the yearly World Pinhole Day in late April – SEE our 2015-submission post HERE.
In the late 1990s I (Doug Spowart) was to state that: “pinholing creates images by simplicity, there is no techno-pretence; the images speak as murmurings, incantations of nostalgia, of mystique and memory; they are incisive and nebulous simultaneously; the process is an enigma.”
My pinhole (zoneplate) image from the Poetic of Light exhibition and book was taken at The Sentinel at Mt Buffalo using a modified 4×5 Graflex camera. In 1999 ILFORD featured the image in a PROPHOTO Magazine feature on my work. A story about the image is featured on our old website HERE
In a statement about the body of work, The Rocks of Ages, Victoria Cooper discusses her view that image is a result of the connection of technology, process, photographer and subject in the space/time of pinhole photography.
“These images formed part of an ongoing documentation of my corporeal and psychological experiences with the land. They were created using an ancient imaging device, the Pinhole, and analogue photographic materials. Each handcrafted image was then selectively toned to identify with memories other than the eidetic captured within the film. This process is slow and considered – the subject’s light remains on the photographic paper as not a direct document but rather as a visual exegesis of a time and place.”
What follows is a selection of pinhole images made by Cooper+Spowart
Other pinhole works by Vicky from film boxes and other cameras …
Doug’s pinhole/zoneplate work from the 1990s
From 2000-2008 we converted our Toyota Tarago into a travelling camera obscura and completed a transcontinental crossing from Adelaide to Darwin in what we called our CarCamera Obscura. Here is a small selection of work from this project…
VIEW A DIGITAL MEDIA PRESENTATION OF CARCAMERA IMAGES
In a time where digital photography has impacted upon old analogue technologies we saw digital as just another opportunity to explore. When we were loaned a Fuji S1 Pro camera in the later part of 2000 we fitted a pinhole and made images…
There are still more challenges … photography has some more to give, and, be discovered …
Oh!! And I bought the book too …
All images (except the NMHM exhibition instalation) © Doug Spowart and Victoria Cooper
A day at Baldessin Press Studio: The State Library of Victoria’s Creative Fellowships
On September 27 a special event took place at the Baldessin Press Studio , St Andrews just northeast of Melbourne. The studio was built by George Baldessin who was a charismatic figure in the history of Australian art, especially in Melbourne in the 1970s. He had a brilliant career as a sculptor and printmaker, and was already considered an important figure in the history of Australian art at the time of his tragic accidental death in 1978 at the age of 39. The studio is situated in a bushland setting and is accompanied by a house and several buildings built by Baldessin and his wife Tess assisted by others including the Hails brothers.*
Baldessin’s passing put activity in the studio on hold for some years until Tess returned in 2001. Since then she has worked to re-ignite the creative potential of the place in George’s memory so that artists may continue to create in this special place and perpetuate his generous spirit.
Part of the program of the Press includes the State Library of Victoria’s The Baldessin Press Studio Residency that gives one of the SLV’s Creative Fellowship recipients working in any field the opportunity to create a body of work. The Residency may include accommodation, printmaking tuition, living expenses and some materials. The recipient will also have the opportunity to participate in a ‘Bon a Tirer’ event during the year to present their project to the Library, public, partners and other supporters. Artist Rick Amor generously supports the Baldessin Press Studio Residency.
The 2015 Residency recipient was leading Victorian artist William Kelly a former Fulbright Fellow and Dean of the Victorian College of the Arts from 1975–82. His SLV research project dealt with Australian visual artists practicing between World War I and today, whose works have been informed by their beliefs about war and peace. His intention was to create an ‘accordion’ artist’s book – literally an unfolding story – that celebrated and connected the work of these artists*. In a comment about the body of creative work made as a result of the Baldessin Press Studio Residency Kelly was to say:
I have a profound belief that we can make this world be a better place but I don’t delude myself that it will, in any way, be easy. Art can play a part in this and artists can contribute to the larger debates about our future. I’ve been quoted as saying, “a painting will never stop a bullet but a painting (print, photograph, novel…) can stop a bullet from being fired”. These works, the “Baldessin Press Folio: Not in My Name” and the artist book “Fellow Travellers: An Unfolding Story” are testament to my belief in the power of the image. The first “Not in My Name” has images that refer to the ideas of courage, loss, innocence and unequivocally taking a stand.
The second “Fellow Travellers…” is something of a tribute to those Australian artists, writers, filmmakers who, over the past 100 years (from WW1 to today) have publicly stood by their beliefs. It references many significant artist/activists from Noel Counihan to Arthur Boyd to those who took a stance against the Transfield Sculpture exhibition (as a result of Transfield’s role in detention centres). Those who are on this journey are, for me, ‘fellow travellers’ and as this list is nowhere near complete and increasing numbers of artists are becoming known for their position on peace, human rights, reconciliation and social justice it is an “unfolding story”.
VIDEO: William Kelly discusses his Baldessin Press Studio Residency works
At the event the 2016 Baldessin Press Studio Residency recipient was announced. The recipient is Nicola Stairmand who works as an independent heritage consultant, curator and designer, combining her skills to research and interpret places of significance. She is currently employed at TarraWarra Museum of Art, where she assists with research and exhibition design.*
Stairmand’s project will seek to describe everyday life at Coranderrk Aboriginal Station, established in 1863 and closed in 1924, contributing to a greater understanding of its history. Using the State Library’s photographic and documentary collections, Nicola will research and produce a series of illustrative maps supported by images and descriptions.*
The formal proceedings took place on a bright and sunny spring afternoon with a kind of conviviality and informality that occurs when friends and community gather to share and celebrate important events. George Baldessin would certainly approve of this SLV Creative Fellowship and the part the press plays in bringing about new work.
The Baldessin Press Studio Team
Click on their names to go to the Baldessin Press Studio Biogs…
Tess Edwards (Baldessin)
Deanna Hitti (Baldessin’s master printer)
All photographs and video ©2015 Doug Spowart.
*Some texts paraphrased from SLV & Baldessin Press Studio websites. William Kelly artworks and text ©2015 William Kelly.
Roger Skinner is a prolific image maker, artist, photobook maker and poet. Skinner has won many of Australia art photography awards yet he also pursued an interest in the camera club movement. Celebrating 50 years of his photography Roger has compiled a weighty book divided into the subject themes that he chose to explore. Earlier this year he spoke with me about his self-published folly – 500 books, over 300 pages of colour and black and white photographs, every page a picture with consideration for the double page pairings. He also asked me to write a foreword to the book. In September Roger visited the printers in Canberra, picked up the proofs and brought them around to our house-sit in Queanbeyan with his print coordinator and brother Ian. What a moment to witness as the table before us was covered with the uncut pages of the book … A few suggestions and some corrections were made – then the presses rolled.
For many years Roger was a director of the ‘Contemporary Group’ in Australian Photographic Society. Although he resigned his membership of the Society many years ago he was invited back to the APSCON convention at Tweed Heads to launch the book and make a presentation about self-publishing. As the proverbial ‘prodigal son’ Roger gave the 100 or so attendees the back story to his life in photography from the first photograph to those made relatively recently. He alluded to the complexities of self-publishing and the anxiety associated with committing to a personally funded book project in the many thousands of dollars. However his presentation was not intended to dissuade others from considering making their own books, but rather the realities of such an undertaking.
Towards the end of Roger’s lecture he asked me to come forward and officially launch the book. As I stood before this APSCON audience I was reminded of my first experience as a presenter in 1977 as a young budding photographer. Then, as now, the audience contained some of my mentors and heroes. These included Bill Smit gave me my first experience of a properly setup darkroom and printing techniques. And Graham Burstow, the Toowoomba photographer who inspired me in the late 1960s, and who is still as lively as ever with a new show just opened at the Gold Coast City Art Gallery. Like Roger my APS membership has now lapsed – I first joined in 1967 – perhaps I digress.
I spoke of Roger’s A Life in Light book as being a brave venture. Of how all photographers have libraries and that they learn principally from the books of others. I told them about the great variety of Roger’s work: was he a pictorialist? A photodocumentist? An abstractionist or a poet with a lens…? It gave me great pleasure to launch the book and I encouraged those present to support Roger, and their interest in photography to buy a book that very day … many did.
If you have an interest in seeing a collection of inspirational work created over 50 years then A Life in Light may be an ideal book to have in your library – to purchase:
Book $40.00 each
Postage and packing in Australia $13.40
Email address is email@example.com
Direct Deposits to Newcastle Permanent BSB 650 000 Acct No 915531504
SOME SAMPLE PAGES FROM BOOK
HERE IS MY FOREWORD TO THE BOOK ‘A LIFE IN LIGHT’ by ROGER SKINNER
The life and work of the regional artist
I have known Roger Skinner for over 30years and I can say that in the art of photography, he is a regional artist who cares little for his farawayness from the city. Spending a lifetime devoted to the camera and its image Skinner has pursued a range of activities in the camera club movement, professional photography associations and the photomedia art scene. Although he has an interest in the photograph as a historical document, Skinner’s practice also includes investigations into the nude, landscape, light painting, the self-image and environmental portraiture. His work has been extensively exhibited in solo and group shows, he has won numerous awards in every field of photographic endeavour, and his work is held in major private and public collections.
Not only is Roger Skinner the consummate artist, he is an organiser, facilitator and committee member. He is a builder and champion of networks that provide opportunities for others. Many will know him for his coordination of the Muswellbrook Art Photography Prize, an award won by major Australian photographers and judged by elite Australian curators, critics and commentators of the art. As a conference presenter, teacher and mentor, he has inspired and enthused many to extend their photography activities. For some time he was Education Officer at the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Gallery, and has also served as the Director of the Contemporary Group of the Australian Photographic Society.
But has the remoteness of his practice affected recognition for his own work? Apart from significant urban artists who have taken to living fashionably in the country after they have achieved their fame – how many regional artists have well deserved recognition in this country? Not many … not many. Recognition or not Roger Skinner just gets on with making his art and pursuing his other activities.
The regional space, people and their stories have revealed themselves to Skinner. His eclectic visual style exudes a kind of poetic response to the subject and life. Roger Skinner’s photographs tell us not only something of his interest and his eye for the world, but also how these photographs can touch with our experience of life and tell us something about ourselves.
Proximity has located Skinner in regional New South Wales, and despite a modicum of national infiltration of his work, this isolation may have served him well. However one could ponder the broader recognition and opportunities for his work had he lived in the creative networked proximity of a big city. Perhaps the extensive body of work presented in this book may enable a repositioning of his work within a pantheon of significant Australian photographers.
Dr Doug Spowart
Co-Founder – Centre for Regional Arts Practice
IMAGES OF THE BOOK FOLLOW…
All texts and photographs except that by Victoria Cooper ©Doug Spowart
A survey project about those who read photobooks
My Favourite Photobook – Brisbane World Photobook Day
World Photobook Day (WPBD) in Brisbane Australia at Brisbane’s Maud Creative Gallery was celebrated with a survey project highlighting photographers and their photobooks curated by Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart.
The international WPBD team chose this day in recognition of the British Library’s the acquisition of Anna Atkins’ British Algae: Cyanotype impressions on October 14 in 1843. Atkins’ cyanotype book is arguably considered as the world’s first photobook as both image and text are printed simultaneously printed on the same page. It was some time before the photograph and text could be co-printed, so books that included photographic illustrations, were usually printed with text by letterpress processes and photographs ‘tipped-in’ as original prints. WPBD activities are supported through the PhotoBook Club, a worldwide network of groups interesting in photobooks.
The Cooper+Spowart survey asked photographers to submit a photograph of themselves reading their favourite photobook and comment on why they like their chosen book. Sixty-five photographers responded to the request. Working on tight timelines Cooper and Spowart printed the photographer’s submissions including: their self-portraits while reading, their chosen book and a comment about why they had chosen the book. This work was presented for viewing on the gallery wall.
The event was also attended by photographica collector and historian Sandy Barrie who presented a selection of photographically illustrated books from the 19th century. These books include the 1846 Art Union journal that contained an essay by Henry Fox Talbot and an original calotype print.
Early in the evening a ‘fly-through’ video was made of the installation with some guests present.
In the evening around 35 photobook enthusiasts attended a forum with panellists including Dr Heather Faulkner documentary transmedia practitioner and lecturer at the Queensland College of Art (Gold Coast), Chris Bowes artist and bookmaker, Julie Ann Sutton documentary photographer and collector, Helen Cole Senior Librarian and Coordinator of the Australian Library of Art at the State Library of Queensland, and Henri van Noordenberg artist and bookmaker. The forum was convened by Doug Spowart who in a Q&A format led discussion and a range of photobook issues including:
- Collecting books
- Possession and ownership
- Borrowing and loaning of books
- Adding bookplates and marginalia to books
- Letting children handle books
- The future of photobooks
The last poignant comment came from Heather Faulkner when speaking of the future printed book. In her statement she referred to the recent changes to privacy laws giving government agencies access and scrutiny over all of our online metadata. Faulkner’s prediction is that the physical book, as it has been in the past, will be the place for personal and provocative commentary on contemporary life and politics.
Cooper+Spowart wish to acknowledge the following supporters of this project:
- The creative from Maud Gallery: Irena Prikryl, Teri Ducheck and Peter Pescell – videographer;
- Matt Johnston – The Photobook Club;
- Tony Holden and Ilford for the inkjet printing paper;
- Sandy Barrie;
- The forum panelists – Heather, Chris, Julie Ann, Helen and Henri;
- The installation team Maureen Trainor, Rene Thalmann, Mel Brackstone and Daniel Groneberg;
- And, of course, all the participants.
To celebrate the Brisbane WPBD event BLURB Australia has offered a discount voucher for participants in the Brisbane event. The code and conditions are: WPBD2015, expires 30 November 2015. Must pay with Australian dollars. Maximum discount per book is AUD$150. Each customer can use the code 1 time.
SEE a few of the photographers and their favourite books in this download:
DOWNLOAD A PDF SELECTION: WPBD-Selected_Submissions
THE PROJECT WILL CONTINUE… Stay tuned.
The 67 participating photographers and their books were:
Peter Adams: Passage – Irving Penn
Melissa Anderson: Shooting Back – Jim Hubbard
Ying Ang: Sabine – Jacob Aue Sobol
Sandy Barrie: Art Union Journal, 1 June 1846 – Henry Fox Talbot essay
Chris Bowes: Tokyo Compression – Michael Wolf
Isaac Brown: Ray’s a Laugh – Richard Billingham
Harvey Benge: Blumen – Collier Schorr’s book
Camilla Birkeland: Mike and Doug Starn – Andy Grundberg
Daniel Boetker-Smith: In Flagrante – Chris Killip
Mel Brackstone: Melbourne and Me (a work in progress) – Adrian Donoghue
Helen Cole: Booked – Peter Lyssiotis
Victoria Cooper: Domesday Book – Peter Kennard
Michael Coyne: Workers -Sebastião Salgado
Judith Crispin: da Sud a Nord (from South to North) – Sabine Korth
Sean Davey: William Eggleston Paris
Jacqui Dean: Peter Adams – A Few of the Legends
John Elliott: Richard Avedon Portraits
Dawne Fahey: Julia Margaret Cameron – Marta Weiss
Heather Faulkner: The Notion of Family – La Toya Ruby Frazier
Liss Fenwick: Outland – Roger Ballen
Juno Gemes: Nothing Personal – Richard Avedon and text by James Baldwin
Kate Golding: Fig. – Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin
Philip Gostelow: Thank You – Robert Frank
Robert Gray: Max Yavno
Daniel Groneberg: Los Alamos – William Eggleston
Sam Harris: Café Lehmitz – Anders Petersen
Tony Hewitt: 50 Landscapes – Charlie Waite
Douglas Holleley: Man and His Symbols – Carl Jung
Kelly Hussey-Smith: On the Sixth Day – Alessandra Sanguinette
Libby Jeffery: Inferno – James Nachtwey
Matt Johnston: Touch – Peter Dekens
Larissa Leclair: Moisés – Mariela Sancari
Louis Lim: Blind – Sophie Calle
James McArdle: Love on the left bank – Ed van der Elsken
Paul McNamara: The Terrible Boredom of Paradise – Derek Henderson
Henri van Noordenberg: Cinci Lei – Joost Vandebrug
Gael Newton: By the sea – CR White
Glen O’Malley: A Modern Photography Annual 1974
Thomas Oliver: Common Sense – Martin Parr
Maurice Ortega: The Apollo Prophecies – Kahn and Selesnick
Adele Outteridge: Pompeii – Amedeo Maiuri
Polixeni Papapetrou: Diane Arbus
Martin Parr: Bye, Bye Photography – Daido Moriyama
Gael Phillips: Arcadia Britannica, A Modern British Folklore Portrait – Henry Bourne
Louis Porter: Looking Forward to Being Attacked – Lieutenant Jim Bullard
Imogen Prus: The Whale’s Eyelash, A Play in Five Parts – Timothy Prus
Jack Picone: Exiles – Josef Koudelka
Ian Poole: White Play – Takuya Tsukahara
Irena Prikryl: Cyclops – Albert Watson
Susan Purdy: nagi no hira, fragments of calm – Suda Issei
Jan Ramsay: AraName – Bir Ara Güler Kitabi
Jacob Raupach: The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater – Ralph Eugene Meatyard
Felicity Rea: Pandanus – Victoria Cooper
Mark Shoeman: Me We, Love Humanity and Us
Roger Skinner: Third Continent – Self-published
Doug Spowart: The Research Library, National Gallery of Australia
Tim Steele: The Earth From The Air – Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Alison Stieven Taylor: Strange Friends – Bojan Brecelj
Julie Ann Sutton: Katherine Avenue – Larry Sultan
Maureen Trainor: Sequences – Duane Michals
Garry Trinh: Period of Juvenile Prosperity – Mike Brodie
Ann Vardanega: Loretta Lux
George Voulgaropoulos: A shimmer of possibility – Paul Graham
Marshall Weber: Street Our Street – Dana Smith & Marshall Weber
David A Williams: Avedon Fashion
Konrad Winkler: Emmet Gowin the new Aperture book
Simon Woolf: F Lennard Casbolt Retrospective Exhibition Catalogue
All photographs and texts remain the copyright of the submitting photographers.
Well, we visited the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair on September 12 — Well, what can I say … perhaps photos can tell it better …
SYDNEY CONTEMPORARY FACTS:
A five-day fair with 90 galleries
$14 million in art sales
The fair was held in Sydney’s Carriageworks exhibition space
From Wednesday 9 to Sunday 12 September, was the centrepiece of Art Week in Sydney
Was attended by 30,000 people.
FOR MORE INFORMATION – ABC ONLINE REPORT: Sydney Contemporary art fair records $14m in sales as art market booms
Well, until next time … two years from now…
All photographs ©2015 Doug Spowart
I attended Volume: Another Art Book Fair in Sydney on the weekend of September 11+13, 2015. The event was a collaboration between Artspace, Perimeter Books and the American artists’ book not-for-profit book shop Printed Matter. Packed into the Artspace building in Woolloomooloo were around 100 ‘Art Book’ makers, publishers and sellers all vying for the attention of potential purchasers. The table holders had spread before them all things book – let’s not try and get into discussions around what an ‘art book’ is, but rather celebrate the range of published products from thin stapled zines and comics, to self-pub photobooks, artists’ books and gallery catalogues, and further to trade-styled ‘fine art’ books and livre d’artiste productions.
Some of the Volume Art Book Fair table participants included:
Bloom Publishing: Lloyd Stubbers + Jay Dymock
Selling books to interested collectors and lovers of books is one thing but as is the case with the emergent trend in self-pub everyone wants to have their own book. To cater to this growing group of keen makers the program included many free forums, workshops and lectures by a variety of key makers and commentators on various aspects of the disciplines of writing and self-publishing (self-pub).
As my interest is in topics related to photobooks I attended two sessions: Why Publish and Designing Photobooks. The why-pub panel consisted of Helen Frajman (m.33), Daniel Boetker-Smith (Asia-Pacific Photobook Library), Brad Haylock, Jack Harries and Geordie Cargill and Shannon Michael Cane from Printed Matter. Attendees, of which there were around 30, heard discussions relating to the usual issues of publishing, getting a designer, edition numbers, marketing, selling and getting your work into the right hands including the international market. Brad Haylock suggested the key themes for photobooks were:
- Technologies and organizational forms
- Social relations
- Institutional and administrative arrangements
- Production and labor processes
- Relations to nature
- The reproduction of daily life and the species
- Mental conceptions of the world
Ultimately the overall message seemed to be ‘Give it a go’!
Associate Professor Christopher Stewart from University of Technology Sydney chaired the Designing for Photobook panel. Each speaker showed examples of their work and discussed design concerns associated with their books. Heidi Romano from Unlessyouwill spoke of her history in design, her passion for the photobook and her experience of the international world of book design. She cited her interest in advancing Australian photobook design as being a driver for her establishment of Photobook Melbourne. Esther Teichmann, and artist from the UK discussed her exhibition work and the challenge of bringing wall-work into the space of the book as well as her experiences, not always pleasant ones, with book designers. Tom Evangeledis, Black Eye Gallery described his interest in encouraging exhibitors at his gallery to consider a book to support the exhibition but also to enhance the opportunity for the artist’s work to be extended beyond the exhibition dates. Chloe Ferres, probably kept the most on track with the topic of book design by presenting a range of works that in some ways subvert the idea of the book being a vessel to hold photographs that express a narrative – she considers the book structure as also important to the narrative and uses a range of design interventions to disrupt the preciousness that many photographers seem to consider important when they make books.
Christopher Stewart posed questions to the panelists to draw out aspects of the topic but when asked if there were questions from the floor Daniel Boetker-Smith asked about how we can make photobooks that are more about the ‘fetish’ of the book – ‘some books all look the same – I’m interested in all kinds of books. A young photographer in Myanmar stapling a bunch of photographs together to make a book is just as important to me as some “coffee table tome”!’ An attendee agreed and responded that books often look the same as they as designed from a dummy where all decisions about the book are considered at the beginning and immutable – whereas another less formal method is the development of a book in a process where opportunities for review and discovery are made along the way allowing the book to be like a collaborator with the artist…
While some attendees attended these lecture sessions others were busy making books. The print-on-demand company BLURB offered bookmaking workshops over the weekend led by photobook self-publisher Garry Trinh. Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive presented a selection of their books at the event and founder Daniel Boetker-Smith and Bella Capezio led photobook-making sessions as well.
The biggest book-making venture over the weekend was a special project coordinated by Onestar Press who, with Artspace and other supporters including Surry Hills Print & Design Konica-Minolta, design students from University of New South Wales – Art &Design. The project, entitled ‘Book Machine’, brought together a designer with a ‘content provider’ (artist or photographer), and over the course of 3.5 hours the two work together to design a book. Overnight the book was printed and made available to its collaborative participants.
Late on Sunday afternoon the Artspace coordinators drew together a distinguished panel of erudite book critics and commentators including Brianna Munting – NAVA, Simon Barney Artist, Alexie Glass-Kantor – Executive Director Artspace, Maddalena Quarta – One Star Press, Bella Capezio – Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive, Philip Keir – publisher and artists’ book collector and Nicholas Tsoutas – Curator and Art management executive. A crowd gathered to hear this discussion and celebrate this unusual project.
Towards the end of the day on Sunday I rushed around to catch up with people that I still hadn’t spoken with and books not yet seen. I felt something of the heightened energy levels with which these table holders had been operating in the preceding days. Did they sell enough books…? Did they make contacts with people who will do future business with them or provide content for future books…? Did they get a chance to check out what everyone else was doing…? Did they get to do a Book Machine project…? Buy a pie at Harry’s Cafe de Wheels or take-in the harbor, the Finger Wharf and the view of naval ships at Garden Island.
Volume: Another Art Book Fair was a major undertaking for the visionaries who conceived it and then brought it into fruition. There were so many activities, add-on events, presentations and booksellers and books available for artbookophiles in which to luxuriate. There was a real sense of community created in this art book fair that can only advance the disciplines associated with it. One thing is for certain, at least for me, is that I know I have just attended one of the most significant art book fairs to be held in this country to date. When, and where the next one will be is something we’ll await with much anticipation…
14 September 2015