Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

BOOKEND: Photobook Melbourne — what a read?

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Photobook Melbourne: Peter Lyssiotis looking at an Aperture Books


We all know that feeling when you are really getting into a book, its narrative and flow, and then you reach the point where, as the last page is turned, you wish it could go on, and on… Photobook Melbourne (PM) was something of that kind of experience. The books seen, perhaps around 300, the exhibitions seen, and the people met now all vividly reside in memory and digital capture code.


The Photobook Melbourne event took place between February 12 to 22 it was coordinated by Heidi Romano and Daniel Boetker-Smith. It was always an ambitious undertaking. Its vision was to connect international photobook world with makers and lovers of the book from around Australia… and New Zealand. This was achieved through numerous exhibitions, library displays, photobook awards, forums and workshops.

Daniel Boetker-Smith + Heidi Romano PHOTO: Lauren Dunn www.artdocumentation.com.au

Daniel Boetker-Smith + Heidi Romano PHOTO: Courtesy of Lauren Dunn www.artdocumentation.com.au


Photobook Melbourne can only be described as a massive success. The photobook community of practice needs events like these so they can band together to affirm their interest and belief in the importance and creative power of the photobook. For once, the world of photobooks has come to us, or at least Melbourne, and for that we are a stronger and more informed cohort of makers, readers, collectors and lovers of photobooks.


Some of the attendees have responded to a request for comments – others are posts from Blogs and Facebook posts…


FROM JACOB RAUPACH: Photobook Melbourne was an amazing week full of a genuinely insightful mix of talks, exhibitions and book exhibitions, with the fair during the first weekend proving to be a great networking point for the rest of the week that followed. …  I felt that the inaugural festival set an amazing benchmark for the following years! Looking forward to 2016.

FROM HARVEY BENGE‘s BLOG: On a zero to ten scale I’d give the festival a ten!  Visit his site for more commentaries about photobook

FROM CHRIS BOWES: For someone naïve to the world of photobooks, Photobook Melbourne was an eye opening experience. Although coming in as a virtual outsider to this rapidly expanding art scene, I sank my teeth into as many of the talks, exhibitions and book collections I could manage, and came away a lot more informed than I was going in. Personal favourites were the Paris Photo – Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards exhibition, where the content of the books was engaging and the calibre unmatched, and ‘The Other Photobook Forum’, where in particular Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison showed that with a little creativity and business sense one can make a buck and do what they love.

FROM LIBBY JEFFERYMomento Pro: The number of participants, visitors, books and buyers at Photobook Melbourne were fantastic and they confirmed that small press and self publishing is alive and well in Australia. The Awards and Book Fair also proved that a selection of high standard work is being created here, but a collaborative promotion and showcase of Australian photo books to the global market would benefit everyone.

FROM: ANGEL LUIS GONZALEZ FERNANDEZ  Facebook Comment     Back in Dublin after an amazing first edition of PHOTOBOOK MELBOURNE, having discovered tons of new work and books from Australia, New Zealand, and more -and having met a truckload of awesome people.

FROM KELVIN SKEWES: As someone that attended almost all of the events that were part of Photobook Melbourne I can only describe it as a tour de force for lovers of the Photobook. The festival opened on February 12th at the Centre for Contemporary Photography with Robert Zhao Renhui’s exhibition

A Guide To The Flora And Fauna Of The World and with a smoking ceremony by the traditional owners to welcome the festival to their land. Also announced on the opening night was the Australian Photobook of the year which was won by Raphaela Rosella for her unpublished book ‘We Met a Little Early But I Get to Love You Longer’ and I was humbled to be the runner up with my newspaper as photobook ‘Nauru: What was taken and what was given’. …

The main event for the first weekend of the festival was the Photobook Melbourne Book fair at CCP an event at was full of frenetic energy and far too many photobooks to browse let alone buy; amongst the many booksellers highlights included the infatigable Perimeter book with titles from Mack and Spector books and Anita Totha from Remote books who is doing to sterling job promoting photobooks from New Zealand. …

 Great thanks are due to the entire Photobook Melbourne team so thank you Heidi Romeo, Daniel Boetker-Smith, esteemed guests Ángel Luis González Fernández, Ron Jude and the Dysturb Photo Collective, festival partners and sponsors Momento Pro, Photography Studies College, Copyright Agency and venues CCP, MGA, Strange Neighbour, Colour Factory, Neo Space, Baron Said and James Makin Gallery and to all the volunteers without whom this could not have happened so thanks to Felix Wilson, Kate Robinson, Bella Capezio, Katrin Koenning and countless others.

See you next year!





Our arrival on the first weekend was delayed by my recent medical incursion so we fly into Melbourne on Wednesday. Through a friend we were able to stay in an apartment right in the middle of the city and our journeys out and about were by tram, train and lifts given by friends.


The MGA - The Home of Australian Photography

The MGA – The Home of Australian Photography

THURSDAY: We attended two book related exhibitions at the Monash Gallery of Art. Badged as the ‘Home of Australian Photography’ the gallery presented two photobook exhibitions, one of images from the collection that featured the theme of books and reading and was entitled ‘Light Reading’. The other was The Natural Collection an assemblage of books by The Photobook Club’s Matt Johnston and co-curated by Lucy Johnson. The Natural Collection brings together photobooks that explore “the harmony, tension and play” that occurs in the human relationship with nature and the natural landscape.

Heidi, Steph and Vicky discussing a book

Heidi, Steph and Vicky discussing a book

The exhibition space was setup for readers to sit and work their way through a most interesting selection of Euro/American centric responses to the theme. Grand trade books sat next to simple fold ‘n’ staple zine-like booklets. We were there with Heidi Romano, Simone Rosenbauer from Sydney and MGA Gallery’s Education and Public Programs officer Stephanie Richter. We engaged in a spirited debate about book design; production methods and how to evaluate books.

That evening we attend a dinner for PM speakers, contributors, supporters and sponsors. By this stage it was acknowledged that the PM had been an enormous success so congratulatory statements were announced and a great feeling of an Australian photobook community being well and truly launched by this event.

Bohemian Vicky+Doug

Bohemian Vicky+Doug

Bohemian Melbourne portrait wall

Bohemian Melbourne portrait wall

Bohemian Melbourne

Bohemian Melbourne

FRIDAY MORNING: A breakfast of avocado, bacon and relish was partaken at a suburban street café while being interviewed by Australian Photography contributor Anthony McKee for a feature on photobooks. Morning tea with Robert Heather and Des Cowley at the State Library of Victoria and a visit to the SLV exhibition Bohemian Melbourne – a fascinating reflection on the creative, musical and arty sub-culture of Melbourne. Rennie Ellis’ photos contributed much to this history as well as poster art, paintings and the ephemera and memorabilia of the different eras represented by the theme.


The Library Project @ PSC

The Library Project @ PSC

FRIDAY AFTERNOON: We visited Photography Studies College to view ‘The Library Project’, a collection of photobooks brought to PM by Ángel Luis González Fernández from PhotoIreland. ‘The Library Project’ aim is to collect contemporary publications based on photography to create a public resource library. We viewed many books that are not easily available to see in Australia including Cristina de Middel’s Afronauts.


The 'OTHER' Photobook Forum – a question from the floor

The ‘OTHER’ Photobook Forum – a question from the floor

FRIDAY EVENING: Later that evening we were involved with The ‘OTHER’ Photobook Forum – Artists’ Books, Zinesters and the Photobook took place. We have been working on this project for a couple of months now and we were able to bring together key practitioners from these ‘other’ photobook disciplines who discussed and provided commentary on their use of the photo in the book. The participants included photomonteur Peter Lyssiotis, zinesters Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, artists’ book maker Dr Lyn Ashby, Des Cowley from the State Library of Victoria and Victoria Cooper who stood in for Georgia Hutchison who was unable to attend due to extenuating family issues.

It was an event that stirred much interest with artists like Deanna Hitti and Theo Strasser attending as well as Momento Pros’ Libby Jeffery, and photobook makers Kelvin Skewes, Daniel Boetker-Smith and Chris Bowes.


Jacob Raupach @ CCP

Jacob Raupach @ CCP

Aperture Books on display @ The Baron Said

Aperture Books on display @ The Baron Said

SATURDAY: A day to attend artists talks at the Centre for Creative Photography by, amongst others photobookmaker Jacob Raupach and the exhibition FELL – Bought a copy of his latest book WEALTH. Following up with visits to the Momento Pro Australian Photo Book of the Year Award at the Asia Pacific Photobook Archive and the Aperture Photobook exhibition @ The Baron Said and a stimulating lunch with Peter and Tess Lyssiotis @Babkah.

Lunch with Tess + Peter

Lunch with Tess + Peter

Photobooked-out we headed back to the city by tram and had a chance meeting with Lismore artist and Siganto Artists Book Fellow Jan Davis who was attending a Print Council meeting – Only in Melbourne could strange intersections like that could happen.


SATURDAY EVENING: Melbourne White Night event

450,000 Melbournians took over the streets of the CBD – everything stayed open and performances and projections, bands and music were everywhere. Amongst other things we went to see the projections in the Dome at the State Library of Victoria at 10.30 at night – queued in line for 30 minutes with 1000s of others what a night…!



A day of traveling home to cyclone weather drenched Brisbane.




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