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Siganto Research Fellow Victoria Cooper

Siganto Research Fellow Victoria Cooper


Vicky has recently posted a her latest paper about her research on the State Library of Qld’s Blog. This latest post comments on the montage and is illustrated by some interesting books from the SLQ’s Artists’ Book Collection.

Read on or visit the post here: http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/ala/2016/05/27/reading-montages-perceptions-dilemmas-edges-and-resolution/


Reading Montages: perceptions, dilemmas, edges and resolution.

Nomenclature Dilemma: Collage or Montage

In this third blog post I will share the dilemmas of encountering the blurred boundaries associated with the lexicon of these art forms, for example: What is the difference between collage and montage? Does it matter? Are there different “readings” of collage vs montage images that have been reproduced by mechanical or digital means for both wall art, or as encountered in my research, book forms? I will present an Occam’s Razor resolution arising from the considerations that inform my research to provide a path through the complexity of these issues.

Responding to terminology dilemma:

As I progress through the research I am continually confronted with terminology issues and questions regarding the nature of montage and its intersection with collage. The dilemma is with me as a kind of Sisyphean cycle where, after climbing the mountain of wondrous diversity in the Australian Library of Art artists’ book collection; I am drawn back down by the weighty issues of inconsistent terminology.

Many artists, who cut, arrange and glue disparate and/or mixed media elements refer to their work as collage or for computer made images, digital collage.  This should be the end of the debate as the etymology of collage is the French word ‘to glue’. But there are others who cut and piece together disparate elements and ‘glue’ and then fuse them within the image and refer to their process as montage (or digital montage for computer images). Also interesting to note is that the origin of the word montage is a French word meaning ‘to mount’.  Is there a need to differentiate between these similar practices? Does terminology affect the ‘reading’ of these works? In my art practice I refer to myself as a montage maker, thinker and reader and as such I bring my own perspective to reading visual narratives.

Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, who prefer to be known as paper artists, make collage works. Their unique state artists’ books and democratic multiples in the form of zines and editions of artists’ books have a place within this discussion.
Haby and Jennison responded to my email question regarding the nature of the digital work in their book, ‘And we stood alone in the silent night’, where they state that: ‘Digital collages are made in chorus with unique state pieces. They are all a means of making, with the ‘how’ of lesser interest to us than the ‘why’ or ‘message’.

In their statement above they suggest that the means of the making is secondary to the final work. Even when the collage has been digitally scanned and then printed it remains, for them, a collage.

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

The book, ‘And we stood alone in the silent night’, presents the reader with an enchanted narrative through the composition of images and poetic texts across the pages. Underpinning the reading is the smooth and seamless joins of the elements creating a surreal landscape with a theatre of colourful inhabitants. The compositional elements draw the reader into a kind of Alice in Wonderland experience of reading: where the fused elements are arranged in a mise en page; and the turning page emulates the scenes of a paper movie (i) . The small size text comes through the reading as a poetic aside to underscore the scene.

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

‘And we stood alone in the silent night’

Haby and Jennison’s careful cutting and pasting of added elements over or alongside the original image distinguish their broader collage work.  Again, in these works the silent edges between these interventions and the original image provide uninterrupted reading. Importantly as this transition or interval between the elements goes unnoticed the added element ultimately colonize the interior space and time of the original image.

So far in my research, I have not found many artists that tear and roughly cut their elements intentionally leaving these edges in the final montage for the reader to interpret. One example however is Lorelei Clark’s work, ‘Brisbane: River City‘.

Although the elements are fused by digital

reproduction, their roughly torn or cut edges seem to separate the elements so that the reading is disturbed much like a jump-cut (ii)  edit in a film.

'Brisbane: River City'

‘Brisbane: River City’

The elements combined in this way demand separate attention and focus on individual parts of the narrative or issue presented. As the source material may have been glossy magazines or pictorial publications, these edges could represent a critique or even an attack on social issues that affect the human condition. In many ways the reading is unsettling, rather like the political montages of Peter Lyssiotis, they shout back at the reader.

'The very first book of fish'

‘The very first book of fish’

Another example of the rough cut collage can be found in Jack Oudyn’s Book of Fish series of small books, where the original collage or paste-up can be seen in the ALA collection along with the small zine like productions. Rather than attached to the surface, the reproduction of these collages fuses the elements into the page and transforms the reading of the text and images. In these little books, the elements are submerged within the narrative and seem to float around like the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life.

Jack Oudyn 'The very first book of fish'.

Jack Oudyn ‘The very first book of fish’.

My resolve:

For the purpose of this research, I have decided to take account of how the artist defines their work as stated in the Library catalogue. As a researcher I am reliant on the information supplied by the artist, either in the form of an artist’s statement or catalogue information. This information allows a deep engagement with the work that ultimately enriches the reading experience for the researcher. Many may consider that too much information may reduce the potential for the book to be reimagined, but for readers like myself there are many ‘readings’ of an artists’ book.  As social scientist, Pierre Bourdieu suggests that an artwork is:

‘in fact made not twice, but hundreds of times, thousands of times by all those who have an interest in it, who find a material or symbolic profit in reading it, classifying it, decoding it, commenting on it, reproducing it, criticizing  it, combating it, knowing it, possessing it.’ (iii)

As mentioned earlier in this blog I refer to my work as montage, and align my methodology and inspiration with that of film and the pioneers of montage and page design from the early 20th century. In this research I have found similarities in the ‘reading’ of collages that have been either created or reproduced through mechanical or digital processes with the images created as montages. As I strive to engage with the many new ways of reading that each artist presents, any background information can take me into new spaces and places, each time I read the same book.

So rather than questioning the terminology, either a collage or montage, I am more informed by the way elements are grafted or combined; their arrangement on the page; the typography and page design. When the elements such as type, photographs, painting, drawing, found objects etc have been fused within the space of the page of the book by photomechanical, digital or another printmaking process, I will read these as a montage. As such, in the research I will consider the following:

•    whether I am seduced by nature of the smooth transition and the interval between elements is subliminal or if the torn edge focuses my attention;
•    whether the adjacency of the elements is disturbing or attacking my attempts to flow smoothly;
•    whether the transition has been digitally achieved or by hand if the information is available.

The nature of the edges of the combined visual elements within the composition is a profound aspect to reading these visual books. So rather than questioning the terminology, whether a collage or montage, I will continue in my ‘montage readings’ informed by the narratives contained within and between grafted edges.


Victoria Cooper


PART 2 of this research series can be viewed here https://wotwedid.com/2016/03/19/victorias-slq-blog-post-montage-research/


i. Lou Stoumen is the author of visual books including ‘Can’t Argue With Sunrise: A Paper Movie‘ (1975)
ii. Film makers Jean-Luke Godard and Sergei Eisenstein championed the use of discontinuity devices such as jump cuts in scenes to disrupt the flow of the cinematic narrative and create the illusion of moving through time and space. This was intended to engage the viewer proactively to think about the issues surrounding the scene.
iii. Bourdieu, Pierre. ‘The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field’. Translated by Susan Emanuel. Stanford University Press, 1996. Editions du Seuil 1992. Page 171.





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The photobook continues to capture the imagination of not just photographers but a broader community who enjoy ‘reading’ the visual nature of photostories. Part of the enthusiasm for the photobook lies in the diversity of the discipline from hand-made zines stapled together on the kitchen table to the slick graphic design of commercially printed books. The other major aspect of interest in the photobook is it’s accessibility – anyone can make his or her own book within the diverse range of practice. How then can the best books be acknowledged, rewarded and celebrated?

In Australia there have been awards for photographic books such as the Australian Institute of Professional Photography’s Photography Book of the Year Award, and more recently the Australian Photobook of the Year. This year for the first time, New Zealand photographers were able to enter their own Photobook of the Year Awards and have the ‘best’ books defined by a group of respected photobook judges and commentators on the art. An important contributor in the development of a critical evaluation structure for photobooks in Australia and New Zealand is the ongoing work being done by Australian print-on-demand service provider Momento Pro. Once again Momento Pro teamed up with Heidi Romano of Photobook Melbourne to sponsor and coordinate the Australian award. The creation of a New Zealand photobook award was also sponsored through Momento Pro’s local branch was coordinated with the organisers of this year’s inaugural Photobook New Zealand event in Wellington.

From April 14-22, under the auspices of the Brisbane Photobook Club, I coordinated an exhibition of the award winners and the finalists of both the Australian and the New Zealand Photobook of the Year Awards at Brisbane’s Maud Gallery. A special ‘launch’ event was followed by around a week of potential viewing time for those interested in seeing 26 of the ‘best’ books from our part of the world.

Conscious of the need to provide a ‘reading’ experience rather than the usual gallery ‘viewing’, Vicky and I installed the books within the gallery space on tables with chairs or stools. To highlight the winners, I chose to place these four books on plinths and therefore provide not only a prominent positioning within the space but also to allow a more intimate access the books without the visual ‘clutter’ of other displayed works and their readers.


The tables setup

The tables setup


Around 60 people attended the launch event. It was an unusual gallery experience as attendees found a space at a table, sat down and began reading. Moving on occasionally to the next chair and the selection of books in close proximity. A group of students clustered around certain books discussing quietly amongst themselves the book design and narrative features that interested them. I had intended to present a welcome and a short talk about the books but chose not to as it just seemed that everyone was engrossed in the process of reading. The video made in one part of the evening shows the intensity of the ‘shush — I’m reading’ vibe permeating the gallery.



That evening, and over the following days, I had many conversations with those who had come to see the show. Many attendees enquired about technical production attributes of the books. Some seemed to have been expecting a collection of books that were of a more traditional bookshop nature. Readers noted the diversity of physical forms of the photobook, how the story was communicated and the themes pursued by these successful book award entrants. Most attendees enthusiastically accepted the opportunity to cast their vote for the People’s Choice Award.


ANZ Photobooks of the Year @ Maud Gallery

ANZ Photobooks of the Year @ Maud Gallery


An interesting topic of discussion emerging from conversations with attendees related to the current categories of entry and the characteristics of the selected books. It was noted that the awarded books and finalists from both categories seemed to blur these category perceptions. This is in part because self-publishers may create ‘trade-like’ products and trade publishers may make ‘creative style products’.

Ultimately it comes down to the question ‘Did they like what they saw?’ I would say yes… although some comments related to the seriousness of selected photobooks as they often dealt with austere, conceptual themes or raw documentary – ‘Where are the happy books?’ one reader commented.

Would they come again to another Photobook of the Year showing? I would think they would. Many indicated that they would enter the next awards…

A call for entries in the 2016 Photobook of the Year Awards will be made later in the year


REPORT: Doug Spowart



(Edited from the Awards’ press releases)






The judging panel included representatives from photography, publishing and art institutions, and was co-chaired by international art consultant and curator, Alasdair Foster, and Photobook Melbourne Director, Heidi Romano. The judges assessed the physical books for excellence in photography, layout and design, and the suitability of the format for the book’s theme and purpose, resulting in a selection of 14 finalist books.

The winners were announced at the Photobook Melbourne project space, Southbank, on 25 February. “Australian photographers are continuing to embrace the book format as a means for exploring, documenting and disseminating photography, just as locally created photography books and the artists behind them are being applauded internationally,” stated Foster. “Our finalists prove that a successful photo book does not require a major capital investment or an expensive publicity machine, but it does require a strong and engaging visual narrative in a sophisticated design, as well as genuine relationships within the photo book community.”


Generation AK: The Afghanistan Wars, 1993 - 2012

Generation AK: The Afghanistan Wars, 1993 – 2012 by Stephen Dupont


WinnerGeneration AK: The Afghanistan Wars, 1993 – 2012 by Stephen Dupont, Steidl –

CommendedBelanglo by Warwick Baker, Perimeter Editions, Dan Rule –

CommendedBirdland by Leila Jeffreys, Hachette


+ The Middle of Somewhere by Sam Harris, Ceiba Foto

+ Arc by Zoe Croggon, Perimeter Editions, Asia Pacific Photobook Archive

+ Limits to Growth by James Farley, Currency Editions


Winner – Red Herring by Jordan Madge

SELF-PUBLISHED WINNER – Red Herring by Jordan Madge



WinnerRed Herring by Jordan Madge

CommendedYour love is not safe with me by Ailsa Bowyer –

CommendedLA – NY by Sam Wong and Jack Shelton –


+ By the River by Ian Flanders

+ The Smell of Narenj by Hoda Afshar

+ Magic City #2 by Chloe Ferres

+ The Moon Belongs to Everyone by Stacy Mehrfar

+ STAN by Christian Belgaux and Jack Pam

People’s Choice – The Middle of Somewhere by Sam Harris, Ceiba Foto














The judging panel, chaired by David Cook, a Senior Lecturer in photography at Massey University, Wellington, selected 13 finalist books that presented excellence in photography, layout and design, and whose format complemented the book’s theme and purpose.

“The best works presented a carefully edited selection of images, in an engaging visual narrative, with sophisticated design that didn’t overwhelm the imagery,” stated Cook, “Age and experience weren’t the defining characteristics, it was the skill of visual storytelling and the ability to combine photos with graphics, text and materials to enhance the story told by the images, to create a new artwork in its own right.”


NZPOTY Trade Winner_Purdom

Winner – From Certainty to Doubt by Mark Purdom



Trade Published
WinnerFrom Certainty to Doubt by Mark Purdom, Ramp Press
CommendedCreamy Psychology by Yvonne Todd, Victoria University Press
CommendedVernacular by David Straight, Potton & Burton

New Zealand Photography Collected by Te Papa Press
Karakia by Ben Clement, Sallyann Clement, Bloom Publishing
The Imperial Body by Fiona Amundsen, split/fountain


F.16 G3 20/25/30 by Solomon Mortimer

F.16 G3 20/25/30 by Solomon Mortimer


Self Published
WinnerF.16 G3 20/25/30 by Solomon Mortimer
CommendedCascade by Shelley Jacobson
CommendedThe Inbetween by Georgia Periam

Some kind of life in dying by Shelley Ashford
The Reality Principle by Yvonne Shaw
Waipureku by Conor Findlay
When the sun sets your eyes change colour by Solomon Mortimer & + Zahra Killeen-Chance

People’s Choice Waipureku by Conor Findlay


A PDF Catalogue of the New Zealand Awards is available NZPOTY 2015 Exhibition Brochure



All photographs of books and the individual awards text supplied by Momento Pro.
Photographs @ Maud Gallery and introductory text ©2016 Doug Spowart














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