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CYANOTYPE: Working the ‘blues’ in Greece

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A cyanotype print on rice paper hung out to dry on Skopelos

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The azure blue of the Aegean Sea perfectly matches the prussian blue of the historic process cyanotype. The ancient stories of Ulysses and Jason’s Argonauts lend themselves to the contemporary narratives that can be made through photography and the photobook. In May we sought to explore these creative possibilities through a collaborative workshop coordinated by artist Steph Bolt and Skopelos Works on Paper on the island of Skopelos located in the Sporades north-east of Athens.

 

Six participants worked with us over a two-week program of structured lectures, practical sessions and photo forays to explore the possibilities for image taking and art making on the island. Staying in the main town on the island we worked out of the purpose-built printmaking studio with a view out over rocky headlands, distant islands, blue waters and skies. The studio sits atop of the town next to the remains of a castle with steps and paved pathways leading to the harbour and the Paralia. Tourism is a significant industry for the island however its impact does not destroy a feeling of being within an authentic experience of Greece.

 

The workshops started with breakfast daily at 8.30am with a studio start at 9.00am. By 2.30pm the formal program finished enabling personal exploration of the diverse subject matter available. Everyday participant’s day concluded in the restaurants of the Paralia partaking in the culinary delights of rustic Greek food supported by ouzo, retsina and aspro krasi (white wine). We ate fantastic squid, octopus, anchovies, little fishes, rabbit, goat, traditional foraged foods like the succulent kritima, local cheeses, Skopelos pies and gyros. Some members of the group formed relationships with the restaurateurs and towards the end of each meal extra wine and special desserts were presented as gifts by the host.

At regular intervals in the program Steph and her husband Robin took us on photo adventures: to the ancient graves at Sendoukia for sunrise, the Roman bathhouse ruins of Loutraki, the hillside town of Glossa and the classic white rocky cliffs and beaches of the island. The island is also famous for providing the setting for the Bronson and Streep film, Mama Mia so we visited the famous church on the rock Agios Ioannis. As part of most of these forays we had more opportunities to dine in tavernas, coffee shops and seaside restaurants.

Agios Ioannis

Key to the program was the concept of ‘place-making’, that is making photographs and forming them into themes and photo-essays that told of the personal experience of place by the photographer. The process of the cyanotype was explored employing traditional ‘shadow’ imprint of objects collected from the island to some very experimental work with multiple materials and exposures and double-sided printing. We worked not only with art papers but also with rice paper, various cloth materials event kitchen paper towelling. We had also gathered some special objects like a range Greek laces and linens, local rocks and a diverse range of plant material. Connecting direct photography with the cyanotype process was achieved on-site by the making of enlarged inkjet negatives.

Photobooks were developed at first as mini-book projects that could lead to online projects with MomentoPro software. MomentoPro supported the project by accrediting our program as part of the ‘Club’ services giving the participants 40% discount on their first book and 10% on each of their future books.

A local cat keeps Gail amused while she exposes a cyanotype

The participants were accommodated near the studio at the top of the town – one group had extensive views of the Aegean Sea sunrise with the other group overlooking the town. As mentioned earlier the distance to the shops and restaurants in the harbour required the negotiation of several hundred bespoke steps of local stone and concrete all with their leading edge painted white. The steps meandered past mainly two storied whitewashed houses with ornate doors and grilles. Ancient churches some built with reclaimed stones from other building provided an experience of place that was quite memorable. Coming home from shopping or dinner meant a steep climb up through the paths, sometime dodging motorcycles although many steps are so narrow that even they are footpaths alone. On one early evening return we encountered a church group with candles being led in a song procession with a Greek Orthodox priest leading the way – a memorable moment indeed.

The weather was very changeable requiring some program shuffles, as cyanotypes are direct sun exposures for many minutes. Ah! Today is sunny – we’ll make cyanotypes then… Once participants grasped the technique each took the process in their own directions. Many sophisticated books were made based on other workshop classes in book binding and finishing. Some went BIG making full sheet (55x76cm) cyanotypes.

Morning review

At the beginning of each workday a review of the previous activities was undertaken. The specific needs of each participant could be covered and ideas shared.

On the final day each photographer presented their best work – what an amazing body of work that represented – although within hours each had said their goodbyes and had caught ferries off the island and were flying homeward. We were all jealous of Steph and Robin who have a house in the town and stay there for about half the year. Their knowledge of the island and networking with island people was invaluable for the success of the workshop. Works were shared and a folio set of eight small books were made in multiple so everyone ended up with a memento from each of other individual experiences …

All of us were touched by something special on the island – our photographs and books act as evidence of experience but also a touchstone to relive and share those experiences…

 

Here are some photos of the final presentations…

 

 

Copyright in the text and all photographs are the copyright of Doug Spowart+Victoria Cooper unless otherwise indicated. The copyright of the artworks is held by the artists.

 

 

 

 

 

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TAKING AuNZ PHOTOBOOKS TO THE WORLD – The Vienna Photo Book Festival

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The MomentoPro AuNZ Photobooks of the Year @ VPBF

 

In the Antipodes we think we are far away from the centre of activities in so many areas of human endeavour that we just get on with it – doing it our own way. The field of photobooks is one such area.

Recently I had an opportunity to take photobooks from our part of the world to Europe and present a ‘show ‘n’ tell’ at the Vienna Photo Book Festival in Austria. Before the event I was wondering how our books would be received – would they match the Euro photobook for production values, innovation and story-telling capability? I would soon have my answer…

I presented a lecture on Australian and New Zealand photobooks and spent two days with Victoria Cooper and Lachlan Blair on our book presentation table featuring the finalists and winners of the 2016 MomentoPro Australian and New Zealand Photobooks of the Year Awards (ANZPOTY).

The answer to the question I posed earlier would soon be answered.

In a series of 3 blog posts I will tell the story of three aspects of the Vienna Photo Book Festival (1) the lectures, book and print sales, (2) my lecture and (3) the Vienna Photo Book Reviews.

 

Read on: THERE ARE 3 BLOG POSTS WITH THE DETAILS … links below…

 

The LECTURE

https://wotwedid.com/2017/06/18/the-antipodean-photobook-a-lecture-at-the-vienna-photo-book-festival/

 

The EVENT

https://wotwedid.com/2017/06/18/aunz-photobooks-the-vienna-photo-book-festival/

 

The REVIEW SESSIONS 

https://wotwedid.com/2017/06/18/review-panels-at-the-vienna-photo-book-festival/

 

 

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THE ANTIPODEAN PHOTOBOOK – a lecture at the Vienna Photo Book Festival

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Doug Spowart presenting The Antipodean Photobook at Vienna Photo Book Festival

 

THE LECTURE: THE ANTIPODEAN PHOTOBOOK

My lecture brief was to make an hour-long presentation about the Australian and New Zealand photobook scene. After some thought I organised my lecture content around 4 distinct areas.

 

1. The supporting structures

The contemporary scene was to be included covering both practitioners and the major events in AuNZ that have shaped and contributed to the development of strong network and community of practice. The key events, movers and shakers such as:

  • Photobook Melbourne
  • Photobook New Zealand
  • Unless you will 2017 event and book reviews
  • Melbourne Artbook Fair
  • Sydney’s Volume Another Artbook Fair
  • Zinefairs
  • The Photobook of the Year Awards
  • Bookshops
  • Perimeter Editions
  • m.33
  • T&G
  • Rim Books
  • Remote Photobooks
  • Perimeter
  • Photobook Clubs
  • Asia Pacific Photobook Archive
  • Photobook collections

I commented also on the sources of critical discourse on photobooks in AuNZ.

The role of Libby Jeffery and Geoff Hunt of MomentoPro as patrons and supporters of all things photobook in Australia and New Zealand was acknowledged.

2. Photobook histories of Australia and New Zealand from first examples to 2000

Here are a few slides from the presentation…

 

I was able also to present a discussion on the challenge of commercial book production as against personal work using Wes Stacey as an exemplar.

I also spoke about the informal links that exist between the photobook and artists’ book disciplines.

3. The contemporary scene and a selection of interesting books and makers

Here are a few slides from the presentation…

 

4. Voices from the Antipodean scene

It was important for me that contributors to the photobook discipline in Australia and New Zealand be given an opportunity to provide their personal insights to my presentation.

I sought comments from a range of key contributors and received responses from Libby Jeffery, Daniel Boetker-Smith, Helen Frajman, Harvey Benge, Bruce Connew, Garry Trinh, Sam Harris, Ying Ang, Anith Totha, The 2018 Photo Book Wellington Committee.

Here are a few slides from the presentation…

 

My concluding comment was that AuNZ and the Asia-Pacific regions offer new and refreshing ideas of what a photobook could be and the stories of peoples outside of the usual Euro/Americano scene.

I invited all attendees to visit our table and view the Photobook of the Year finalists and winners and offered, as an additional incentive a copy of the Awards booklet.

My lecture was well attended by festival participants from different parts of Europe including Martin Parr, Photo historian Hans-Michael Koetzle and collectors with an interest in the AuNZ books.

After the lecture Martin Parr and I discussed AuNZ photobooks that he was aware of and commented that in my lecture he had seen many new books. Our conversation continued later that day and he, Gerry Badger, and probably most of those who attended the lecture came to our table to look at the books.

 

Martin Parr at the AuNZ photobook table PHOTO: Lachlan Blair

 

 

SEE ALSO

The EVENT

https://wotwedid.com/2017/06/18/aunz-photobooks-the-vienna-photo-book-festival/

 

The REVIEW SESSIONS 

https://wotwedid.com/2017/06/18/review-panels-at-the-vienna-photo-book-festival/

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AuNZ PHOTOBOOKS @ The Vienna Photo Book Festival

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The exhibition at Brotfabrik Wien

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THE FESTIVAL: LECTURES, ACTIVITIES, OLD+NEW BOOKS & PRINT SALES

(from the ViennaPhotoBookFestival website)

The Artistic Directors, Regina Maria Anzenberger of Anzenberger Gallery and Michael Kollmann of OstLicht Gallery state that:

The ViennaPhotoBookFestival is celebrating its 5th anniversary on the 10th and 11th of June 2017 and to celebrate the medium of the photobook accordingly we have set up an exciting program. In addition to prominent guests like the Magnum legend Bruce Davidson and the creator of The Photobook: A History and Magnum photographer Martin Parr, we are expecting the photo critics Gerry Badger and Hans-Michael Koetzle, the Russian photographer Nikolay Bakharev, archipelago founder Magali Avezou, the chief curator of the Italian center for photography Camera Francesco Zanot, the Danish photographer Krass Clement and the Swiss photographer Rene Groebli, who is celebrating his 90th birthday this year.

Also in 2017 we are following the vision of a modern platform that helps to create networks between publishers, rare photobook dealers, independent publishers, artists and students. In addition, the festival’s international lectures will attract photobook aficionados from all over the world making Vienna a photobook metropolis once again.

 

The AuNZ Photobook of the Year set of books

Early Saturday morning along with 100 other table holders we unpacked and set-up our display. Around us other table holders offered everything from prints to booksellers of new and antiquarian books, student groups and educational institutions from all over Europe. There were special activities including a 10×8 Polaroid portrait and wet plate photography studios.

Our ANZ PBOTY display was positioned next to our Austrian/expat Australian friend Lachlan Blair’s table. Although he had paid for his table to show his beautiful photogram works and prints, Lachlan also shared the table minding duties with us. With his support we all were able to attend lecture events and also checkout other VPBF tables.

The exhibition space with the AuNZ table in the foreground

Lachlan Blair’s photogram print display

The history of the photobook was represented by significant collections and booksellers – I held a copy of Roy DeCarava’s Sweet flypaper of life… Lazlo Moholy-Nagy’s essay in Telehor from 1936 – books by Blossfeldt, Brandt, Van Elsen, Klaus Clement. I held back – a limited budget, though my new friend from Russia Natalia had an amazing handmade book by Julia Borissova that I had to buy, other books were bought and some were swapped – one of these was Surveillance by Valentyn Odnoviun which featured the circular observation peep-holes from Gestapo, STASI and KGB prisons – a most chilling yet remarkable book, this work was inspired by his father’s incarceration for 3 years on false charges.

Classic photobooks

Valentyn Odnoviun with his book ‘Surveillance’

Martin Parr was interviewed by Verena Kaspar-Eisert at the opening event – the room was full. Parr was the complete mischievous interviewee as Verena teased out some interesting facts and comments from this ‘Photobook Rock Star’.

Martin Parr being interviewed by Verena Kaspar-Eisert

Sunday continued the frantic pace – lectures, including one by Bruce Davidson, another by Nikolay Bakharev and Klaus Clement interviewed by Gerry Badger.

Krass Clement being interviewed by Gerry Badger

As the hours wore down there was a frantic activity to see other tables and catch up with as much as one could handle. MomentoPro had also sent along with the books around 30 of the little catalogues and these became gifts to selected viewers of our books… these included collectors, teachers serious photobook makers and others from the photo press and of course Anzenberger, Badger and Parr.

We received many statements from viewers complimenting the quality of our books some even saying that the work was better than the general European scene. In response to people wanting to buy ANZ books we suggested direct connection with the photographers websites, bookshops and online stores in ANZ. One collector came to us on Sunday and excitedly exclaimed that he had been in contact with a NZ photographer and had bought the book…! Katrin Koenning+ Sarker Protick’s Astres Noirs APOTY winner could have been sold many time over as it’s 1st edition is ‘sold out’ and is now a rarity – luckily the Anzenberger Bookshop had copies of the 2nd edition.

Gerry Badger with Sonia Lenzi at the AuNZ table

Martin Parr at the AuNZ table

In the final minutes of the 2016 VPBF all table holders packed up their displays of books and prints leaving behind a vacant space that had once held so many books, their stories and those who make or care for them. We left the building, said our goodbyes, repacked suitcases with new books and a couple of hours later Lachlan took us to Vienna airport to catch our flight home.

Regina Maria Anzenberger and Doug Spowart

It’s now the middle of the plane flight somewhere over the Black Sea – about 1.35am. I’m still pumped and excited to have been able to have made this foray into the European photobook scene. I also want to acknowledge the support of Regina Marie Anzenberger and Michael Kollmann from Vienna Photobook Festival, Libby Jeffery and Rony Wilson of MomentoPro, Lachlan Blair and my partner Victoria Cooper,

For many people in the northern hemisphere Australia and New Zealand will be known not just as an interesting travel destination but rather a place where a dynamic photobook network of practitioners exists making great books….

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What follows is a selection of images from the event…

 

SEE ALSO:

 

The LECTURE

https://wotwedid.com/2017/06/18/the-antipodean-photobook-a-lecture-at-the-vienna-photo-book-festival/

 

The REVIEW SESSIONS 

https://wotwedid.com/2017/06/18/review-panels-at-the-vienna-photo-book-festival/

 

REVIEW PANELS at the Vienna Photo Book Festival

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Vienna Photo Book Festival logo

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THE REVIEW PANELS AT THE VIENNA PHOTO BOOK FESTIVAL

(From the website)

 

Publishers, gallery owners, curators, critics and collectors representing small, mid-sized, and major venues from all over Europe, will gather in Vienna to review unpublished photo books. 30 photographers will be selected to show their photobook dummies to15 national and international reviewers.

Our goal is to offer talented photographers from around the world a forum to discuss their books with a wide range of photography experts, thereby producing a lively dialogue between the aspiring artists and the experts from various prestigious institutions.

Photographers will have one-on-one meetings with the reviewers. Each review session will last 20 minutes and we will limit the number of participants to assure that everyone receives six reviews each. It is a great way to network. Numerous photographers have walked away with opportunities to publish, exhibit and sell their work after attending such reviews.

 

Vicky and I submitted our ‘You are here’ book to be considered for the Vienna Photo Book Festival Reviews. ‘You are here’, that considers our place on planet Earth within the solar system and has also been a finalist in a couple of artists book awards in Australia over the last 9 months. Additionally the State Libraries of Queensland and Victoria have collected this artists’ book.

You are here…

 

At the end of April we were advised that our submission for the review session had been successful. At this time we were asked to suggest six possible reviewers from their list to look at our book. We selected the following:

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Regina Maria Anzenberger opens the Reviews

 

On Friday 9th we excitedly waited outside the Anzenberger Gallery with 30 other finalists who came from all over Europe. The reviewers were assembled and Regina Anzenberger opened the event and advised participants of the process – 20 minutes each, then a bell is rung, and the next review gets underway. Sufficient time is given for reviewers and photographers to take breaks and have lunch.

Isa Maria rings the bell

The bell rang and we sat down with photobook aficionado Gerry Badger. He asked to look at the book first, so we silently sat as he turned the pages of our concertina book as a codex. Badger said he loved it and couldn’t improve on it as an object and visual narrative. We then spoke about other things including his latest project documenting graffiti in Italy. He then pulled out his prints to share with us… an interesting project he has been working on over many years. The bell soon rang and we moved on to the next reviewer.

 

 

Over the next few hours we met with the other reviewers. The responses we received acknowledged the beauty of the object and the work’s ‘challenge’ to accepted photobook practice. Most of the attendees were looking for publishers for the ‘dummy’ book that they were presenting. As ours was a resolved work and more of an object/artwork rather than a publishable codex-based photo-project, there was not much room for suggestions. However many points emerged from the discussions that will inform future directions for new work from the project.

 

The review tables

 

It was a warm Vienna day and review participants gathered outside the gallery when their work was not being reviewed. We actively connected with these photobook makers – a fascinating experience as we were meeting members of with representatives of a united nations of photobooks – Russians, French, Austrians, Polish and Czech, German, Hungarian and Slovakian. Most spoke English and from these new ‘friends’ we had instant contacts to see their works for sale in the Book and Print Sale Festival event.

After the seeing the books, the reviewers discuss the projects/books and the winner of the Vienna Photo Book Award was determined. The 1st prize winner receives a book publishing contract from Anzenberger Edition which covers production costs of Euro 5,000.

On Saturday evening the winner of the 4th Vienna Photo Book Award was announced. The winners were Nadine Schlieper and Robert Pufleb with their photobook ‘Alternative Moons’.

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The winner

 

 

Here are photos of some of our fellow review participants

 

Lore Horre

Mariya_Kozhanova

Thomaz Laczny

Paul Grandsard

Denis Esakov

Natalia Baluta

 

SEE ALSO:

 

The LECTURE

https://wotwedid.com/2017/06/18/the-antipodean-photobook-a-lecture-at-the-vienna-photo-book-festival/

 

The EVENT

https://wotwedid.com/2017/06/18/aunz-photobooks-the-vienna-photo-book-festival/

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Written by Cooper+Spowart

June 18, 2017 at 6:03 pm

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