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Archive for the ‘Photobooks’ Category

IMPRINT JOURNAL: Article on regional arts awards

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IMPRINT COVER Vol53 #2

 

In March this year we were approached by the Editor of IMPRINT MAGAZINE, the journal of the Print Council of Australia to write a piece about regional galleries and the national awards that they coordinate. Of particular interest to Editor Andrew Stephens was Artspace Mackay’s Libris Awards: National Artists’ Book Award, and Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery’s National Works on Paper Awards.

We were familiar with both awards events and in particular we’ve had a long connection with the Libris Awards as entrants and reviewers. In 2017 we visited the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery as viewed and exhibition of works from their awards. Many of you will also be aware of our interest in, and support of regional art so we were excited by the opportunity that the commission provided.

We set about to prepare the commentary and to add extra voices to the piece we contacted some artists who have significant participation in regional arts awards. What follows is the article with the 4 page layout and photographs followed by the text, references and acknowledgements.

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Imprint: Page 22+23

Imprint: Page 24+25

 

BEYOND THE CITY LIMITS:

Two regional art awards for artists’ books and works on paper

 

The art gallery is a place for presentation, display and the sharing of art. It is a space that orchestrates the development of cultural discourse by connecting the world of the artist with an art-interested audience including members of the public, art students, the artist’s peers, curators, critics and collectors. Big city art galleries can mount blockbuster national and international shows and also cover a diverse range of disciplines that regional galleries cannot ever hope to match. The regional gallery can however specialise in key areas of activity and collection by including in their programs discipline based national awards. These galleries also aren’t so constrained by orthodoxy and can open up the dialogue leading to more widespread changes. Through the awards they can push boundaries and help to define what is contemporary in various disciplines.

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Two noteworthy regional galleries and their specialisations are Artspace Mackay (AM) has the Libris Awards: National Artists’ Book Award (Libris) and Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery (MPRG) has National Works on Paper Awards (NWOP). To ensure the currency of the entries both awards are offered biennially with a requirement that the works entered must have been completed within the preceding two years. Each gallery has a particular focus for their award.

The Libris Awards provide Artspace Mackay with: ‘an opportunity to become known as a centre for artists’ books; we develop/build meaningful relationships over many years with artists; the award attracts the latest and best works from artists in the field and introduces us to new artists; and provides us with a wonderful opportunity to acquire new artists’ books for our Art Collection by leading artists in the field’.[1]

At the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery the NWOP’s role ‘is to support and promote contemporary Australian artists working on or with paper. Works may be executed in any medium on or with paper… The paper must act as the main two or three-dimensional support of the work’.[2]

These Awards provide a testing ground for the new ideas, current aspects of technique and new/contemporary themes as well as many other art practice related opportunities. Sasha Grishin, in his ‘Judges Notes’ the 2016 Libris Awards commented that: ‘The contemporary artists book is characterised by boundless freedom’, and adds that: ‘… it has absorbed many conceptual frameworks, many art mediums and technologies and goes across the spectrum of the senses’.[3] Entries in the NWOP Awards also exhibit Grishin’s ‘boundless freedom’ as MPRG Director Jane Alexander states in the 2016 catalogue: ‘Through printing, drawing, folding, sculpting and collage, paper is at the forefront of artistic experimentation… increasingly we are seeing this practice pushed to new and exciting dimensions’.[4]

Much of an artist’s life can be isolated making it difficult to connect with a broader community of practice, which can also be fractured by physical distance and conceptual difference. Therefore artists see these awards as an opportunity to present their most recent work. They seek the recognition that comes from selection and being shown in the awards’ survey exhibitions. This acknowledgement also locates them in a review of contemporary practice specific to their discipline. Nationally respected printmaker and artist bookmaker Dianne Fogwell generously shared with us the three main reasons she entered awards: ‘1. To stay abreast of who is professionally working in my field and 2; so that my contemporaries know I am still working professionally in my field and 3; I can enter work that does not suit the gallery exhibition either through content or scale’.[5]

There is also the potential benefit of exposure, critical review and for some the financial reward of purchase or winning a major award. It should be noted that both the Libris and NWOP receive significant sponsorship and support from range of sources to make possible their awards[6]. Deanna Hitti won the 2008 Libris Award and the 2009 Books Beyond Words Award held by the East Gippsland Art Gallery. She comments that, ‘I am quite fortunate to have been the recipient of two major Australian artist book awards in consecutive years… My whole arts practice gained exposure and in a way it validated my work and presented a path to promote my work through’.[7]

The choice of appropriate judges for these awards is critical as through their decisions a continual review of the nation-wide practice of the award’s associated disciplines is carried out. The selected judges for the Libris and NWOP come from major collecting and exhibiting institutional backgrounds and are widely respected within their specific disciplines.[8] Other awards may have judges who are also acclaimed artists, art critics and teaching academics.

Before entering any awards the artist needs to consider their work in relation to the competition criteria and the judging process. In this evaluation some gritty questions tend to surface regarding how their work is to be considered by the selection committee and the awards audience. For example: How much is my art worth? Will the winner’s work need to appear comparable to the amount of prize money associated with the award? Will awards that favour the spectacular and immediately accessible works marginalise those that require time and focus? As the practice of book arts is very broad and varied, from book sculpture to fine press to zines—in rewarding a particular art form/s this could promote one form over many other worthy and incomparable works. If so this could narrow the potential for a variety of work to be accepted within the broader practice?

To address questions of diversity, the two awards discussed in this article attempt to provide opportunities to recognise different mediums and the stages of the artist’s career. Libris has in the past offered a separate award for Zines, and have always included a local artists award. This year they are featuring the altered book. Both the Libris and NWOP also include emerging artists’ awards along with a budget to acquire a variety of other works selected for the exhibition.

Another salient question for the artist to consider relates to the handling of the work and its display, particularly for unusual work, such as sculptural and installation works that are unframed. Many galleries may not have the capacity to appropriately display these works and still allow for quality public engagement. The Libris awards require that entrants include a document on how they would like work would be shown. This way the artist has to consider whether the work should be handled and how it will be placed in the gallery space.

Although an important part of an artists career awards should not define them and their creative work potential. Dianne Fogwell presents a grounded perspective on how the award should influence the artmaking process: ‘Being selected as a finalist or to be the people’s choice or winning the award or prize gives you heart as making art is a lonely thing and more so the longer you do it. Does it make a difference to the way I make my work, no, has it made a difference to who buys my work, I hope not, as it is the work that’s important in the end’.[9]

To build an archive and history of these important survey events both Libris and NWOP create records of their awards in the form of catalogues and online in accessible PDF versions.[10] Libris posted 2016 judge Sasha Grishin’s award notes[11] and an illustrated list of works.[12] NWOP has over the last two events, 2014 & 2016 published a physical catalogue and online versions as well.[13] Additionally AM and MPRG can be contacted for further information on historical records.

These archives add to the history of the award as well as a snapshot of the adjudicated contemporary practice in the disciplines at the time of the award and the value that collectors and the art market place on artworks. What may be interesting as an enhancement to any art award could be consideration for the creation of a democratic record of entry where all entries are listed in an online format to show the complete story of all artists who entered the award and their works.

CONCLUSION:

After the judgements have been made, the winners received recognition, the acquisitions completed and the remaining works returned, the exhibition may be over but the legacy of the awards lingers on. Through the initiative of the regional gallery, sponsor support and the contribution of artists, these awards create a fertile space where ongoing discourse can both challenge and shape the development of the art.

 

Prepared by Dr Victoria Cooper and Dr Doug Spowart

With thanks to: Tracey Heathwood Director Artspace Mackay and Narelle Russo MPRG Curator-Collections / Registrar.

Dr Lyn Ashby, Dianne Fogwell, Deanna Hitti, Johanna Kambourian, Dr Clyde McGill, Dr Felicity Rea.

 

[1] Correspondence received from Artspace Director Tracey Heathwood
[2] https://mprg.mornpen.vic.gov.au/Exhibitions/National-Works-on-Paper Viewed 10 April, 2018.
[3] http://www.artspacemackay.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/205398/2016_Libris_Awards_Artspace_Mackay.pdf   Viewed 4 April, 2018
[4] Jane Alexander, 2016 NWOP Catalogue, p 3.
[5] Correspondence from Dianne Fogwell
[6] The Libris and NWOP offer significant monetary prizes: Libris—4 awards, 2 acquisitive) totalling $15,000, and the NWOP offers a major acquisitive award of $15,000. Both awards have acquisitive awards budgets – NWOP allocates a further $35,000.
[7] Correspondence from Dianna Hitti
[8] Judges for 2018 Libris: Roger Butler AM, Senior Curator Prints and Drawings, National Gallery of Australia Helen Cole, former Coordinator Australian Library of Art
and the 2018 NWOP, Jane Alexander, MPRG Director;
Victoria Lynn, Director, TarraWarra Museum of Art;
Dr Kyla McFarlane, Curator of Academic Programs (Research) Ian Potter Museum of Art.
[9] Correspondence from Dianne Fogwell
[10] http://www.artspacemackay.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/204955/2016LibrisAwards_IllustratedListofWorks.pdf  Viewed 7 April, 2018
[11] http://www.artspacemackay.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/205398/2016_Libris_Awards_Artspace_Mackay.pdf  Viewed 7 April, 2018
[12] http://www.artspacemackay.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/204955/2016LibrisAwards_IllustratedListofWorks.pdf  Viewed 7 April, 2018
[13] https://mprg.mornpen.vic.gov.au/Exhibitions/National-Works-on-Paper Viewed 7 April, 2018

 

 

SOME OTHER AUSTRALIAN – PRINTMAKING + ARTISTS’ BOOK AWARDS @ March 2018

Manly Artists Book Award—Bi-yearly, next 2019

https://www.northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/arts-and-culture/manly-artists-book-award

Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award—Bi-yearly, next 2019

http://www.sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/Community/Hazelhurst/Exhibitions/Previous-Exhibitions/2017/Hazelhurst-Art-on-Paper-Award-2017

Gippsland Print Award—Bi-yearly, next 2019

http://www.gippslandartgallery.com/prizes/gippsland-print-award/

Swan Hill Print & Drawing Acquisitive Awards—Bi-yearly, current 2018

https://gallery.swanhill.vic.gov.au/2018/03/print-drawing-finalists/

2017 Geelong Aquisitive Print Awards

http://www.geelonggallery.org.au/cms_uploads/docs/2017-geelong-acquisitive-print-awards_online.pdf

Banyule Award for Works on Paper—Hatch Contemporary Arts Space

https://www.banyule.vic.gov.au/Arts-and-Events/Banyule-Award-for-Works-on-Paper

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ADVANCE NOTICE: WORLD PHOTOBOOK DAY Brisbane Event

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WPBD Header

 

To mark the 175th anniversary of what is recognised as the first photobook – Anna Atkins’ Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions‘ we invite photobook lovers/collectors/makers to a Brisbane celebration of World Photobook Day 2018.

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Green Anna Logo

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This year the theme of the WPBD is ‘Anna goes green’ and is intended to focus on the concerns of:

       – Global warming

       – Environmental change and destruction

       – Books about natural history topics including plants and nature

       – Books with links to planet earth

The theme originates from Atkins’ activities as a scientific illustrator of flora and other specimens.

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At this year’s event you will have the opportunity to:

  • HEAR: Special guest speaker: Dr Paolo Magagnoli from the UQ School of Communications and Arts
  • VIEW: Photobooks from the Fryer Library collection
  • DISCUSS: “My favourite photobook”
  • BRING: Along your favourite photobook to share.

VENUE: Fryer Library University of Queensland, St Lucia Campus from 11.00 am Saturday the 13th of October.

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David Symons

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This event is being coordinated by David Symons – we thank David for taking on this task while we are away in Tasmania.

We also wish to acknowledge that the World Photobook Day has been set up as a collaboration between the organizers of Photobook Club Madrid and Matt Johnston the founder of the Photobook Club network.

PLEASE NOTE: World Photobook Day is October 14 – This event is scheduled on the 13th due to the availability of the venue.

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FOR MORE DETAILS & TO REGISTER>>>    https://www.facebook.com/events/247464655970747/

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Photobook Club Logo

4 PHOTOBOOK EVENTS – Brisbane August 3, 4 &5 2018

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Australian + New Zealand Photobook of the Year Finalists

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PLEASE NOTE THESE EVENTS HAVE NOW COMPLETED

FRIDAY August 3, 2018 evening

Event 1 – VIEW THE BEST PHOTOBOOKS from Australia & New Zealand

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SATURDAY August 4, 2018 ALL DAY

Event 2 – HEAR CONTEMPORARY PHOTOBOOK people talking about the medium

Both events are FREE though registration/booking is essential

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SUNDAY August 5 – Two NEW Sessions

(See Eventbrite links for session details, fees and booking details)

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Event 3 – HAVE A PHOTOBOOK REVIEW with the Doctors – Doug+Vicky

Event 4 – DESIGNING & MAKING CONCERTINA FOLD BOOKS – with Doug+Vicky

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EVENT 1: FRIDAY – August 3

An evening presentation the very best of contemporary photobooks from Australia and New Zealand from the recent Photobook of the Year Awards.

  • Meet Libby Jeffery from the Award’s Patron MOMENTO PRO.
  • Come in and look at the books from 5.30–8.00pm and Saturday 10.30–3.30pm.
  • Location: MAUD GALLERY – 6 Maud Street, Newstead, Brisbane.

TO BOOK this event do so on this Facebook page: PHOTOBOOK FRIDAY FACEBOOK EVENT

 

ANZ Photobook Awards at Maud Gallery

 

 

Event 2: TALKING BOOKS SYMPOSIUM  (free)

  • SATURDAY August 4 – 10.30am – 4.00pm
  • 6 speakers on the contemporary photobook
  • Location: MAUD GALLERY – 6 Maud Street, Newstead, Brisbane.

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Eventbrite Logo

AS SEATING IS LIMITED – ….“CLICK” THE EVENTBRITE LINK BELOW.

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/talking-books-photobook-club-brisbane-event-tickets-37573180394

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Libby Jeffery – MomentoPro

 

At 11.00am

KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Libby Jeffery from MomentoPro

Libby will talk about the Antipodean experience of self publishing a photo book – from purpose through to publicity

including:

  • Purpose
  • Budget/Funding
  • Self/Publish
  • Edit/Design
  • Format/Print
  • Sell/Distribute
  • Launch/Publicise

 

From 1.00-4.00pm

MEET SOME LOCAL PHOTOBOOK MAKERS & THEIR BOOKS

Tammy Law and her book Permission to Belong being developed in conjunction with Yumi Goto and the Reminders Photography Stronghold workshop

TAMMY LAW documents stories that are reflective of her experiences of being a child of Chinese migrants, and the bubble of Asian/Australianness within which she lives. Her travels through Asia—mostly in Japan, China, Malaysia, Thailand and Burma—and the differences between Asia and the West propel her to focus on concepts of migration, home and belonging.

Tammy’s book ‘Permission to Belong’, explores themes of migration, home and belonging through the everyday lives of refugee families from Myanmar. Living against the backdrop of decades of repressive rule and civil war, countless families live between a place of home and homelessness, belonging and unbelonging. The negotiation and renegotiation of identities is as complex as the history and future of Myanmar.

Ana Paula Estrada and 2 spreads from her book Memorandum

 

ANA PAULA ESTRADA: I am a Mexican–Australian artist based in Brisbane. For the last seven years my art practice has focused mainly on the documentation of life stories of older Australians by combining photography, oral history, and the artist book. I am currently undertaking my Master of Visual Arts by research degree at the Queensland College of Art.

In 2016, I self-published an artist book called Memorandum in an edition of 200, which was recognized and exhibited broadly nationally and internationally. My current project consists of publishing a two-volume artist book that tells the life stories of Kevin and Esta, two participants aged over eighty, with whom I have been collaborating. Merging the fields of documentary practice, oral history and fine arts, and influenced by visual poetry, my books explore the combination of text, image and the blank space of the page.

 

Jan Ramsay and her book Toaster, and another book showing her fine binding skills

JAN RAMSAY: Being inspired by creative parents and grandparents, After a few career changes including dental nurse/radiographer, fashion design and working with special needs people using braille & sign language Jan started a professional photography business, Eye on Photography in 1996. In photography Jan found expression for her creative spirit.

Jan’s books are mix of creative play and exploration of ideas where the form of the book becomes an important opportunity to push boundaries, making mistakes and having fun. Her books are hand bound featuring artists’ book techniques and are usually published in singular editions.

 

Raphaela Rosella and her book We met a little early, but I get to love you longer

Raphaela Rosella is an Australian based artist working in the tradition of long-form documentary storytelling. She has spent the past decade highlighting the lived experience of women in her life as they grapple with the complexities and cyclical nature of social disadvantage in Australia.  Her artistic practice draws heavily on relational exchanges and a collaborative ethos to challenge tropes of victimhood and poverty. 

When my teenage twin sister told me she was pregnant, I was angry. I called her a ‘slut’ and told her to get an abortion. I thought she could have a ‘better life’. But what is a better life? It was a path we were all expected to take. For many of my friends, becoming a parent young was not a ‘failure of planning’, but a tacit response to the choices and opportunities available to us. My book ‘We met a little early, but I get to love you longer‘ documents women in my life; my twin, my-step sister, and new and old friends as they grapple with the complexities of motherhood and the turbulent and uncertain environments around them.

 

 

HEAR ABOUT RECENT PHOTOBOOK EVENTS ACTIVITIES IN New Zealand & Bangkok

 

Tammy Law will talk about her experiences at the PHOTO BANGKOK event.

 

Libby Jeffery will talk about her experiences as an observer of the PBNZ Masterclass in Wellington last August..

 

Doug Spowart’s A Compendium of AuNz Photobooks

Doug Spowart will talk about his latest edition of A Compendium of Australian and New Zealand Photobooks.

 

The Symposium will conclude at 4.00pm

 

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Maud Gallery sign

Thank You Maud Gallery for supporting this Photobook Club Brisbane event.

 

These events are coordinated by Doug Spowart and Victoria Cooper

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BUNDANON Residency 2018 – WHY ARE WE HERE?

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WHY ARE WE – documentation of a page from the Island Book

 

WHY ARE WE … Here at Bundanon?

In 2007 we were successful applicants for a Bundanon residency that enabled is to realize a major component of our individual PhD research. However we still needed to resolve many issues raised by this work and to return our finished works to be documented in the site that they were created. So in 2009 we were granted a second residency to complete this part of our studies.

While we were deep in our research other interesting and unanswered questions arose that have haunted us since this time. Although our itinerant life in the last few years has been exciting and constantly changing, we have missed the opportunity to be in a studio and a place devoted to just working on our practice.

Now this latest residency will give us time to work again at the boundaries of our practice and create the new work that has been gestating in our minds over these few years.

See our COOPER+SPOWART website for further info. (Please note the content of this page are Adobe Flash driven presentations)See relevant aspects of our past Bundanon residencies relating to our PhD research here Victoria COOPER ThesisDoug SPOWART – Thesis.

FOLLOW OUR WORK over the next 3 weeks on our FACEBOOK Page

 

A SELECTION OF IMAGES

From artists’ books, photobooks, experimental projects, artwork documentation and our collaboration made during our 2007 & 2009 residencies.

 

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SINGLE MEN’S QUARTERS CAMERA OBSCURA

 

Documentation of the Camera Obscura image in the Single Men’s Quarters

 

PROJECTIONS

‘CLICK’ to enlarge

 

SOME IMAGES FROM DOUG’S WORK

‘CLICK’ to enlarge

 

SOME IMAGES FROM VICKY’S WORK

‘CLICK’ to enlarge

 

 

TO FOLLOW OUR ACTIVITIES OVER THE NEXT 3 WEEKS “LIKE” our FACEBOOK PAGE and in “Follow” – click “SEE FIRST”

 

FB-Follow

 

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Please join with us in this exciting project…

 

 

 

WISHING PHOTOBOOKS A ‘HAPPY 174th BIRTHDAY’

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WPBD Header

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Each year World Photobook Day is celebrated by members of the international network of Photobook Clubs. Since it’s inception 5 years ago it has been organized by The Photobook Club Madrid. The date for the World Photobook Day is October 14th which has been selected as it was on this date that Anna Atkins’ Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions was accepted and catalogued by the British Library in 1843.

 

The British Library catalogue entry for Atkins’ book

 

Each year we try to coordinate our own event at the Photobook Club Brisbane – (See past year’s events at the end of this post). This year’s (2017) WPBD project was a request for photobook people to send to us  “A Birthday Card” to celebrate the occasion.

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Here are some of the contributions to this project:

Gael Phillips – The undifferenced arms of the Children Family

 

Gail Hoger-Neumann – A cyanotype made in Greece

 

Lou Gilbert

 

Stuart Murdoch

 

Julia Borrisova

 

Victoria Cooper– Χρόνια Πολλά Photobooks A cyanotype made in Greece

 

Maureen Trainer and Kevin Scattergood

 

Julie White

 

David Lee

 

Erica and David Lee

 

Dane Beesley

 

Doug Spowart’s 174 candles book

 

Thanks to all the contributors…..

 

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD A COPY OF WPBD CARD ALBUM 2017

 

WPBD-ALBUM PDF PIC

Some past WPBD Events we (Victoria and Doug) have coordinated include:

2016 WPBD – PHOTOBOOK SHELFIE Facebook Page

2015 WPBD – ‘READING PHOTOBOOKS’ @ Maud Gallery

2014 WPBD – GAEL PHILLIPS PRESENTS ANNA ATKINS @ The Edge Brisbane

2013 WPBD – A ‘MY FAVOURITE PHOTOBOOK’ MEETING @ The Grid, Toowoomba

 

Graphic for 5th WPBD

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Written by Cooper+Spowart

May 23, 2018 at 9:08 am

THE EXPO 88 PHOTO SHOW – 30 years on

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First & Last EXPO PHOTO SHOW Poster

First & Last EXPO PHOTO SHOW Poster

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EXPO’88 – A conceptual photographer’s document

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At this time thirty years ago the people of Brisbane were beginning their EXPO’88 six-month adventure opportunity to encounter the world and its cultures and cuisine. EXPO’88 is often seen as a watershed in the transformation of Brisbane as a sleepy backwater into a vibrant cosmopolitan city of the world and, most certainly part of the 21st Century.

I had a season pass for EXPO’88 and created a personal body of work as a response to my experience of the event. As celebrations are beginning to hit the social media space I thought I would recollect on my EXPO’88 work.

 

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Here is the back-story behind my 1988 project … The First & Last EXPO PHOTO SHOW

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Ethyl Stevens (USA)

EXPO 88 Crowd Crush ………..PHOTO: Ethyl Stevens aka Doug Spowart

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In the EXPO’88 event I recognised an opportunity for the creation of a new body of work investigating emerging approaches to my work methodology. For varied reasons I had introduced to my practice the creation of alias identities to which my work was attributed. These identities were quite complete in that they had refined working styles, subject matter, presentation forms, a photographic portrait, signatures and artists statements. As a gallery director it was easy to slip the work of these ‘photographers’ into group shows for commentary and critical acclaim. These personae enable me to play a little game on a system that at times, from my perspective at times, was biased, exclusive, nepotistic and overly critical. It also enabled me to explore ideas and concepts relating to my photography and the presentation of photographs.

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When EXPO offered season passes I attended the passport portrait session with pair of fake glasses and a fictitious name, Eugene Xavier Pelham Owens, the initials and the signature spelled ‘EXPO’. The deception had begun. In time this project grew into an extensive body of work from 5 different personae all representing their manufactured personal responses to the EXPO experience. The exhibition was opened on April 1st 1989 (April Fools Day), it was reviewed positively in the Courier Mail and sales of work resulted from people who found the photographs reconnecting them with their experience of the event. The deception went undetected and after the exhibition the body of work passed into obscurity, as do so many exhibitions of photographs, and was slipped into archive storage boxes in my studio.

Whilst, at the time of the fieldwork on this project I called myself a ‘conceptual photographer’ as I felt that my work was driven by the overarching idea of personal experience documents rather than the photodocumentary reportage principles of truth and reality. I was aware of the term ‘conceptual artist’ and recognized that it had all kinds of baggage attached to it based on art theory and movements, however my work as a photographer at this time has simpatico with Sol Lewitt’s 1967 manifesto on conceptual art. He states:

In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. (Lewitt 1967)

Recently Melissa Miles has discussed the term ‘Conceptual Documentary’ in her 2010 paper The Drive to Archive: Conceptual Documentary Photobook Design. The discusses in reviewing the photobooks of Stephen Gill, Mathieu Pernot and Matthew Sleeth. She asserts that this mode of photography is based on a theory that photographers want to collect and respond to a kind of ‘archive impulse’, making and arranging image sequences of daily life into photobooks. What appeals to me is that, as a Conceptual Documentary photographer I, as Miles defines, ‘seek[s] out and frame[s] their subjects according to a pre-determined idea or scheme. Processes of repetition and categorization are central to Conceptual Documentary’ (Miles 2010:50). For me, what I was engaged in was to make a commentary from a personal viewpoint and to create a contemporary record for public presentation and, ultimately archiving. While Miles’ contemporary Conceptual Documentary practitioner including the likes of Martin Parr freely publish their photobooks in the 1980s trade published productions were beyond the reach of most photographers including myself.

What I find interesting now is that the 1980s was a particularly productive period for me as I created a trilogy of exhibitions: Tourists Facts, Acts, Rituals and Relics, Icons & Revered Australiana and The First & Last Photo Expo Show. These were essentially social documentary projects based on a personal directorial premise. I found that the limited opportunities for presentation of the framed exhibition format of these shows led me to initial experiments with boxed sets of images and ultimately to self-published photobooks, the first of which was completed in 1992.

These days I’m not so concerned about any tag as my work is often so interdiciplinarian it is hard to define. What for me is interesting is that at the time I made work that may now be able to be defined and categorized using contemporary terms and definitions. What is also important now is that the EXPO’88 photographs, some 5,000 of them, exist as an archive not necessarily as a document of the place but rather as a personal, conceptual documentary photographer’s response to the EXPO’88 experience.

Doug Spowart  December 26, 2013

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Lewitt, S. (1967). Paragraphs on Conceptual Art. Artforum 5: 8.
Miles, M. (2010) “The Drive to Archive: Conceptual Documentary Photobook Design.” Photographies 3, 49-68.

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HERE IS A SELECTION OF WORKS FROM MY EXPO’88 PSEUDONYMS

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John (Jack) Dorf (United Kingdom)

John (Jack) Dorf ………(United Kingdom)

John (Jack) Dorf (United Kingdom)

John (Jack) Dorf ………(United Kingdom)

Eugene Owens ......... (USA)

Eugene Owens …….(USA)

Eugene Owens (USA)

Eugene Owens …….(USA)

Malenky Davotchka (Russia)

Malenky Davotchka ……. (Russia)

EXPO 88 © Doug Spowart

Malenky Davotchka …….(Russia)

Y Regami (Japan)

Y Regami ……(Japan)

Y Regami (Japan)

Y Regami ……. (Japan)

Hanna Rhetzik (Czechoslovakia)

Hanna Rhetzik …….(Czechoslovakia)

Hanna Rhetzik (Chezekolvakia)

Hanna Rhetzik ……(Czechoslovakia)

Ethyl Stevens (USA)

Ethyl Stevens …….(USA)

Ethyl Stevens (USA)

Ethyl Stevens …….(USA)

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A PDF PRESENTATION CONTAINING MORE IMAGES IS AVAILABLE HERE: EXPO-SPOWART-v3

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First & Last EXPO PHOTO SHOW Poster

First & Last EXPO PHOTO SHOW Poster

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Images and text © Doug Spowart   Design of the Poster: Trish Briscoe

From the Doug Spowart Personal Art Archive 1953-2014

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Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.eu

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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A Spectrum: Photobook to Artists’ Book

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About 4 years ago during post doctural research I was involved with at the State Library of Queensland as a Siganto Foundation Research Fellow I submitted a paper concept to a call-out for contributions to a major book on photobooks being prepared by a significant contributor to the international photobook discipline at that time. Unfortunately the publishing project was never realised and the essay did not enter the critical discourse on photobooks.

Recently there has been much discussion about terminologies in photobooks and some aspects of the artists’ book are beginning to blur. I passed the paper on to a UK PhD candidate who found interest in the discussion that I raised and suggested that I self-publish the essay.  

So here it is…

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Spectrum

. A Photo Spectrum: Photobook to Artists’ Book 

.. [DRAFT@January 21, 2015]

 

The contemporary popularization of the ‘photobook’ is arguably attributed to the three published commentaries that have become seminal texts on the subject, the first of which: The Photobook: A History Volume I was released in 2004 by photographer and photobook maker Martin Parr, and photo historian Gerry Badger. Commentator and photographer Tim McLaughlin observes: ‘The term “photobook” which never really existed before Parr and Badger (most dictionaries still do not recognize it), would, within a few years, come to identify a growing industry…’(McLaughlin 2013). Interest in the photobook has never been greater. Digital technologies have emancipated photography and book publishing and now anyone can take photos and make their own photobooks. Accompanying this publishing revolution are awards, ‘books of the year’ lists, catalogues, and an auction market. Specialist online and bricks-and-mortar bookshops now service an ever-increasing buying and collector market.

Although photobook publications have aesthetic definitions for what a photobook is, the term has a lot of ground to cover. Photography writer and teacher David Campany recently noted in Aperture’s Photobook Review that: ‘The compound noun ‘photobook’ is a nifty little invention, designed to turn an infinite field (books with photographs in them) into something much more definable’(Campany 2014). But while the ‘infinite field’ may be ‘easily defined’ the term photobook can only serve as a generalised umbrella for the plethora of photobook products that shelter under it.

The definition of photobook today could include a roughly printed or photocopied zine-like object created by a child, to a blatantly over-designed limited edition book. In between these bookends lies a range of products: Print-on-demand and hand-made unique state, small editions, self-published or bespoke books, ephemeral items, newspapers, pamphlets and zines. Although many of these published forms may not have the universal distribution and commercial opportunities afforded a trade published book, they are, none the less, part of the broad practice of the contemporary photobook. Additionally many of these books occupy much of the emergent contemporary scene and tend to be overlooked as the critical discussion is usually focussed on the photobook exemplars from the past.

The boundaries of the photobook discipline are blurred by their intersection with a variety of other book genres including the expansive mediums of artists’ books and zines. As independent publishers of books, artists have for over 100 years communicated their ideas and stories using their chosen media in book form. Artists have embraced photography and the various forms of photography from found collaged photos, to screen-printing, photo etching and gravure, as well as actual silver gelatin, type C, inkjet or laser prints in their artists’ book works. Anne Thurmann-Jayes commented in the catalogue for ars photographica, an exhibition about artists and photographers and their photobooks, that: ‘In very general terms, it is possible to say that half of all artists’ books produced to date have been based on photographs’ (Thurmann-Jajes 2002:19). For that reason any discussion of the photobook needs to consider a broader range of contributors to the discipline as well as other forms of the book where photographs act as carrier of the visual communiqué.

In her essay Thurmann-Jajes also comments on the differences that she felt existed between the artist and the photographer in conceptual aspects of making a photobook. She states that:

The authors of photo books followed photographic tradition, according to which the photograph as such was decisive, becoming the bearer of meaning… By contrast to the photo book, the artists’ book is not the bearer, but the medium of the artistic message. (Thurmann-Jajes 2002:20)

In highlighting the differences in the way the photograph is used and considered by these two groups, Thurman-Jajes has identified a division may have always existed between the photographer and the artist using photography. Yet making books with the photograph as a ‘bearer of meaning’ or ‘message’ should not belong to any particular practitioner. If the photograph is therefore a universal and an open medium for all book makers then any questioning on what is and what can be a photobook requires consideration that embraces this diversity.

To ensure that the photobook remains vibrant and relevant, a flexible space for discourse and critique needs to be created that is inclusive of the broad range of authors and book forms in this medium. In 1998 artists’ book librarian, collector and curator Clive Phillpot suggested a metaphor for the artists’ book discipline as being ‘white light’ and the individual colors that made up white light as being the ‘many categories of the spectrum’ representing the broad nature of the practice. In this essay Phillpot’s ‘white light’ metaphor is now applied to the range of published forms that employ or contain photographs beyond that of the artists’ book. (Phillpot 1998:38)

Through an extension of Phillpot’s prism, this essay will propose a grouping of the various forms of the book from photobook through zines to artists’ books and their salient characteristics using individual colors (wavelengths of light). As the visible light spectrum has a rainbow of seven visible colors this proposition has seven as well. Although two additional ‘colors’, familiar to photographers, that of infrared and ultra-violet, have been added to recognise specific aspects of photography publishing at the extreme ends of the range. Each color and book form has specific characteristics and identifiers associated with it – it is recognized that many books may challenge attempts to place them within just one color in this spectrum.

The transition from the infrared to ultra-violet intentionally locates those books conceived and produced by photographers at the warmer end of the spectrum. Book forms in the cooler end of the spectrum would be principally books made by artists using photography. Placement within this spectral framework may create some interesting challenges including the divisions of ‘artist’ and ‘photographer’, and how practitioners describe themselves and their creative products.

The 9 colors and their identifiers are:

Infrared – The Deluxe Photobook

  • A book of monumental proportions approaching what bibliographers and librarians call ‘double elephant’ (up to 78cm tall for Helmut Newton’s Sumo);
  • Usually consists of a monograph styled ‘best of’, or, of a tightly thematic subject matter by a particular photographer;
  • Are limited editions, expensive to buy and have limited markets that center on private collectors and institutions; and
  • Are usually commissioned by a small number of specialist art publishing houses as opulent objects of art, design and packaging.

An exemplar:

Genesis, Sebastião Salgado, Taschen

Genesis, Sebastião Salgado, Taschen

Genesis

Sebastião Salgado, Taschen, Hardcover, 2 vols, with bookstand, 18.4 x 27.6 in., 704 pages, £ 2,500. https://www.taschen.com/pages/en/catalogue/photography/all/02613/facts.sebastio_salgado_genesis.htm

Viewed: April 6, 2018

 

Red – The ‘Classic trade’ Photobook

A book form in the tradition of Walker Evans’ American Photographs (1938), William Eggleston Eggleston’s Guide (1976), Robert Frank’s The Americans (1959), and John Gossage’s The Pond (1985). Characteristics of these books may include;

  • A single photograph per opening, the facing page blank and may sometimes contain a title or caption;
  • Sometimes it is a book co-published with an exhibition of the same title;
  • Simulation of the gallery experience of viewing photographs and therefore is sometimes referred to as an ‘exhibition in a book’;
  • Images in these books are carefully and purposefully sequenced to carry the narrative intended by the author; and
  • An essay relating to the work by the photographer, curator or writer often accompanies this book form – occasionally the essay may be of an obtuse content.

 

An exemplar:

 

A Road Through Shore Pine, Photographs by Robert Adams

A Road Through Shore Pine

Photographs by Robert Adams. Fraenkel Gallery, 2014. 42 pp., illustrated throughout, 9¾x11¾”. http://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?Catalog=DS364

 

Orange – Design Photobook (collaboration)

The authors of this form consider that photobooks are an experience that can be enhanced by the influence of creative graphic design that may include:

  • Usually is a collaboration between the photographer and a designer so as to transform the photographs into a strident work of visual communication;
  • The presentation of photographs over double pages, or being montaged, or printed full-bleed as well as being scaled variably;
  • Inventive typography and layout design enhancements;
  • High quality book production, printing, finishing and packaging; and
  • A differentiation from other photobooks by the inventiveness of the design features and the surprise that is encountered by the reader in engaging with the physicality of the book and how it operates as a communicative device.

 

Exemplars:

Gold Coast, photography by Ying Ang, co-designed with Teun Van Der Heijden

Gold Coast, photography by Ying Ang, co-designed with Teun Van Der Heijden
Self-Published, 2014. 132 pp., 72 color illustrations, 9½x11¼”.

http://yingangphoto.com/page.cfm?id=34&subid=121

 

 

Iris Garden, photography by William Gedney and designed by Hans Seeger

 

Iris Garden, photography by William Gedney and designed by Hans Seeger

63 pages plus insert, 6.75 x 9.5 in. Heavy softcover with wraps & slipcase,

Little Brown Mushroom, 2013, in an edition of 1,000.

http://www.littlebrownmushroom.com/products/iris-garden/

 

 

Yellow – POD Photobook

  • These books are usually self-published;
  • They may emulate bookstore trade books from simple booklets to grand coffee table tomes;
  • They can be produced by anyone with minimal photography and computer skills and just require access to online photobook-service providers;
  • Single book or multiple copies can be made;
  • Affordable pricing considering the sophistication of the product;
  • POD services generally utilize templates for ease of use by clients of limited skill;
  • POD books may have designer input, but due to the limited range of options for special finishing or designed-in features; and
  • Many POD book users create book ‘dummies’ that may lead to a more trade-based publication at a later stage.

 

For exemplars see works offered in the photography category of http://www.Blurb.com.

 

On Approach by Daniel Milnor, BLURB Book

 

On Approach by Daniel Milnor, BLURB Book, 13x20cm, 26 pgs

http://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?Catalog=ze462

http://www.smogranch.com/2012/09/26/cleveland-musuem-of-art-diy-photobooks/

 

 

Promised land by M Bruce Hall

 

Promised land by M Bruce Hall, Blue Sky Books/MagCloud. Standard 8.25″ x 10.75″. 56 pages, perfect-bound.

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/815317

 

Green – Emergent – PhotoStream* [of Consciousness], Photozine*or Insta-photobook*, Imagistbooks*

This aspect of photobook publishing is occupied by a large number of DIY practitioners accessing a range of print technologies from desktop inkjet and laser printers to affordable digital press printing and binding technologies. Content of these books could be considered a visual form of imagist or concrete poetry – they exhibit and subject and assembly sensibility that could match ‘stream of consciousness’ approaches to art. Other aspects include:

  • Usually self-authored or collaborative publications;
  • Are made in limited numbers/editions, often hand sewn or stapled;
  • The books are sold through specialist popular culture bookshops or online;
  • Often these books may be the result of crowd sourced funding and may be derived from online image storage or social media platforms like Instagram; and
  • Their locale of popularity and distribution may be regional.

 

*Names considered to best describe these emergent forms

 

Exemplar:

Conflict Resolution by Louis Porter

Conflict Resolution by Louis Porter, published by Twenty Shelves (Melbourne/Australia), 164 Pages full color, Design by Pierre Hourquet, Section sewn paperback with de-bossed cover, 20 x 27 cm, Edition of 1000.

http://louisporter.com/twenty-shelves/

 

 

Blue – Photopapers* Photomag* (broadsheet / newspaper / magazine)

These emergent photobooks take their physical form and production values from conventional print media. Other aspects include:

  • Availability through POD service providers;
  • Print runs may be small and limited or quite extensive of 1,000 copies or more;
  • These works may parody existing newspaper or magazine titles as a form of activism or commentary on print media and society; and
  • They may provide a photographer with a larger-scale publication format at a low production cost.

 

*Names considered to best describe these emergent forms

 

Exemplars: Photopaper

 

LBM Dispatch #7: Georgia photography by Alec Soth and Brad Zellar, designed by Meredith Oberg

LBM Dispatch #7: Georgia photography by Alec Soth and Brad Zellar, designed by Meredith Oberg
Little Brown Mushroom, Publication Date, November, 2014
48 pages 11.25 inches x 15 inches, 50 lb newsprint paper, Edition of 2000
http://www.littlebrownmushroom.com/products/lbm-dispatch-7-georgia/

 

 

Exemplar: Photomag

 

PIGS Photography by Carlos Spottorno, designed by Carlos Spottorno and Jaime Narváez

 

PIGS

Photography by Carlos Spottorno, designed by Carlos Spottorno and Jaime Narváez based on a replica of The Economist magazine.

Published by: RM Verlag and Phree, Madrid, 2013

112 pages 27 x 19 cm
http://spottorno.com/web/pigs

 

 

Indigo – Innovative Artists’ Book

This genre of the book is based around the idea of the artist as author, publisher and maker, and forms of the book that represent innovation, creativity and exploration of the book form. Historically this book form has been the domain of the artist and the way photography finds its way into the book can be more about the photo as a record, a fact or a trace representing the world and society that created it. Rather than something representing the passion that photographers have for the photograph as the product of their special visual perception of the world. Characteristics of these books include;

  • Forms integral to the narrative expression and the artist will break rules and conventions to achieve their expectations for the book;
  • Books engineered in ways that demand interaction, both through the visual senses but also through the haptics of handling and reading – the turning of pages;
  • Books that may mix photographs and text or text over photographs, or text as photographs and photographs as text;
  • Multi-media productions where the photograph becomes a part of a larger interplay of media; and
  • Bespoke unique state or a work that is published as a limited edition.

 

It should be noted that the artists’ book discipline might encompass an equally diverse range of book forms

 

Artists’ Book exemplar:

 

Eleven, Marshall Weber et al.

Eleven, Marshall Weber 1960- ; Christopher Wilde; Sara Parkel; Alison E Williams; Isabelle Weber; Booklyn Artists Alliance. New York : Booklyn :c2002

http://www.booklyn.org/artists/Marshall%20Weber.php

 

 

 

Violet – ‘Artists’ Book’ Codex

Related to books that utilize the conventional codex form and may explore the narrative form, conceptual art ideas as well as artmaking techniques. These books may exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Codex book form;
  • A range of production values including artisan printers and binders;
  • Contain texts as well as graphic elements and photographs; and
  • Printing techniques such as silkscreen, photoetching and gravure, inkjet, digital press and alternative imaging techniques like cyanotype.

 

An exemplar:

Google vanitas : autobiography # 7 concept and design by Scott McCarney

Google vanitas : autobiography # 7 concept and design by Scott McCarney.

16, [2] p. : col. ill. ; 22 x 20 cm.

http://scottmccarneyvisualbooks.com/Pages/google%20vanitas.html

 

 

Ultra-Violet – ‘Book Arts’, Livre d’Artiste Book

Consistent with the production and aesthetic values of the ‘fine press’ with the following characteristics:

  • Texts are usually handset letterpress, photographs made by traditional photo etching or gravure techniques and binding and presentation in cloth and leather often with ‘book arts’ embellishments;
  • The books are limited editions and utilize artisan practitioners and specialists in the production of the work;
  • Often the book may be commissioned by an entrepreneurial publisher following the French tradition of the latter 19th century; and
  • These works are expensive to buy and have limited markets that center on private collectors and institutions.

 

An exemplar:

Extinguishing of stars Carolyn Fraser and Holly Morrison

Extinguishing of stars Carolyn Fraser and Holly Morrison

Idlewild Press, Cleveland, Ohio :2003. 61 p. : ill. ; 24 cm., in case 26 x 20 x 4 cm. Edition of fifty.

https://thedesignfiles.net/2011/03/interview-and-studio-visit-carolyn-fraser-of-idlewind-press/

http://www.carolynfraser.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Issue4_Uppercase_Fraser.pdf

 

 

In any attempt to define creative book publishing caution needs to be exercised. The artists’ book discipline has for years been dogged by attempts to define ‘what is, and what isn’t an artists’ book’. In 2005 Johanna Drucker put forward a proposal for classification of artists’ books. Even though she predicted that her proposition would ‘… cause strife, competition, [and] set up a hierarchy, make people feel they are either included or excluded’, (Drucker 2005:3) it inspired worldwide debate and furore from artists and librarians and became known as ‘Druckergate’. Ultimately the angst cooled and the artists’ book field continued with qualified debate, in both academic literature and everyday conversation, thus creating a basis for ongoing questioning and commentary on the discipline.

More recently, in 2010, Sarah Bodman and Tom Sowden from the Centre for Fine Print Research at the University of the West of England sought to define the canon for the artists’ book in the 21st century. They did this by creating a survey of world practitioners of bookmaking by artists in every conceivable outcome, including the emergent eBook. They found that the hierarchical form of a tree diagram was ‘too rigid and too concerned with process’ (Bodman and Sowdon 2010:5). They discovered that their respondents wanted to alter the diagram to satisfy the, ‘cross-pollination that is often required by artists’ and added in, ‘connectors across, up and down to bring seemingly disparate disciplines together.’

Just as Bodman and Sowdon found from their research, this visual spectrum structure is open to challenge where practioners and commentators are encouraged to mix and augment new color palettes for the presence of the photograph within the book. So what is proposed is not a rigid structure, deeply rooted and immovable as in the tree trunk, branch and leaf, but rather one where books of similar characteristics can be grouped, blended and mixed.

The intention for this nomenclature is to bring visibility to the diversity of creative publishing forms using the photograph. It is offered as a potential tool that recognises this evolving and extended medium to: curators, judges, cataloguers preparing ‘the best books of the year’ lists and books for sale or auction, and commentators engaging in critical debate. Additionally the links with artists’ books and zines can also be acknowledged thus extending and enriching the discipline of the photobook.

In the debate surrounding the evolving photobook this photo-specific spectrum analysis is offered, as a non-hierarchical, flexible and creative nomenclature. The spectrum should be able to move with change and developments within the photo in the book and the ideas and the motivations behind those who create these communicative devices and their commentators and readers. Each constituent of the spectrum, although emanating its own ‘wavelength’ or ‘color’, forms a part of the “white light” that is the continuum of the photograph and its place in the book.

 

 

Dr Doug Spowart[1]

January 2015

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Bodman, S. and T. Sowdon (2010). A Manifesto for the Book: What will be the canon for the artist’s book in the 21st Century? T. S. Sarah Bodman. Bristol, England, Impact Press, The Centre for Fine Print Research, University of the West of England, Bristol.

Campany, D. (2014). “The ‘Photobook’: What’s in a name?” Aperture: The Photobook Review(#007).

Drucker, J. (2005). “Critical Issues / Exemplary Works.” The Bonefolder: An e-journal for the bookbinder and book artist 1(2): 3-15.

McLaughlin, T. (2013). “Classic – The Photobook: A History Vol 1.”   Retrieved 17 June 2014, 2014, from http://imageonpaper.com/2013/05/17/131/.

Phillpot, C. (1998). Books by artists and books as art. Artist/Author: Contemporary Artists’ Books. C. Lauf and C. Phillpot. New York, D.A.P./Distributed Art Publications Inc.

Thurmann-Jajes, A. (2002). ars photographica: Fotografie und Künstlerbücher. Weserburg, Bremen, Neues Museum

 

[1] This essay is informed by an ongoing and long term personal interest which involved a practice of making, observing and considering the position of photographs published in the creative book realm along with recent research into the intersection of photobooks, zines and artists’ books.

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TEXT © Doug Spowart 2018
Most of the images in this post are from the promotional websites for the books and some are by the author – copyright resides with the authors and the images here are used for the purpose of review and commentary. Source links are provided for the reader’s connection with the publication under discussion.

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