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MORE THAN THE COVER: Judging the Photobook of the Year

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The Finalists...

The Finalists…

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Recently in Auckland and Melbourne two groups of photobook aficionadas and aficionados assembled before 31 and 71 books respectively, and worked as a team to decide which of the books before them were exemplary of contemporary photobooks and, if consensus could prevail, which book – in each location, was the ‘best’ photobook.

 

The selection process is based on a ‘Judging Criteria’ that has been developed and enhanced over the many years of the awards which states that the judges will review each entry to assess the:

  • excellence of the photography, design, layout, typography and cover art
  • quality of the photo editing and sequencing to create an engaging visual narrative
  • ability of any additional imagery, text or ephemera to enhance the story in the photographs and/or book
  • appropriateness of the photography, design and format for the book’s intended purpose and audience

As the definition of a photobook remains broad, from photozines to trade coffee table books, a key consideration for the judging panel is to evaluate the ‘appropriateness’ of the book in the context of its ‘intended purpose and audience’. This aspect of the Criteria creates an opportunity for diverse products to be sensitively and fairly assessed.

 

The AuPOTY judges: Heidi Romano, Helen Frajman, Victoria Cooper, Daniel Boetker-Smith and Emma Phillips

 

The judging panel is purposefully selected to include experts in photography, design and book publishing. Each year these judges are changed to allow for representatives from different backgrounds, locations, gender, industry areas including design, publishing, media, cultural institution, academia, retail, art and commercial worlds.

Additionally judges weren’t allowed to score or advocate for books in which potential conflict of interest may cause problems. This is a particularly important issue as our photobook communities in Australia and New Zealand are small and connected.

 

 

The Photobook of the Year – 5 stage judging process:

 

Stage 1. A PDF of each book was forwarded to the judges in advance for them to gauge a preliminary impression of the book, its visual nature, content and narrative. Each judge completed a ‘first impression’ top 10 books spread sheet and provided feedback in the form of a comment and score for the books that they had selected.

Stage 2. The judges met and participated in some introductory discussions about the award and the processes that were to follow. After that the books were laid out on tables enabling the judges to encounter the physical and haptic experience of each book. Another ‘score sheet’ was provided so that judges could quantify their response to each book. While this review was basically carried out individually some casual discussion took place between judges. Many judges were to comment that seeing the ‘real’ book was surprisingly different from the impression that they had gained from the PDF screen view.

 

NzPOTY Judging team included Jonty Valentine, Anne Noble, Layla Tweedie-Cullen, Haru Sameshima, Ron Brownson and Doug Spowart PHOTO: From Facebook post

 

Stage 3. The judges score sheets were tallied resulting in a group of books being selected for round-table review and discussion. From this group activity the finalists were determined. In the AuPOTY 12 books were selected and in NzPOTY 10 made the finalist list. It should be noted that judge/s disclosed any involvement or potential conflict of interest with particular books or association that they may have with the author.

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Stage 4. In this, the final stage, the judges debated the relative attributes of the books working towards a point where consensus over the ultimate winner could be determined as well as any books deserving of ‘Commended’ awards could be made. This stage of the process was interesting to participate in or to observe, as the many differing opinions of what constitutes the ‘contemporary photobook’ made for a lively and informative debate.

 

A consensus was to be achieved in both judgings and the results were:

 

Australian Photobook of the Year Winner:

Astres Noirs by Katrin Koenning & Sarker Protick, published by Chose Commune

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AuPOTY WINNER: Astres Noirs by Katrin Koenning & Sarker Protick & Published by Chose Commune

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Recipients of Commended awards were:

  • Elsewhere by Fuad Osmancevic
  • J.W. by Clare Steele
  • Memorandum by Ana Paula Estrada
  • Some Want Quietly by Drew Pettifer, Published by M.33
  • Surface Phenomena by Bartolomeo Celestino, Published by Perimeter Editions

 

FINALISTS

  • Bird by Gary Heery
  • Courts 02 by Ward Roberts & Editions
  • Elemental by Rohan Hutchinson
  • Golden Triangle by Hannah Nikkelson
  • Kinglake by Jade Byrnes
  • Two Pandanus Trees Side by Side by Aaron Claringbold

 

Page views, the judges and other book details of the AuPOTY can be seen HERE

APOTY Website

 

 

 

New Zealand Photobook of the Year Joint Winners:

  • Rannoch by Simon Devitt
  • Touchy by Evangeline Davis

Rannoch by Simon Devitt PHOTO: From the NzPOTY Website

Touchy by Evangeline Davis PHOTO: From the NzPOTY website

 

Recipients of Commended awards were:

  • As the Road Bends by Blair Barclay
  • Duplex City by Blair Kitchener

 

FINALISTS

  • Conversations With My Mother by Shelley Ashford
  • R&S Satay Noodle House by Sally Young
  • Soap and Water by Bronwyn McKenzie
  • Someone’s Mana by Michael Krzanich
  • The Shops by Peter Black
  • Watching the fishes go by by Niki Boon

 

Page views, the judges and other book details of the NzPOTY can be seen HERE

NzPOTY Website

 

 

The travelling exhibition of the POTY winners and finalists

A&NZ Photobooks of the Year 2015 @ Maud Gallery in Brisbane PHOTO: Doug Spowart

A&NZ Photobooks of the Year 2015 @ Maud Gallery in Brisbane PHOTO: Doug Spowart

 

STAGE 5. In each country visitors to the AuNzPOTY exhibitions in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane are invited to vote for their favourite book, and the winner receives $500 cash + $2,000 printing credit with Momento Pro.  The winner will be announced via a Photobook of the Year Awards email later in the year. Subscribe at awards@photobookoftheyear.com.au.

 

Some personal observations and comments about the judging

 

As a witness to one of the judgings (AuPOTY), and a participant judge in the other (NzPOTY) I have reflected on the process and the salient issues, topics and well-discussed points and prepared this comment piece. I might add that these are based on my recollections of the proceedings as well as my personal thoughts gained from my involvement.

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The universal definition of what is a photobook remains illusive. What judges think, what the entrants or others may think is a photobook may never be resolved. Although the perception of what a photobook might be does effect every aspect of the awards influencing who might enter and what their expectations of the award may be.

Also what is the nature of the selected finalists, and what book wins the awards, sends out a message to the broad range of people interested in photobooks to confirm or challenge their idea of what a photobook is.

2

Who made the book? Is it self-published? Or was it trade published? Was it a collaboration – did it involve a single photographer or multiple photographers with editor/s, publisher and designer/s? As all have a bearing on the book as a creative product or a commercial outcome.

3

What was the purpose for the book…? Is it for general consumers, niche markets or a personal record bound in book form?

4

Much discussion centred around concepts relating to design style, tricks of printing and binding, different papers, round fore edge corners, trendy layouts, typography, embellishments and packaging. Some books were considered derivative as certain features were part of last year’s trend or were recognised as being influenced by/taken/copied/borrowed from a recent well-known successful book. Therefore books with original concepts were held in higher esteem.

The question begs to be asked… at what point do any of these ‘derivative’ features become recognised as a visual style/form or narrative effect that contributes to the book communiqué?

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The meaning and implications of collaboration.

6

Artist’s statements were often poorly written, or overtly academic ‘artspeak’.

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One important consideration was that the book was as a total package where all of its components; concept, content, design, production values and binding were seen as creating a total creative entity.

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Some common phrases from the judges were:

  • Fabric of construction
  • Economical
  • I wish I’d made that…
  • If only I could have had those images to edit…

 

In conclusion:

The Patrons for Australian and New Zealand Photobook of the Year Awards are Libby Jeffery and Geoff Hunt of MomentoPro. They have  funded prizes, coordinating the judging process: including judge selection, announcement events and exhibitions. Partners in the awards include Heidi Romano from Unless You Will, Photography Studies College Melbourne and in New Zealand f11 Online magazine.  Over 6 years these awards have championed photobook publishing activity and discourse and as such created a record of contemporary photobook practice in the antipodes.

The Australian and New Zealand Photobook of the Year 2016 will tour nationally in 2017… Visit the Photobook of the Year website for details.

 

Dr Doug Spowart

 

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TEXT: ©2017 Doug Spowart
PHOTOs: ©2017 Doug Spowart (unless indicated otherwise)

 

 

 

 

 

ANNOUNCEMENT: The 2016 Australian Photobook of the Year Award

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Momento Pro and UNLESS YOU WILL joined forces to present the 2016 Australian Photobook of the Year Awards culminating with a presentation in Melbourne on February 17, 2017.

The awards were open to unpublished, self-published or trade published photo books by Australian citizens and residents. The Australian Photobook of the Year Awards celebrates excellence and innovation in photobook creation and also showcases the work of Australian photographers to a growing local and international audience.

 

THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE WINNER

Libby Jefferies talking about the Award

Libby Jeffery talking about the Award

 

A group of around 70 photobook makers, collectors, commentators and others interested in the discipline attended a presentation of the finalist books and the announcement of the overall winner at Magic Johnston in Melbourne on February 17, 2017.  Brief speeches were presented by UNLESS YOU WILL’s founder Heidi Romano and MomentoPro’s Libby Jeffery were followed by the announcement of Katrin Koenning & Sarker Protick’s Astres Noirs as the winner. The Commended awards were also announced and attendees were able to experience the finalist’s books first-hand.

 

 

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THE WINNER: Astres Noirs by Katrin Koenning & Sarker Protick & Chose Commune

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APOTY WINNER: Astres Noirs by Katrin Koenning & Sarker Protick & Chose Commune PHOTO © 2017 Doug Spowart

APOTY WINNER: Astres Noirs by Katrin Koenning & Sarker Protick & Chose Commune

 

THE 2016 APOTY FINALISTS

  •  Astres Noirs by Katrin Koenning & Sarker Protick & Chose Commune Winner
  • Elsewhere by Fuad Osmancevic Commended
  • J.W. by Clare Steele Commended
  • Memorandum by Ana Paula Estrada Commended
  • Some Want Quietly by Drew Pettifer & M.33 Commended
  • Surface Phenomena by Bartolomeo Celestino & Perimeter Editions Commended
  • Bird by Gary Heery
  • Courts 02 by Ward Roberts & Editions
  • Elemental by Rohan Hutchinson
  • Golden Triangle by Hannah Nikkelson
  • Kinglake by Jade Byrnes
  • Two Pandanus Trees Side by Side by Aaron Claringbold

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A detailed report and images of the winner and commended books can be seen on the Australian Photobook of the Year Website – HERE

 

ALL photographs ©2017 Doug Spowart

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ZINES IN MELBOURNE: Sticky Institute’s Festival of the Photocopier

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Town Hall foyer sign

Town Hall foyer sign

 

On Sunday 12 February the Melbourne Town Hall and was packed with sellers, lookers and buyers attending the Sticky Institute’s Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair. At a guess, there could have been around 100 zine tables with a variety of zine-makers: both showing their own work, or representing other zinesters. For the visitor to the Fair there was an opportunity to see and handle almost any kind of communication that could put onto a sheet of paper, or into collated pages – folded, stapled, glued, stitched and sewn. Each ‘publication’ representing a personal approach to what the medium “zine” means to the author. And, as the ‘Zine’ is a slippery medium those within the discipline keep pushing the limits by integration of opportunistic technologies and ideas gleaned from contemporary media.

 

PHOTO: Doug Spowart - Stickies Festival of the photocopier zine fair 2017

PHOTO: Doug Spowart – Stickies Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair 2017

 

The content of the zines presented to us were from a broad church of visual and written media including: text as prose, poetry or as visual typographic forms, and calligraphy. There was a rich diversity of illustration from photo-realism to comic flat field work, photographs and even, in one sighted example – the ancient art of marbling. The narrative forms in these publications ranged from concrete poetry, prose, comic stories and disjointed stream of consciousness curated visuals.

In keeping with the tradition some zine makers aired their political opinions while others shared a fascination of contemporary everyday life. There were groups that concentrated on gender issues, music and issues of the street, while others presented dreamy naive and whimsical scenarios, adventures in suburbia, the road and outer space, nonsensical ghoulish and vampire episodes.

Our specific interest were zines based on or utilising photos sometimes referred to as photozines, as well as others that use photomontage in their narrative or conceptual work. Examples seen dealt with topics like the destruction of traditional family homes in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, skateboard stories, and a faux streetscape made up of photos of distressed buildings.

The Fair was a place to network. Greetings were made with like-minded people across the display tables and discussions took place about zines, life and art. We caught up with a few people we knew – David Dellafiora, Gracia and Louise and Glen Smith – Queensland’s zine hero Jeremy Staples was in the building somewhere but we didn’t get to meet. Zine-makers, or sellers, were keen to engage with us to tell the story of the work and where it fits with their practice and their life.

But did anyone sell anything? Many visitors were seen toting quite a few brown envelopes and calico bags filled with new additions to their personal collections. Perhaps a personal experience might shed some light on how success for such an event could be measured. It was right at the end of our shop, we had spent our budget and were talking to two young zinesters who were actually making their little photo zines on demand at their table. Their selling price was $3 and we wanted one of each but could only scrape together $5 in coin. One of the zinesters said ‘that’s fine, I’ll take the $2’, and stated that, ‘it’s important to have my zine out there…’

Being out there with your work. That is what zines are all about … your message in print as a democratic multiple … telling your story, was always what zines were about. That tradition it seems, continues…

 

Doug Spowart

February 13, 2017

 

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SOME ZINES ADDED TO OUR COLLECTION

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Trudi Treble at the Fair

Trudi Treble at the Fair

Trudi Treble: united states of america – october 2017 – november 2017, my diary.

Trudi Treble: united states of america – october 2017 – november 2017, my diary. #6/25.

Trudi Treble  Instagram: trud.i

 

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Johanna Ng at the Fair

Johanna Ng at the Fair

 

Johanna Ng: carlingford twitter poetry

Johanna Ng: carlingford twitter poetry

 

 

 

Glen Smith at the Fair

Glen Smith at the Fair

 

Glen Smith: Constructed Landscape

Glen Smith: Constructed Landscape

Glen Smith: https://nofrillsart.net/

 

 

Gracia and Louise

Gracia and Louise

Gracia Haby: Under the water with a two-colour eye-glass, something similar (2014) #49/100

Gracia Haby: Under the water with a two-colour eye-glass, something similar (2014) #49/100

Gracia and Louise: www.gracialouise.com

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martinpf: At least we’re not your kids – a photozine. #81/100. Published by Russian Glue Press

martinpf: At least we’re not your kids – a photozine. #81/100. Published by Russian Glue Press

martinpf@hotmail.co.ukRussiangluepress@gmail.com

 

 

David Dellafiora Field Studies

David Dellafiora Field Studies

Field Study (David Dellafiora): Wipe No.88

Field Study (David Dellafiora): Wipe No.88

Field Study – https://daviddellafiora.blogspot.com.au/

 

 

Alice Fennessy at her table

Alice Fennessy at her table

Alice Fennessy: Blood Vessels – A collection of poems about me memories

Alice Fennessy: Blood Vessels – A collection of poems about me memories

Alice Fennessy Instagram: @alicefennessy

 

 

Claire Wakeford and her zine

Claire Wakeford and her zine

Claire Wakeford: Untitled

Claire Wakeford: Untitled

Claire Wakeford: www.clairewakeford.com

 

 

Ning Xue: An Urban Village

Ning Xue: An Urban Village

 

Ning Xue: http://www.xuening.me/me.html

 

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UNTIL NEXT YEAR …

 

PHOTO: Doug Spowart - Sticky Institute's Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair 2017

PHOTO: Doug Spowart – Sticky Institute’s Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair 2017

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Copyright in the zines is retained  by the authors. All photographs + text + video ©2017 Doug Spowart

 

 

 

 

 

THOMAS OLIVER’s ‘Disconnection’ exhibition & essay

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Thomas Oliver - image from the series 'Disconnection'

Thomas Oliver – image from the series Disconnection

Thomas Oliver - image from the series Disconnection

Thomas Oliver – image from the series Disconnection

Thomas Oliver - image from the series 'Disconnection'

Thomas Oliver – image from the series Disconnection

Thomas Oliver - image from the series 'Disconnection'

Thomas Oliver – image from the series Disconnection

 

Disconnection is a solo show by Brisbane photographer Thomas Oliver. The series consists of work that has been captured in London, New York, Toronto, Paris and (of course) Brisbane. The exhibition is accompanied with a catalogue essay written by Dr. Doug Spowart.

Artist’s Talk: Interview with Dr. Heather Faulkner, 11am-1pm Saturday 25th February

Full Exhibition Dates: Tuesday 13th – Saturday 25th February

Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am – 4pm

Address: Project Gallery – QCA South Bank Campus, 226 Grey Street

 

OLIVER’s Artist Statement

Experiencing the ebb and flow of life in a capital city, it is easy to become consumed by the gurgling hum of activity. It sparks and pulses like an amped-up generator. We slip from one task to the next, leaving ourselves behind in the process. The lights flicker and the air vibrates warmly around us. And like a mad hive, our cities swarm with ghostly forms, smoothly transparent and faceless.

 

 

 

My Words for Thomas …

What makes photography a strange invention – with unforeseeable consequences – is that its primary raw materials are light and time.[1]

John Berger died last week. But his work will continue to reveal insights on how we perceive photographic communications. Even now I continue to hear his words in my head as I write. Most of the time his voice inhabits my writing, saying the words that I have just typed. His writing and critical thinking offered new ‘ways of seeing and looking at photographs’ – as ‘quotes’ from appearances, photos and memory. The photograph presents to us information that has connections to a reality as in Berger’s assertion, ‘A photograph arrests the flow of time in which the event photographed once existed’.[2]

 

But what happens when the photographic moment is slurred by slow shutter-speeds, movement of subject and camera panning? In this approach Thomas Oliver creates visual documents that could never have been seen by the photographer or an observer of the scene. These are documents of not a moment but of time passing. They transcend the instantaneous moment and suggest a visual concept of the subject’s spirit seemingly extracted by the act of photography–a tear in temporality ‘arrested’.

Francis Bacon: Three studies for a portrait of Lucian Freud 1969

Francis Bacon: Three studies for a portrait of Lucian Freud 1969

Oliver’s images also have a resonance with Gilles Deleuze’s discussion on Francis Bacon’s[3] work in his 1981 book Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Deleuze highlights how ‘chance’ and the expressiveness of the random and indiscriminate effects of vigorous brush strokes inform Bacon’s painting. Deleuze proposes that: ‘there is no chance except “manipulated” chance, no accident except a “utilized” accident.’[4] In making his photographs Oliver has no way of knowing what each slow shutter release will reveal. He relies on his understanding of technique during the process of exposure to realize the potential for an evocative outcome.

For me Oliver’s photographs are based on the ‘manipulated chance’. He is ready to respond with the tools photography to capture the phenomenon of light and time in everyday places frequented by people. His work seems to also rely on his acceptance of ‘utilized accidents’. It is from this principle that his moments of strange and powerful visual poetry come into being.

But are they his photographs? My favourite Berger quote also relates to Oliver’s spontaneous street images. That there are things beyond us, I’m not talking about God or Gods, but rather more about the involvement of the ‘other’ in the making of art. Berger said it beautifully for me – his voice echoes in my mind:

The modern illusion concerning painting [I read photography here]. . . is that the artist is a creator. Rather he is a receiver. What seems like creation is the act of giving form to what he has received.[5]

I respectfully present to you – Thomas Oliver’s Disconnection photographs of simulacra from the street.

 

Doug Spowart PhD

 

[1] Berger, John. “Appearances/the Ambiguity of the Photograph.” In Another Way of Telling: A Possible Theory of Photography, 47-52. Malden, MA, USA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2002.
[2] Ibid
[3] I refer also to Francis Bacon’s paintings based on Diego Velázquez’s Pope, Portrait of Innocent X (1650) and his portraits of friends, for example Three studies for a portrait of Lucien Freund (1964).
[4] Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by Continuum. Continuum Edition ed. London: Continuum Books, 1981. Editions de la Difference.
[5] Berger, John. The Shape of a Pocket. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2001.

 

Written by Cooper+Spowart

February 18, 2017 at 9:04 pm

BOOK DUMPING: Clearing the library shelves

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Simulated Americans dumped

Simulated Americans dumped

 

I found Robert Frank’s Americans in my cornflakes packet today. Yesterday I found bits of Irving Penn’s Passage: a work record and Cartier Bresson’s Decisive Moments in my Epson inkjet paper box. And the black and red flecks in the Mercury Cider carton I’d just purchased from Dan Murphy’s where from Trent Parkes’ Dream Life and Robert Holden’s Photography in Colonial Australia: The Mechanical Eye and the Illustrated Book respectively. Whether we like it or not books are slowly and systematically being slipped off the shelves in public libraries and research libraries in institutions across the nation to end up as recycled pulp for new books and boxes and cartons as well as landfill.

 

In 2014 the University of Sydney Medical School was found to be secretly dumping books. A significant article on this and the institutional practice deaccessioning (dumping) books by Elizabeth Farrelly was published in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2014 entitled Library book dumping signals a new dark age. She wrote:

In May, Sydney University announced its library “restructure”.  This magnificent library, among the country’s finest, had already, a decade earlier, deacquisitioned some 60,000 books and theses. More recently there were further, unquantified and undeclared cloak-and-dagger dumpings to make space for the wifi and lounge-chairs that have given the once magical Fisher stack the look and feel of a church playgroup.

 

GOOGLE - Search for book dumping (Detail)

GOOGLE – Search for book dumping (Detail)

I found it interesting to do a Google search of the terms <books dumped in skips dumpsters> and discovered more instances of the destruction of books. There were many articles about book dumping including one from 2005 in The Guardian reporting the University of London’s Octagon Library dumping stacks of books in skips outside the library. Left to the elements these books, some dating back to the 19th century, were in peril until students and staff rummaged through to salvage what they could. The article quotes author, publisher and campaigner for libraries Tim Coates as saying:

A library is a collection of books, it’s not a building. Throwing out books because you are having a refurbishment is like moving house but saying I won’t bother taking my family with me.

Progressively real books are disappearing fast from community and institutional libraries. If you talk to the librarians, who love the books that they are custodians of and are sworn to protect, these book dumpings are being directed by library managers who use include factors such as refurbishment and re-utilisation of library spaces as the need for their actions.

Aiding the downsizing process is the use of automated book culling software that analyses the user demand for books held by the library and prepares a deaccession list for books with low or no borrowing or patron access. For public lending libraries whose borrowing clientele may be towards popular fiction and children’s books other Dewey groupings may suffer. The use of this kind of software causes a whole range of books to be stripped from the selves and causes frustrations for librarians who want to maintain a broad range of subject matter. This can lead to desperate acts. Jason Ruiter of the Orlando Sentinel newspaper reported how staff at the East Lake County Library created a fake library patron in 2016 who then proceeded to check out 2,361 books over nine months. The ruse was reported and library staff were reprimanded or had their employment terminated.

The heart of the problem is that the knowledge economy is shifting from physical assets to the online presentation of virtual resources. In a somewhat charged conversation I had with a State Librarian around 18 months ago I was informed that the particular library had 1 million physical visitors over a year and 20 million online visits or ‘hits’. The Librarian continued by saying that they, in conjunction with a consortium of institutions with similar strategies, were directing funding to support the online user. What can be put online and be remotely searched and accessed is the focus of these institutions. My argument was that although page-turning software may make available remote viewing of the usual codex form of the book, books like artists’ books that have so many more features and physical attributes that could not be conveyed online. At best, I said, was that the online presentation of an artists’ book could only be like a travel postcard to an exotic place that could be used to encourage the virtual viewer to visit the real thing.

Very recently the effects of library downsizing have become very evident to me. For 20 years I nurtured an institutional special library collection relating to photography. Dutifully, with the support of my fellow staff members, we dispensed the yearly library budget by acquiring the best books that represented the industry and the art of photography. Despite having my own professional library I considered the institutional library as an extension of my bibliophile activities. Special books beyond my personal budget were able to added to the library and as a diligent seeker of discounted and remaindered books, I occasionally bought two copies of heavily discounted books – one of which I donated. At times, through professional networks and contacts when opportunities to get complimentary copies of books came available, I’d make sure that I’d score some for the library.

Now at this institution over the years I’d seen changes affecting the library and it’s space for books. Firstly, in a remodeling of the space high shelving were replaced by the OH&S friendly chest-high form – I thought, where did the surplus books go? Next was the encroachment of extra office space in the shelving area. Not for library staff but interestingly for IT support services. I thought, where did the surplus books go? Next computer bays and a classroom were added into the library space and the stacks shrunk further – where did the excess books go? Well I know where some of them went as just outside the library door resided a trolley for years that has a sign on it, ‘help yourself – please take away these books we no longer need’.

It has been 21/2 years since I left the institution and I recently visited my old teaching space to have lunch with my former co-teacher to reminisce over the old days and collect a few possessions left behind. While gathering together my things I encountered a 100 or so library books in one of the back rooms. My former co-teacher explained that the library was downsizing and that they were to be ‘disposed’ of, so she had asked them to give the books to her and she would distribute them. She said: ‘you can have some if you like’ – and I did. I selected a few books that were in the library’s initial set that seemed to me to be based around remainders from the early 1980s American photobook publishing era – books that are now difficult or really expensive to get. These I passed on to a friend who has been assembling a specialist photobook library. I did keep a few special things for myself: a 1980s copy of Frank’s The Americans; Les Levine’s early 1980’s Using the camera as a club … not necessarily a great one; a catalogue for Susan Purdy’s The shaking tree and Axel and Roslyn Poingant’s Mangrove Creek 1951: a day with the Hawkesbury River postman … and … and.

In a way I’m not surprised by the deaccessioning of ‘my’ teaching library as over the last 5 or so years of my teaching I found that students would not go to the library even when I’d suggest a particular text or texts that were related to their personal research. Always, when interviewing students about what they researched I would be presented with a bunch of URLs and low-res laser prints of screen dumps. Oh! How disappointed I would be when the physical manifestation of their interests, a book, was shelved in the library only a few minutes away. Ultimately I did embrace online research opportunities for students and helped to develop skills in that area that I’d honed in my PhD candidature a few years earlier.

Whatever I may feel about my personal experience, in the wider world of books and libraries, the practice of book dumping and shredding no doubt will continue and escalate. We need to protect access to books in public libraries and research collections and many public groups have emerged to challenge politicians and bureaucrats for their initiation of changes to libraries. One example is the group Citizens Defending Libraries that has an ongoing campaign against the Mayor and developers about changes to the New York Public Library service. In a currently running petition they make the following statement:

We demand that Mayor de Blasio, all responsible elected officials, rescue our libraries from the sales, shrinkage, defunding and elimination of books and librarians undertaken by the prior administration to benefit real estate developers, not the public. Selling irreplaceable public assets at a time of increased use and city wealth is unjust, shortsighted, and harmful to our prosperity. These plans that undermine democracy, decrease opportunity, and escalate economic and political inequality, should be rejected by those we have elected to pursue better, more equitable, policies

There may need to be a new term in the library lexicon to recognize these supporters of libraries – maybe we could call them bibliovigilantes.

Outside the public and the academic systems there is a more important role for those who collect and maintain personal specialist libraries. They may become the keepers of the knowledge. More importantly though, in this increasingly virtual world, they will know not only of the content of books, but the will also possess the experience of turning physical pages, the aroma of paper, ink and binder’s glue, and the power of the solidity and weight of the object we call a book.

Scarily, if we allow the unfettered disintegration of the library and the demise of the book, we may be creating a bookless world like that in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and the job title for those who deal with books will not be librarians but rather ‘book firemen’.

 

Doug Spowart

Written @ Wooli, December 2016

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A GIFT OF A CAMERA: David Tickell’s cameras

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Advertising stuff from the 1960s for David's cameras

Advertising stuff from the 1960s for David’s cameras

 

In March 2013 I was contacted by David Tickell who wanted to meet with me to talk about a proposition he had in mind. I had known David for many years – he had been a writer and critic for the local press and had written the text for a book by my photographer friend John Elliott. In the early 2000s David had enrolled in photography studies at the college I taught at in Toowoomba. He was always an enthusiastic contributor to the classroom as he sought to learn and master digital photography. It became evident to me at the time that David had a considerable interest and capability in photography from his past career activities.

 

When David came by to visit he brought an aluminium case covered with the patina of travel and use. Inside the case were the things that David had wanted to talk with me about. We sat in our carport rainforest and talked about what we’ve both been up to and changes in our lives. David spoke about downsizing his life’s goods and chattels and introduced the aluminium case’s treasures to me… a Rollei twin lens reflex with a range of filters and accessories, an Exakta 35mm SLR – all neatly packed with manuals and other ephemera. It was all in immaculate condition. He told me that he had purchased it in the Middle East at a time in his journalism career that needed quality photographs.

 

With David Tickell on the day of his gift to me in 2013

With David Tickell on the day of his gift to me in 2013

His dilemma now was that with digital photography he had no need for the equipment and he wanted to pass it on to someone who would appreciate it and perhaps even use it – he proposed that I was that person. I appreciated his gesture and felt honoured by his offer. I mentioned that Vicky and I had a Rollei in our possession and that we would look after the gear and pass it on to an individual, perhaps a student, who we considered would value this equipment and use it to extend their analogue photography work. We made photographs of our meeting with the cameras and David left feeling excited that his gift was well received and would be looked after.

For some time I’ve been looking out for a suitable person to receive David’s gear. Quite a few years ago I’d come across a Brisbane band webpage called ‘Something from the scene’, and a little while later I had a student who was interested in contemporary band photography who had found the same site as an inspiration. In June 2015 we met Thomas Oliver at the Siganto Artists Book Forum in Brisbane. He was the guy from ‘Something from the scene’. We both connected with Thomas who we found out was a Queensland College of Art Bachelor of Photography student. Our paths have crossed many times since including his involvement in exhibitions and projects I’ve curated include a Skype artist’s talk that he participated in at Maud Gallery in March for the In situ documentary show.

Recently Thomas has completed his Bachelor of Photography and was the winner of the John Mckay Award for the student going into honours, and a Saint Margaret School’s internship award. He is continuing his studies with an Honours year at QCA. I was particularly interested in Thomas’ engagement with analogue photography. Extensive project work while on study tour to Europe, the UK and Canada was shown at Maud in the ‘In situ’ show and his graduating BP work featured an involvement in the variants and deviations possible from the printing of the singular black and white film negative.

 

PHOTO: Thomas Oliver from his 'Disconnection' series

PHOTO: Thomas Oliver from his ‘Disconnection’ series

PHOTO: Thomas Oliver from his 'Disconnection' series

PHOTO: Thomas Oliver from his ‘Disconnection’ series

Thomas Oliver giving his floortalk by Skype

Thomas Oliver giving his ‘In Situ’ floortalk by Skype from Canada

Thomas talking about his work at the Maud Gallery 'Dark Love' event in November 2016

Thomas talking about his work at the Maud Gallery ‘Dark Love’ event in November 2016

 

For his enthusiasm for photography and his dedication to analogue photography I chose to pass on David’s gear to Thomas. We met at Maud Gallery at the end of November and the exchange made. He was excited to be the recipient of David’s equipment legacy and excitedly talked about how the gear could be used in his future photographic research work.

 

Thomas Oliver and me

Thomas Oliver and me

 

David’s equipment has found a new life with Thomas and as long as he has a need and a interest it will reside with him – until he wishes to pass it on to a new custodian…

Thomas Oliver with David's gear

Thomas Oliver with David’s gear

 

Words about David Tickell from John Elliot’s photographic documentary book The Last Show published in 1986. The book was about the last Toowoomba Agricultural Show held on the inner-city site bordering Bridge, Campbell and Lindsay Streets. Elliott’s photographs were complimented by a text telling the story of the show written by David.

From John Elliott's book 'The Last Show' 1986

From John Elliott’s book The Last Show 1986

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Written by Cooper+Spowart

December 17, 2016 at 1:47 pm

NOCTURNE ARMIDALE: a community photo project

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Sam Walkom's Imperial Hotel through the Post Office's arche

Sam Walkom’s Imperial Hotel rephotography DUO taken through the Post Office’s arches

 

NOCTURNE ARMIDALE: Capturing Armidale in a new light          

In our latest Nocturne project we worked with a group of photographers from the Armidale region to document the change of light from day to night. The special theme we developed for the Nocturne: Armidale project was to capture the town in both the early evening’s nocturnal light with a second photograph of the subject during daylight. This ‘re-photography’ approach resulted in a comparative pairs of images revealing the evocative nature of nocturne light and how it transforms everyday places.

 

The project began in mid-September when we conducted a workshop at the New England Region Art Museum (NERAM) in re-photography and nocturne light capture. This included practical shoots around Armidale from which images were then optimized and uploaded to Nocturne: Armidale project Facebook page to share with the wider community. Another aspect of the project was the digital processing and optimising of nocturne photographs. This was accomplished in a mentored section of the workshop with the participant’s images.

 

Doug presenting his workshop on file optimisation

Doug presenting his workshop on file optimisation

A group shot of some of the Nocturne Armidale participants

A group shot of some of the Nocturne Armidale participants PHOTO: Neil Burton

 

Les Davis from the National Trust Home Saumarez, provided project participants with a unique opportunity to photograph this magnificent historical homestead. Over two separate nights images were made to highlight the home’s colonial architecture.

It was suggested in our original proposal that the work produced could be at some later stage be exhibited. And during the workshop Greg from the New England Art Society Armidale Art Gallery came forward with the offer of an exhibition space in their gallery.

In the two months following the workshop we finalised the optimisation of 25 pieces from the workshop – most of them re-photography Duos, and printed them for the participants. Other print coordination took place with workshop participant Neil Burton who provided access to his wide-format printer for large images to be made. At the end of November we returned to Armidale with Neil and his partner Lindy Osbourne to hang the shows.

 

Hanging the Nocturne Armidale exhibition

Hanging the Nocturne Armidale exhibition

Part of the Nocturne Armidale exhibition at the Armidale Art Gallery

Part of the Nocturne Armidale exhibition at the Armidale Art Gallery

The project’s main exhibition was shown at the Armidale Art Gallery in Beardy Street and we presented a floortalk on December 3rd that was attended by around 25 visitors as well as most of the project’s participants. The exhibition of images from the Saumarez shoot-outs was officially opened by photographer and publisher Terry Cooke on December 2 and will remain on display at Saumarez until January 29th, 2017. A third exhibition of photographs included our images and works by Neil Burton will be on show in the Armidale Council Chambers until March 5, 2017.

 

With Terry Cooke, Les Davis and Neil Burton at the opening of the Saumarez show

With Terry Cooke, Les Davis and Neil Burton at the opening of the Saumarez show PHOTO: Lindy Osbourne

Vicky presenting a floortalk about the Nocturne show

Vicky presenting a floortalk about the Nocturne show

 

The Nocturne: Armidale exhibitions include photographs by Paul Bayne, Sue Burgess, Neil Burton, Victoria Cooper, Les Davis, Ross Jenkins, Jeni Mackenzie, Doug Spowart, Sam Walkom and Jim Walmsley.

Here is a selection of the Nocturne Armidale project images…

Click on image to open a gallery viewer for author and subject details.

 

 

Robert Heather, the Director of NERAM described us as a ‘nomadic photographic duo’ and acknowledged that we had, with our group of local photographers, had ‘braved cold, wet and windy conditions to create some beautiful and dramatic images of places which we all know well such as the old Courthouse, Saumarez Homestead, the cathedrals, hotels and railway station.”

 

The New England FOCUS Magazine published a story on our work and background to the Nocturne Armidale project – Download a PDF focus-nocturnearmidale-red (20Mb)

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The Nocturne: Armidale project was coordinated by the New England Regional Art Museum in partnership with the New England Art Society and supported by Saumarez Homestead and Armidale Regional Council.

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Regtta Hotel, Brisbane - rephotography DUO

Regatta Hotel, Brisbane – Rephotography DUO

ABOUT NOCTURNE PHOTOGRAPHY

Nocturne photography captures a time of day where the afterglow of sunset and the glow of streetlights can transform the everyday experience of place. In these photographs, street scenes and buildings that may be familiar in normal daylight take on the dramatic appearance of movie sets. Some photographs created at this time can require long camera exposures and therefore produce images that can capture blurred movement of people and car headlight trails. These images offer to the community a different perspective to their daily experience of place.

 

Nocturne Armidale Logo

Nocturne Armidale Logo

MORE ABOUT COOPER and SPOWART NOCTURNE PROJECTS

NOCTURNE: ARMIDALE, the project is part of continuing series, conducted by Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart, across Eastern Australia including past events in Muswellbrook, Grafton, Bundaberg and Miles.

Through our Nocturne documentary photography and Facebook social media projects, we have explored connections with Place in urban and regional communities throughout Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. For us the phenomenon of nocturnal light transforms these everyday spaces. Buildings, busy street corners, quiet alleyways all become filled with the dramatic light of a movie scene. In 2013 and 2014 we were given the opportunity, through funded Artists-in-Residence (AIR) programmes, to undertake Nocturne projects in the regional communities of Muswellbrook, Grafton and Bundaberg.

 

The photographs in themselves have no intrinsic meaning – it is the viewer, with their experience and memory that brings life to the image. In this moment of connection they may recount a personal narrative or connect with the historical significance of the place. This collaboration between photograph and viewer is exciting and vibrant – expanding the potential for the documentary image to go beyond the vision of the photographer.

 

Examples of other Nocturne Projects and Facebook responses can be found at: <www.nocturnelink.com>

 

 

Cooper+Spowart shooting Nocturne

Cooper+Spowart shooting Nocturne

 

ABOUT  COOPER+SPOWART
Our arts practice is informed by our ongoing and evolving connection with Place. Our Place-Projects are influenced by the context and the consequences of living within a constantly changing landscape. We work with a range of photographic concepts, from the camera obscura, through analogue processes to the digital forms of the medium. Our work is presented as visual narratives in artists’ books, photobooks, exhibition images and and on blogs and social media.

 

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Copyright in all Nocturne Armidale project images is retained by the author – any use of these photographs must be approved by the copyright owner.

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