Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

ABBE 2017 – The academic artists book conference

with 3 comments



The second Artist Book Brisbane Event (ABBE) promised an academic conference dealing with the artists book as a folded and risky space. The event consisted of three elements at the Queensland College of Art and a fourth satellite pop-up exhibition at the State Library of Queensland. Drawn to ABBE 2017 were artists bookmakers, thinkers, commentators, teachers, lecturers and tinkerers from across Australia. All came with a desire to contribute to, or participate in, perhaps this Australia’s penultimate artists book gathering.


Dr Tim Mosely ABBE coordinator and chair

The event was convened and chaired by QCA lecturer Tim Mosely and was launched by Griffith University’s Dean Academic, Arts, Education and Law Professor Ruth Bereson who spoke about the book as art and the need for that the discipline has for scholarly discourse. She commented that the Griffith Centre for Creative Arts Research ABBE program and its connection with Columbia University’s JAB (Journal of Artists Book) publication of selected papers would contribute to this discourse. Significant keynote speakers, Uta Schneider and Ulrike Stoltz from Germany and Clyde McGill from Western Australia headlined the event. Other program contributors came from practitioners, academic staff, students, and recent graduates from institutions in the USA, New Zealand and around Australia.


Ulrike Stoltz & Uta Schneider


The first keynotes were Uta Schneider and Ulrike Stoltz who presented a paper entitled betwixt & between. Presenting in tandem their voices were almost like a turning of the pages – recto and verso. They teased out and formed the conference theme of ‘folding’ into an ordered analysis of the physical and metaphorical ways that books fold. They connected the theme ‘folding’ with their own individual and collaborative works and the concepts, philosophies and discussions about artists books that informed them. Mythology, Martin Heidegger on contemprality and the ekstaticon, Carrion, Gillies Deleuze and ‘thinking means folding’ and Michel Serres and ‘the crumpled nature of time’.

The lecture then proceeded to a review of book forms with terms like:

  • Folded paper
  • Cross fold
  • Sharpness of the fold
  • Container folds
  • Staging folds
  • French fold
  • Inside folding outside
  • Concertina and multi-concertina folds
  • Wormholes and science fiction

The works they illustrated their paper with were refined and exquisitely designed. They featured wordplay and poetry, folded page spaces, transparency using ‘show-through’, typography and graphic design elements. As an introduction to the topic, the hour long presentation provided a solid and exciting insight into ways of considering the fold, its forms and the way it can connect with the reader, as receiver of the communiqué.


A K Milroy + Brad Freeman presenting

Other presentations on the program included:

  • Marian Macken Reading Volume: Between Folded Drawings and Collapsible Models
  • Caren Florance & Angela Gardner  Unfolding to refold: collaborative wordings
  • Paul Uhlmann Meditations on process: Three artists books, letters to the land, sea and sky
  • Caren Florance An Instrument of Collaboration: Unfolding the GIW Legacy
  • Monica Oppen Eclectic items: early books by Australian artists
  • Ana Paula Estrada “Memorandum”, from concept to publication
  • Wim de Vos Air, edge, surface image – concertina books
  • Nicola Hooper The Citronella Artists Book as an Augmented Narrative
  • Amy E. Thompson Folding and the potential of Artists’ Books
  • A K Milroy & Brad Freeman Folding and unfolding in JAB41: cultures, research, pages
  • Tess Mehonoshen DISINTEGRATE:  the destructive folding of materials
  • Marian Crawford A lively phantom: the rare and popular artists book
  • Carolyn Craig Unfolding(s)
  • Isaac Brown Relationship risk and ethics in photographic artist books
  • Monica Carroll & Adam Dickerson Unfolding the episteme of artists’ books
  • Bridget Hillebrand Handling folds: an intimate encounter
  • Julie Barratt & Virginia Barratt The exquisite fold, the immanent word
  • Maren Götzmann The Anarchist Notebooks


While most papers were read from the dais with carefully illustrated PowerPoint slides the second keynote speaker Clyde McGill emerged on the stage with a device that could be called a ‘bibliophone’. McGill had altered a range of book titles by folding back the pages and attaching a sound pick-up to the book cover and then connected the 7 books to an amplifier. Volunteers from the audience were given bonefolders as plectrums and, on McGill’s guidance were instructed to make the various movements of hands and object associated with hand-making a book. The haptic actions were converted to sound and the room filled with the noise of ‘making’ associated with a great deal of laughter.


Making book music with Clyde McGill


McGill continued his presentation with a detailed investigation of the idea of folding books. Where possible his own works were referenced. At other times he created new books by playful investigation… bending and folding light was a particularly humorous but gave those present an insight into how the artist’s off-tangential and obtuse thought processes process can lead to new conceptual and visual discoveries.


Julie and Virginia Barrett’s performance

Another departure from the read-the-paper format was a performance by Julie Barratt and her sister Virginia Barratt. Attendees, on returning to the lecture theatre after morning tea, found the space darkened except for two sharply defined spotlit circles. One pool of light was vacant, just the floor’s carpet – in the other artists’ book maker Julie Barratt was busy unfurling paper, measuring it and tearing of lengths and positioning them in a stack on the table before her. Also on the table were scissors a ball of thread and other bookmaker’s things. The unroll>measure>cut>position sequence was progressing methodically for some time making the sheets one might guess that would go to making a book. A soundtrack began with a female voice expressing thoughts ideas, word associations sometimes repeated – perhaps the thoughts of the bookmaker? There was a rustling sound – stage right. Gradually a large dome-like white shape appeared and moved towards the empty spotlight area. The shape was covered in what looked like pages – ominous maybe… the audio continued and Julie Barratt left her table and proceeded toward the shape and picked up a folded sheet and returned to the table – flattening out the sheet it was melded with other sheets. The performance continued. What was it about? What came to my mind was that the shape was like the book working with Julie so its story could be told as in Paul Carter’s ‘material thinking’. At the end of the performance it was revealed that Virginia Barratt, Julie’s sister, was the artists book ‘monster’.


Another aspect of the conference presentations were two papers by photographers Ana Paula Estrada and Isaac Brown both featuring bookwork’s that they had created. Estrada, as a State Library of Queensland Siganto Foundation Creative Fellow, discussed concepts of memory, photography and old age as the inspiration for her project. She detailed the process of design, making maquettes, refining and working with commercial printers and binders to complete the project. Brown spoke of the integration of his project and PhD study focussing on his relationship to his father, a Vietnam veteran. Aspects of text and dialogue were addressed as well as Brown’s own recent fatherhood. What was interesting was the informal narrative and connection with audience that both presenters had and the expanding space of the artists book being inhabited by photographers.


Wim de Vos presents his work

Wim de Vos made an animated presentation and several helpers as his concertina books by the metre unfolded across the width of the theatre and tunnel books expanded, evidence of the pre-eminence of his artists book practice in Queensland.


Midway through the academic papers a ‘plenary’ session consisting of a panel of artists’ book ‘movers and shakers’ discussed several issues relating to the discipline. The session quickly became absorbed with the perennial issues of nomenclature, the dearth of private and public purchasers of bookworks and the grooming of possible artists book collectors. The impact of the term ‘Art Book’ was mentioned and the way events associated with the term has grown in popularity worldwide and has come to encompass artists books, photobooks, zines, art books and institutional catalogues. Another topic mentioned was the importance of research and critical commentary on the discipline. A suggestion was made for the formation of a ‘double-blind peer review’ collective.


Noreen Grahame at the QCA Library and her ‘… & So’ artists book show

On the evening of the first day Robert Heather, Director, New England Regional Art Museum opened the exhibition “… & So” at QCA Library. The exhibition features a significant collection of seminal Australian and international artists books and multiples sourced predominately from Noreen Grahame’s Centre for the Artist Book collection and her numero uno publications alongside artists’ books from the Queensland College of Art.  A list of the selected works can be downloaded here. ALA Books for abbe 2017 … $ so Exhibition list


Mid afternoon on the second day the State Librarian and CEO from the State Librarian of Queensland Vicki McDonald opened the 6th artists’ books + multiples fair. Twelve tables presented a hand-to-eye experience of books by significant makers of contemporary artists’ books. These included:


A silhouette view of the Grahame Galleries tables

Stand 1 – grahame galleries + editions

Barbara Davidson

Stand 2 – Barbara A Davidson

Caren Florance

Stand 3 – Caren Florance – Ampersand Duck

Stand 4 – QCA

Photo from ABBE Artists Book Conference July 6-9 2017 at the Queensland College of Art

Stand 5 – 5 Press Books


Anne-Marie Hunter

Stand 7 – Psyclonic Studios – Anne-Maree Hunter

Sue Poggioli

Stand 8 – Sue Poggioli

Adele Outteridge & Wim de Vos

Stand 9 – Studio West End

Ulrike Stoltz & Uta Schneider

Stand 10 – Usus – Germany

Brad Freeman

Anita Milroy

Lyn Ashby

Stand 11 – Milroy-Australia / Freeman-USA / Ashby-Australia

Sue Anderson

Stand 12 – Impediment Press

SLQ Australian Library of Art artists book exhibition

To complement the theme of the ABBE conference a special collection of concertina and folded books was curated by Christene Drewe of the Australian Library of Art at the State Library of Queensland. Open only for 2 hours on the Saturday morning of the conference this satellite event was well patronised. The Australian Library of Art is recognised as Australia’s premier public collection of artists books and the range of works presented was a testimony to the variety and depth of the collection. A list of the books displayed can be downloaded here. ALA Books for abbe 2017

In keeping with the conference theme the community of practice for artists books in this country is supported by the ‘folding’ and ‘unfolding’ of ideas, theories, concepts, access to exemplar book samples and the social connection that ABBE provides. While selected ABBE 2017 papers will be published in JAB, beyond that, the influence and impact of this gathering highlights the need for ABBE to provide this ongoing forum in Australia.


Dr Doug Spowart


All photographs and text ©2017 Doug Spowart




CYANOTYPE: Working the ‘blues’ in Greece

with 8 comments

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


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


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


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

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

Agios Ioannis

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

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

A local cat keeps Gail amused while she exposes a cyanotype

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

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

Morning review

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

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

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


Here are some photos of the final presentations…



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







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

with one comment

The MomentoPro AuNZ Photobooks of the Year @ VPBF


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

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

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

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

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


















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

with 3 comments

Doug Spowart presenting The Antipodean Photobook at Vienna Photo Book Festival



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


1. The supporting structures

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few slides from the presentation…


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

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

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

Here are a few slides from the presentation…


4. Voices from the Antipodean scene

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

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

Here are a few slides from the presentation…


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

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

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

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


Martin Parr at the AuNZ photobook table PHOTO: Lachlan Blair






















AuNZ PHOTOBOOKS @ The Vienna Photo Book Festival

with 3 comments

The exhibition at Brotfabrik Wien



(from the ViennaPhotoBookFestival website)

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

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

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


The AuNZ Photobook of the Year set of books

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

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

The exhibition space with the AuNZ table in the foreground

Lachlan Blair’s photogram print display

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

Classic photobooks

Valentyn Odnoviun with his book ‘Surveillance’

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

Martin Parr being interviewed by Verena Kaspar-Eisert

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

Krass Clement being interviewed by Gerry Badger

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

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

Gerry Badger with Sonia Lenzi at the AuNZ table

Martin Parr at the AuNZ table

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

Regina Maria Anzenberger and Doug Spowart

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

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


What follows is a selection of images from the event…










REVIEW PANELS at the Vienna Photo Book Festival

with 3 comments

Vienna Photo Book Festival logo



(From the website)


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

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

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


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

You are here…


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


Regina Maria Anzenberger opens the Reviews


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

Isa Maria rings the bell

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



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


The review tables


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

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

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


The winner



Here are photos of some of our fellow review participants


Lore Horre


Thomaz Laczny

Paul Grandsard

Denis Esakov

Natalia Baluta













Written by Cooper+Spowart

June 18, 2017 at 6:03 pm

MORE THAN THE COVER: Judging the Photobook of the Year

leave a comment »

The Finalists...

The Finalists…


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.


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


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


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



  • 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



  • 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.


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.


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.


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


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?


The meaning and implications of collaboration.


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


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.


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





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






%d bloggers like this: