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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.

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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)

 

 

 

 

 

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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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