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BOOKEND: Photobook Melbourne — what a read?

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Photobook Melbourne: Peter Lyssiotis looking at an Aperture Books


We all know that feeling when you are really getting into a book, its narrative and flow, and then you reach the point where, as the last page is turned, you wish it could go on, and on… Photobook Melbourne (PM) was something of that kind of experience. The books seen, perhaps around 300, the exhibitions seen, and the people met now all vividly reside in memory and digital capture code.


The Photobook Melbourne event took place between February 12 to 22 it was coordinated by Heidi Romano and Daniel Boetker-Smith. It was always an ambitious undertaking. Its vision was to connect international photobook world with makers and lovers of the book from around Australia… and New Zealand. This was achieved through numerous exhibitions, library displays, photobook awards, forums and workshops.

Daniel Boetker-Smith + Heidi Romano PHOTO: Lauren Dunn www.artdocumentation.com.au

Daniel Boetker-Smith + Heidi Romano PHOTO: Courtesy of Lauren Dunn www.artdocumentation.com.au


Photobook Melbourne can only be described as a massive success. The photobook community of practice needs events like these so they can band together to affirm their interest and belief in the importance and creative power of the photobook. For once, the world of photobooks has come to us, or at least Melbourne, and for that we are a stronger and more informed cohort of makers, readers, collectors and lovers of photobooks.


Some of the attendees have responded to a request for comments – others are posts from Blogs and Facebook posts…


FROM JACOB RAUPACH: Photobook Melbourne was an amazing week full of a genuinely insightful mix of talks, exhibitions and book exhibitions, with the fair during the first weekend proving to be a great networking point for the rest of the week that followed. …  I felt that the inaugural festival set an amazing benchmark for the following years! Looking forward to 2016.

FROM HARVEY BENGE‘s BLOG: On a zero to ten scale I’d give the festival a ten!  Visit his site for more commentaries about photobook

FROM CHRIS BOWES: For someone naïve to the world of photobooks, Photobook Melbourne was an eye opening experience. Although coming in as a virtual outsider to this rapidly expanding art scene, I sank my teeth into as many of the talks, exhibitions and book collections I could manage, and came away a lot more informed than I was going in. Personal favourites were the Paris Photo – Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards exhibition, where the content of the books was engaging and the calibre unmatched, and ‘The Other Photobook Forum’, where in particular Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison showed that with a little creativity and business sense one can make a buck and do what they love.

FROM LIBBY JEFFERYMomento Pro: The number of participants, visitors, books and buyers at Photobook Melbourne were fantastic and they confirmed that small press and self publishing is alive and well in Australia. The Awards and Book Fair also proved that a selection of high standard work is being created here, but a collaborative promotion and showcase of Australian photo books to the global market would benefit everyone.

FROM: ANGEL LUIS GONZALEZ FERNANDEZ  Facebook Comment     Back in Dublin after an amazing first edition of PHOTOBOOK MELBOURNE, having discovered tons of new work and books from Australia, New Zealand, and more -and having met a truckload of awesome people.

FROM KELVIN SKEWES: As someone that attended almost all of the events that were part of Photobook Melbourne I can only describe it as a tour de force for lovers of the Photobook. The festival opened on February 12th at the Centre for Contemporary Photography with Robert Zhao Renhui’s exhibition

A Guide To The Flora And Fauna Of The World and with a smoking ceremony by the traditional owners to welcome the festival to their land. Also announced on the opening night was the Australian Photobook of the year which was won by Raphaela Rosella for her unpublished book ‘We Met a Little Early But I Get to Love You Longer’ and I was humbled to be the runner up with my newspaper as photobook ‘Nauru: What was taken and what was given’. …

The main event for the first weekend of the festival was the Photobook Melbourne Book fair at CCP an event at was full of frenetic energy and far too many photobooks to browse let alone buy; amongst the many booksellers highlights included the infatigable Perimeter book with titles from Mack and Spector books and Anita Totha from Remote books who is doing to sterling job promoting photobooks from New Zealand. …

 Great thanks are due to the entire Photobook Melbourne team so thank you Heidi Romeo, Daniel Boetker-Smith, esteemed guests Ángel Luis González Fernández, Ron Jude and the Dysturb Photo Collective, festival partners and sponsors Momento Pro, Photography Studies College, Copyright Agency and venues CCP, MGA, Strange Neighbour, Colour Factory, Neo Space, Baron Said and James Makin Gallery and to all the volunteers without whom this could not have happened so thanks to Felix Wilson, Kate Robinson, Bella Capezio, Katrin Koenning and countless others.

See you next year!





Our arrival on the first weekend was delayed by my recent medical incursion so we fly into Melbourne on Wednesday. Through a friend we were able to stay in an apartment right in the middle of the city and our journeys out and about were by tram, train and lifts given by friends.


The MGA - The Home of Australian Photography

The MGA – The Home of Australian Photography

THURSDAY: We attended two book related exhibitions at the Monash Gallery of Art. Badged as the ‘Home of Australian Photography’ the gallery presented two photobook exhibitions, one of images from the collection that featured the theme of books and reading and was entitled ‘Light Reading’. The other was The Natural Collection an assemblage of books by The Photobook Club’s Matt Johnston and co-curated by Lucy Johnson. The Natural Collection brings together photobooks that explore “the harmony, tension and play” that occurs in the human relationship with nature and the natural landscape.

Heidi, Steph and Vicky discussing a book

Heidi, Steph and Vicky discussing a book

The exhibition space was setup for readers to sit and work their way through a most interesting selection of Euro/American centric responses to the theme. Grand trade books sat next to simple fold ‘n’ staple zine-like booklets. We were there with Heidi Romano, Simone Rosenbauer from Sydney and MGA Gallery’s Education and Public Programs officer Stephanie Richter. We engaged in a spirited debate about book design; production methods and how to evaluate books.

That evening we attend a dinner for PM speakers, contributors, supporters and sponsors. By this stage it was acknowledged that the PM had been an enormous success so congratulatory statements were announced and a great feeling of an Australian photobook community being well and truly launched by this event.

Bohemian Vicky+Doug

Bohemian Vicky+Doug

Bohemian Melbourne portrait wall

Bohemian Melbourne portrait wall

Bohemian Melbourne

Bohemian Melbourne

FRIDAY MORNING: A breakfast of avocado, bacon and relish was partaken at a suburban street café while being interviewed by Australian Photography contributor Anthony McKee for a feature on photobooks. Morning tea with Robert Heather and Des Cowley at the State Library of Victoria and a visit to the SLV exhibition Bohemian Melbourne – a fascinating reflection on the creative, musical and arty sub-culture of Melbourne. Rennie Ellis’ photos contributed much to this history as well as poster art, paintings and the ephemera and memorabilia of the different eras represented by the theme.


The Library Project @ PSC

The Library Project @ PSC

FRIDAY AFTERNOON: We visited Photography Studies College to view ‘The Library Project’, a collection of photobooks brought to PM by Ángel Luis González Fernández from PhotoIreland. ‘The Library Project’ aim is to collect contemporary publications based on photography to create a public resource library. We viewed many books that are not easily available to see in Australia including Cristina de Middel’s Afronauts.


The 'OTHER' Photobook Forum – a question from the floor

The ‘OTHER’ Photobook Forum – a question from the floor

FRIDAY EVENING: Later that evening we were involved with The ‘OTHER’ Photobook Forum – Artists’ Books, Zinesters and the Photobook took place. We have been working on this project for a couple of months now and we were able to bring together key practitioners from these ‘other’ photobook disciplines who discussed and provided commentary on their use of the photo in the book. The participants included photomonteur Peter Lyssiotis, zinesters Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, artists’ book maker Dr Lyn Ashby, Des Cowley from the State Library of Victoria and Victoria Cooper who stood in for Georgia Hutchison who was unable to attend due to extenuating family issues.

It was an event that stirred much interest with artists like Deanna Hitti and Theo Strasser attending as well as Momento Pros’ Libby Jeffery, and photobook makers Kelvin Skewes, Daniel Boetker-Smith and Chris Bowes.


Jacob Raupach @ CCP

Jacob Raupach @ CCP

Aperture Books on display @ The Baron Said

Aperture Books on display @ The Baron Said

SATURDAY: A day to attend artists talks at the Centre for Creative Photography by, amongst others photobookmaker Jacob Raupach and the exhibition FELL – Bought a copy of his latest book WEALTH. Following up with visits to the Momento Pro Australian Photo Book of the Year Award at the Asia Pacific Photobook Archive and the Aperture Photobook exhibition @ The Baron Said and a stimulating lunch with Peter and Tess Lyssiotis @Babkah.

Lunch with Tess + Peter

Lunch with Tess + Peter

Photobooked-out we headed back to the city by tram and had a chance meeting with Lismore artist and Siganto Artists Book Fellow Jan Davis who was attending a Print Council meeting – Only in Melbourne could strange intersections like that could happen.


SATURDAY EVENING: Melbourne White Night event

450,000 Melbournians took over the streets of the CBD – everything stayed open and performances and projections, bands and music were everywhere. Amongst other things we went to see the projections in the Dome at the State Library of Victoria at 10.30 at night – queued in line for 30 minutes with 1000s of others what a night…!



A day of traveling home to cyclone weather drenched Brisbane.




DOING IT BY THE BOOK: Judging the 2015 Momento Pro Australian Photo Book Awards

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The 2014 Australian Photobook of the Year Finalists stack

The 2014 Australian Photobook of the Year Finalists stack



On the 30th of January six identities from the Australian publishing and photography scene gathered in Sydney to review a selection of the best photo books from Australian authors and to select a recipient for the title Momento Pro Australian Photo Book of the Year. Prior to this event 100 books had been submitted in the award by Australian photographers working in a wide range of book forms that employ photography.


The judges for the award were: Shaune Lakin (Curator of Photography @ National Gallery Of Australia), Diana Hill [Publisher @ Murdoch Books), Sonya Jeffery (Books at Manic), Kim Hungerford (Art and Design Consultant and Buyer @ Kinokuniya), Michael Howard (Joint Art Director @ Sydney Morning Herald) and Doug Spowart (Research Fellow – Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland).



The judges deliberating    PHOTO: Doug Spowart


The process started 10 days earlier when the judges were sent a USB drive containing the 100 PDF files. Within a few days the judges were to review the files and select their top 12 books. These results where then collated by the Momento Pro team to give 15 finalists. They were:

  • Gold Coast                                          Ying Ang
  • Nonna to Nana                                  Jessie + Jacqueline DiBlasi
  • Typhoon                                             Stephen Dupont
  • Better Half                                         Jackson Eaton
  • Lover of Home                                   Odette England
  • The Beginning                                    Brendan Esposito
  • The Kings of KKH                              Andrea Francolini
  • Bedrooms of the Fallen                     Ashley Gilbertson
  • Tribal PNG                                         David Kirkland
  • In the Folds of Hills                           Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
  • Don’t Just Tell Them, Show Them    Jesse Marlow
  • SALT                                                  Emma Phillips
  • Nauru: What was taken and what was given   Kelvin Skewes
  • We Met a Little Early But I Get to Love You Longer Raphaela Rosella.
  • Fibro Dreams                                    Glenn Sloggett

Of these finalists, one book was published by an academic institution, three were published through an independent publisher and two were unpublished – the remaining books were self-published. The diversity of subject matter covered by the books included a portraiture and documentary cookbook, ethnographic documentary, social documentary, conceptual projects about human relationships of place and memory, books about irony and humour or glimpsed juxtapositions of subjects seen and photographed in the street. The books mainly fitted the conventional codex model and were trade printed and bound. One ‘photo book’ was a newspaper styled publication, and another was a deluxe artists’ book laparello of an exceptionally large size.



More debating … PHOTOS: Doug Spowart


As the judges came together at the Momento Pro facility in Chippendale they introduced themselves and participated in briefings conducted by Chairman of Jurors Heidi Romano, Director of Photo Book Melbourne and Libby Jeffery from the award sponsor Momento Pro. Then each judge engaged with the books – turning pages, cracking spines, smelling paper and inks, looking, reading, touching and connecting with the narrative and the experience that each book may contain. As all books were originally seen as digital images on screen there were some surprises as the digital version presented quite different experience to the physical printed book.

At this time individual conversations took place, ideas and responses to books shared. Opinions about photo books expressed and probed. Some of the key discussion points related to questions like ‘What is a photo book?’, and the validity of certain book topics and forms like cookbooks, newspapers, grand artists’ book productions – were they able to be considered as photo books? This part of the process was useful as it enabled a range of ideas to emerge from the broad views and experience of the judging panel.

The six judges then gathered around a large table – each book was presented for discussion at the end of which a vote was made as to whether it would be held-over in a ‘for further consideration’ stack or not. The discussions enabled each judge to express their experience of the book, opinions about narrative, sequencing, design and typography, production values as well as how the books ‘fitted’ with the idea of the photo book. One interesting consideration was the suitability of the book’s format, design and structure as a container to hold and present the narrative.

Some of the other discussion points that emerged included:

  • A trend which is emerging where the cover of the book has no photograph on it or minimal text to identify it;
  • The absence of the author’s name on the cover of the book;
  • The length of the book – many books the judges felt were just too long;
  • The editing and sequencing of images – many judges felt that they’d like to have done a review of the book to give an opportunity for the great photos and story to be more effectively told;
  • Texts within books need quality editing as well;
  • Aspects of book size and binding – a concern was ‘whether the physical nature of the book gets in the way of its storytelling potential’;
  • Design features that do not support the narrative; and
  • Ethics in documentary photography in relation to what level of personal information about the subject is OK to disclose in a book.

As a result of this judging segment the 15 finalists were reduced to six books. These books were interrogated further with particular attention being paid to the expectation that a great photo book should create, as it is activated by the viewer/reader, a moment where the book’s design, photographs, texts, layout, sequencing all combine to express a powerful statement, narrative or emotional response.

Of these six books selected Heidi Romano was to comment that ‘they were equal to any of the world’s current great photo books’. One final review and discussion needed to follow to select the ultimate title winner. This was preceded with discussion regarding the message that awards like these make to the photo book community about what constitutes exemplary work. The participating judges recognized the importance of this aspect of the final award selection. Ultimately all of the books were given highly commended awards with Kelvin Skewes’ Nauru: What was taken and what was given being awarded the title of Runner Up. First prize was awarded to Raphaela Rosella’s We Met a Little Early But I Get to Love You Longer book. Although unpublished the book had been printed and bound by the Momento Pro team to the author’s specifications. It featured personal narratives written by young mothers, the design and page-turning/text sequencing, powerful imagery and the inclusion of personal notes and letters extended the story and loaded the emotional response potential for the viewer.


Rossellas book

We Met a Little Early But I Get to Love You Longer Raphaela Rosella

Images and words from this book are available HERE: RAPHAELA_ROSELLA-We_met_Book


Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 12.32.04 pm

Nauru: What was taken and what was given Kelvin Skewes

The details of this book are available HERE


The award winners receive:

Winner – $1,500 cash + $8,000 Momento Pro credit

Runner Up – $1,500 Momento Pro credit

People’s Choice – $500 Momento Pro credit

An additional award will be the ‘peoples choice’ from votes received during the exhibition of the books at the Asia Pacific Photobook Archive at the Photo Book Melbourne event.

This award helps to define what great Australian photobooks can be is and has rewarded great Australian photobooks. Additionally it will continue to fuel commentary and debate around the nature of the practice in Australia and serve to extend interest in and recognition of the discipline and the practitioners of the discipline in Australia.


Doug Spowart

February 12, 2015




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Heather introduces Doug's lecture...

Heather introduces Doug’s lecture…


Last week we were guest presenters at the Queensland College of Art on the Gold Coast. We worked with photo media and digital media students and their lecturer Heather Faulkner discussing the topic of the contemporary photobook.


Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart talking about photobooks....PHOTO: Heather Faulkner

Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart talking about photobooks….PHOTO: Heather Faulkner


Doug presented a lecture on the history of the photobook and brought students up to date with the contemporary photobook including Ying Ang’s latest book ‘Gold Coast’. Students then were given an opportunity to hold, handle and view a range of contemporary photobooks from Australia and overseas including books by, Alec Soth and Brad Zellar, Martin Parr, Garry Trinh, Daniel Milnor, George Voulgaropoulos, Jacob Raupach, Lloyd Stubber, Emma Phillips, Kelvin Skewes, Joachim Schmid, James Mollison, Paul Graham, Gracia and Louise as well as a selection of zines from the Sticky Institute. We also presented a selection of our own photobooks and artists’ books. Of particular interest to the students was the structure, construction, printing and binding of photobooks.


Students working on a sequencing task with Heather Faulkner

Students working on a sequencing task with Heather Faulkner


An important part of an accompanying tutorial covered ideas around the sequencing of images in photobooks and the ways in which narrative could be expressed. Students were then tasked to work with a series of images using unusual sequencing strategies that we suggested.


We enjoyed the opportunity to engage with these students and discuss one of our favourite topics and share amazing books from our photobook library. Thank you Heather Faulkner for arranging this event…





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