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ADVANCE NOTICE: COOPER+SPOWART @ AIPP Brisbane ‘Hair of the Dog’ Conference

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Hair of the Dog header

Hair of the Dog header

 

On the 6th of February we will be presenting a breakout session at the annual AIPP Hair of the Dog Conference in Brisbane. Our presentation, entitled OPENING-UP THE PHOTOBOOK will provide a commentary on the contemporary photobook/artists book. Our spiel from the HOTD website states:

 

The photobook has emerged as a ubiquitous form of story telling. Now everyone makes these books to varying levels of expertise. Photobooks and albums have always been the domain of photographers. To maintain their leadership and innovation in this discipline, professional photographers need to be aware of the options available and emergent trends in the photobook. This Breakout session will present a contemporary view of the photobook in all its forms from simple photo-zines to print-on-demand productions and handmade artisan books.

 

We will be giving attendees a digital presentation to introduce the topic and a major show ‘n’ tell session will follow that will unpack the contemporary photobook/artists’ book. The books presented will come from our collection including some of our own works. A special part of this session will be inclusion of books from Australia’s best print on demand service providers ASUKABOOK, BLURB, MOMENTOPRO and PICPRESS who have given us examples of their most innovative books.

As a result of this session participants will be able to consider innovative and new commercial publishing products that will provide them with a point of difference from competitors and the general public.

 

Doug Spowart and Victoria Cooper and their C.R.A.P. display

Doug Spowart and Victoria Cooper at the State Library of Qld’s 2015 Art Book Fair

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Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart are leaders in the fields of photobooks and artists’ books. Their books are held in major rare books and manuscript collections of the National Library of Australia, State Libraries and other significant public and private collections. In the last 10 years both have completed PhDs that related to the book and visual storytelling. They have both been awarded Research Fellowships at the State Library of Queensland. In the last 12 months Doug has presented lectures on photobooks at Photobook Melbourne, the Ballarat International Foto Biennale and the Auckland Festival of Photography.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT:

http://www.hotd.aippblog.com/index.php/speakers-2016/doug-spowart-victoria-cooper/

PRICING INFORMATION:

Earlybird Rates (End January 15th, 2016)

AIPP Member 2 Days plus the Business Masterclass on Monday – Early Bird $420 After Early Bird $520
AIPP Member 2 Days Only (Sat & Sun) – Early Bird $290 After Early Bird $390
AIPP Member 1 Day (either the Sat or Sun) – Early Bird $200 After Early Bird $280

Student 2 Days plus the Business Masterclass Monday – $150
Student 2 Days (Sat & Sun) – $120
Student 1 Day (either the Sat or Sun) – $90

Non-Member 2 Days (Sat & Sun) – Early Bird $435 After Early Bird $585
Non-Member 1 Day (either the Sat or Sun) – Early Bird $300 After Early Bird $420

 

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Hair of the Dog header

WORLD PHOTOBOOK DAY @ Brisbane’s Maud Creative

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World Photobook Day Exhibition and Forum ........Photo Robert Gray

World Photobook Day at Maud Creative Gallery Photo Robert Gray

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A survey project about those who read photobooks

My Favourite Photobook – Brisbane World Photobook Day

World Photobook Day (WPBD) in Brisbane Australia at Brisbane’s Maud Creative Gallery was celebrated with a survey project highlighting photographers and their photobooks curated by Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart.

The international WPBD team chose this day in recognition of the British Library’s the acquisition of Anna Atkins’ Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype impressions on October 14 in 1843. Atkins’ cyanotype book is arguably considered as the world’s first photobook as both image and text are printed simultaneously printed on the same page. It was some time before the photograph and text could be co-printed, so books that included photographic illustrations, were usually printed with text by letterpress processes and photographs ‘tipped-in’ as original prints. WPBD activities are supported through the PhotoBook Club, a worldwide network of groups interesting in photobooks.

The Cooper+Spowart survey asked photographers to submit a photograph of themselves reading their favourite photobook and comment on why they like their chosen book. Sixty-five photographers responded to the request. Working on tight timelines Cooper and Spowart printed the photographer’s submissions including: their self-portraits while reading, their chosen book and a comment about why they had chosen the book. This work was presented for viewing on the gallery wall.

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Brisbane World Photobook Day, Maud Gallery Photo Doug Spowart

Brisbane World Photobook Day, Maud Gallery Photo Doug Spowart

Looking at books - WPBD, Maud Gallery Photo Doug Spowart

Looking at books – WPBD, Maud Gallery Photo Doug Spowart

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The event was also attended by photographica collector and historian Sandy Barrie who presented a selection of photographically illustrated books from the 19th century. These books include the 1846 Art Union journal that contained an essay by Henry Fox Talbot and an original calotype print.

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Sandy Barrie and the Art Union journal Photo: Doug Spowart

Sandy Barrie and the Art Union journal Photo: Doug Spowart

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Early in the evening a ‘fly-through’ video was made of the installation with some guests present.

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In the evening around 35 photobook enthusiasts attended a forum with panellists including Dr Heather Faulkner documentary transmedia practitioner and lecturer at the Queensland College of Art (Gold Coast), Chris Bowes artist and bookmaker, Julie Ann Sutton documentary photographer and collector, Helen Cole Senior Librarian and Coordinator of the Australian Library of Art at the State Library of Queensland, and Henri van Noordenberg artist and bookmaker. The forum was convened by Doug Spowart who in a Q&A format led discussion and a range of photobook issues including:

  • Collecting books
  • Possession and ownership
  • Borrowing and loaning of books
  • Adding bookplates and marginalia to books
  • Letting children handle books
  • The future of photobooks

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WPBD Forum Photo Daniel Groneberg

WPBD Forum Photo Daniel Groneberg

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The last poignant comment came from Heather Faulkner when speaking of the future printed book. In her statement she referred to the recent changes to privacy laws giving government agencies access and scrutiny over all of our online metadata. Faulkner’s prediction is that the physical book, as it has been in the past, will be the place for personal and provocative commentary on contemporary life and politics.

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Cooper+Spowart wish to acknowledge the following supporters of this project:

  • The creative from Maud Gallery: Irena Prikryl, Teri Ducheck and Peter Pescell – videographer;
  • Matt Johnston – The Photobook Club;
  • Tony Holden and Ilford for the inkjet printing paper;
  • Sandy Barrie;
  • The forum panelists – Heather, Chris, Julie Ann, Helen and Henri;
  • The installation team Maureen Trainor, Rene Thalmann, Mel Brackstone and Daniel Groneberg;
  • And, of course, all the participants.

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To celebrate the Brisbane WPBD event BLURB Australia has offered a discount voucher for participants in the Brisbane event. The code and conditions are: WPBD2015, expires 30 November 2015. Must pay with Australian dollars. Maximum discount per book is AUD$150. Each customer can use the code 1 time.

 

SEE a few of the photographers and their favourite books in this download:

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DOWNLOAD A PDF SELECTION: WPBD-Selected_Submissions

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THE PROJECT WILL CONTINUE… Stay tuned.

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Previous WPBD events coordinated by Cooper+Spowart 2013 and 2014.

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The 67 participating photographers and their books were:

Peter Adams: Passage – Irving Penn
Melissa Anderson: Shooting Back – Jim Hubbard
Ying Ang: Sabine – Jacob Aue Sobol
Sandy Barrie: Art Union Journal, 1 June 1846 – Henry Fox Talbot essay
Chris Bowes: Tokyo Compression – Michael Wolf
Isaac Brown: Ray’s a Laugh – Richard Billingham
Harvey Benge: Blumen – Collier Schorr’s book
Camilla Birkeland: Mike and Doug Starn – Andy Grundberg
Daniel Boetker-Smith: In Flagrante – Chris Killip
Mel Brackstone: Melbourne and Me (a work in progress) – Adrian Donoghue
Helen Cole: Booked – Peter Lyssiotis
Victoria Cooper: Domesday Book – Peter Kennard
Michael Coyne: Workers -Sebastião Salgado
Judith Crispin: da Sud a Nord (from South to North) – Sabine Korth
Sean Davey: William Eggleston Paris
Jacqui Dean: Peter Adams – A Few of the Legends
John Elliott: Richard Avedon Portraits
Dawne Fahey: Julia Margaret Cameron – Marta Weiss
Heather Faulkner: The Notion of Family – La Toya Ruby Frazier
Liss Fenwick: Outland – Roger Ballen
Juno Gemes: Nothing Personal – Richard Avedon and text by James Baldwin
Kate Golding: Fig. – Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin
Philip Gostelow: Thank You – Robert Frank
Robert Gray: Max Yavno
Daniel Groneberg: Los Alamos – William Eggleston
Sam Harris: Café Lehmitz – Anders Petersen
Tony Hewitt: 50 Landscapes – Charlie Waite
Douglas Holleley: Man and His Symbols – Carl Jung
Kelly Hussey-Smith: On the Sixth Day – Alessandra Sanguinette
Libby Jeffery: Inferno – James Nachtwey
Matt Johnston: Touch – Peter Dekens
Larissa Leclair: Moisés – Mariela Sancari
Louis Lim: Blind – Sophie Calle
James McArdle: Love on the left bank – Ed van der Elsken
Paul McNamara: The Terrible Boredom of Paradise – Derek Henderson
Henri van Noordenberg: Cinci Lei – Joost Vandebrug
Gael Newton: By the sea – CR White
Glen O’Malley: A Modern Photography Annual 1974
Thomas Oliver: Common Sense – Martin Parr
Maurice Ortega: The Apollo Prophecies – Kahn and Selesnick
Adele Outteridge: Pompeii – Amedeo Maiuri
Polixeni Papapetrou: Diane Arbus
Martin Parr: Bye, Bye Photography – Daido Moriyama
Gael Phillips: Arcadia Britannica, A Modern British Folklore Portrait – Henry Bourne
Louis Porter: Looking Forward to Being Attacked – Lieutenant Jim Bullard
Imogen Prus: The Whale’s Eyelash, A Play in Five Parts – Timothy Prus
Jack Picone: Exiles – Josef Koudelka
Ian Poole: White Play – Takuya Tsukahara
Irena Prikryl: Cyclops – Albert Watson
Susan Purdy: nagi no hira, fragments of calm – Suda Issei
Jan Ramsay: AraName – Bir Ara Güler Kitabi
Jacob Raupach: The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater – Ralph Eugene Meatyard
Felicity Rea: Pandanus – Victoria Cooper
Mark Shoeman: Me We, Love Humanity and Us
Roger Skinner: Third Continent – Self-published
Doug Spowart: The Research Library, National Gallery of Australia
Tim Steele: The Earth From The Air – Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Alison Stieven Taylor: Strange Friends – Bojan Brecelj
Julie Ann Sutton: Katherine Avenue – Larry Sultan
Maureen Trainor: Sequences – Duane Michals
Garry Trinh: Period of Juvenile Prosperity – Mike Brodie
Ann Vardanega: Loretta Lux
George Voulgaropoulos: A shimmer of possibility – Paul Graham
Marshall Weber: Street Our Street – Dana Smith & Marshall Weber
David A Williams: Avedon Fashion
Konrad Winkler: Emmet Gowin the new Aperture book
Simon Woolf: F Lennard Casbolt Retrospective Exhibition Catalogue

 

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All photographs and texts remain the copyright of the submitting photographers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHOTOBOOK ANXIETY – A paper by Doug Spowart

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What follows is a transcript of the paper presented at the ‘Borderless Futures: Reimaging the Citizen’ Symposium as part of the 2015 Ballarat International Foto Biennale. Selected images from the presentation accompany the text to illustrate concepts raised. The text is relatively conversational as it was ‘performed’ rather than read to the audience.

 

 

Photobook Anxiety graphic

PHOTOBOOK ANXIETY… a paper by Dr Doug Spowart

 

I doubt that Henry Fox Talbot or Anna Atkins realised in the 1840s what an impact that the photobook would have in the 21st century and the role it plays in the self-publishing revolution that we are witnessing today. The old publishing and bookselling paradigm is now redefining itself and trying to maintain its composure and power over their once lucrative territory. Now every photographer wants and can make their own books – but they need the inspiration found in the latest photobooks and they need to be kept informed by the movers and shakers of the discipline as to what is happening now, and what are the future trends and opportunities.

As a result there is a heightened anxiety for constant and direct personal connection with the pulse of this worldwide phenomena. Social media is the communication vehicle of choice and participants in the photobook network are driven to frenetically seek updates, reviews, new releases, posts about their books and the latest gossip through social media channels.

The anxiety surrounding this activity is palpable and the frisson of social media, particularly Facebook, is the powerful tool for this necessary communication as well as for community building in the burgeoning indie publishing photobooks movement.

 

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Welcome to ‘Photobook Anxiety’ otherwise known by its clinical title PBX. It is driven by the sufferer having an uncontrollable desire to be a part of everything photobook happening in the world. It is characterised by the sufferer constantly checking social media –

What are the signs that of those suffering from this malady?

 

Wishing I could be there…

There are so many events that happen worldwide it’s impossible to get to all of them let alone one. In a recent Facebook newsfeed the frustrated respondent posted ‘Oh I would freaking kill to be there…”

A sampling of the year’s calendar includes these events:

  • Photobook Melbourne February
  • Art Book Melbourne – May
  • Photo London – May
  • Auckland Festival of Photography (Photobook Symposium) – May
  • Kassel Foto Book Festival – June
  • Obscura Festival of Photography (Photobook Day) – August
  • Perimeter book sale last weekend
  • Book Case Study in the Netherlands – September
  • Aperture at Photo Paris – November

 

I should have bought a copy of…. Out-of-print/Limited editions/pre-orders

 

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Trent Parke’s Dream Life, probably Australia’s greatest ever photobook, is an excellent example of a rare and out-of-print photobook. Originally selling for around $60 in 2001 it is now is impossible to get for prices less that 25 times that amount.

One was listed on Amazon recently for 1550 Pounds?

Earlier this year one was offered in a Photoeye’s Auction – with a day to go it was $ 895 I did not see the final hammer price…

Last year Abebooks listed one for $1084 in this very town (Ballarat) – I’ve just checked and the Known World Bookshop down the street and they have sold the book.

 

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Limited Editions and Pre-Ordering

Adding to this PMX is the trend particularly among American photobook suppliers like Photo-Eye to advertise limited supplies of signed books which can be ‘pre-ordered’ with specific cut-off times and dates. Even these can be out-sold before you hear about the offer being available as in the case recently with Sally Mann’s Hold Still.

Recently Australian Bloom Publishing offered little badges with the text ‘Print Forever’ as white text on a black background. These were ‘snapped-up’ and a following post Bloom advised that the badges were ‘all gone’! But advised FB Friends to ‘Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks’. PMX now demands that Bloom is followed closely so you won’t miss out on the following offers….

 

You anxiously await the posts and stories of people you follow…

Who hasn’t been following the exploits of photobook officiando Sam Harris and his latest book The Middle of Somewhere. Sam’s posts have taken us a long on the journey illustrated by images that could well form the basis of a new book. As FB friends we saw the posted images of the design stages and felt his excitement at seeing the book on bookshelves at major European shows and being on a table at Arles with the book. The anguish of the missing visa to re-enter Australia and the joy of being back in Australia and the Balingup sunset at home… Oh! And the set up for his exhibition and book launch by Alasdair Foster at BIFB…

 

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You anxiously await the posts about new stuff…

FB Friends – People who you respect and believe know what’s going on offer advice on books to look at, and get before they are sold out. Adding to PBX phrases like ‘Look what I got today from Photoeye, Alejandro Cartagena’s latest book. It will be gone before you know it’ and ‘Holy moly!!! If you can get your hands on a copy of Mariela Sancari’s brilliant ‘Moises’, do it now. Only 500 copies.’

A couple of days ago Anita Totha from the Photobook Club Auckland posted that Broomberg+Chanarin’s latest book was available: ‘Better get your hands on this now…’. Even Bloom has a new pin — gotta get that! And what about Martin Parr badged clothing and accessories … could that be going a bit far…?

 

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You lament the gaps you’ve identified in your collection!

PBX will cause ‘sufferers’ go to extraordinary lengths to try and fill them… An ‘Ask Meta Filter poster exclaims ‘Help me get my hands on Trent Parke. I mean, his books. It’s driving me mental. I must get Trent Parke’s “Dream Life” and “Seventh Wave” … Replies state the value of the book with responses like ‘Ouch’, ‘And no Dream/Life to be found. Snif’

In another post on ‘The Online Blog’ Kelvin, a respondent from Melbourne, brags about ‘poking his head’ into a second hand bookshop on the way to buying some biscuits from his local Subway store and asked if they had a copy of Dream Life ––– they did, and sold it to him for $70

 

So busy trying to be ‘in it’ you have no time for your own work

Doug Stockdale of The Photobook blog recently posted ‘a change to my photobook commentaries’. He’s overwhelmed by the ‘dizzying rate’ of new photobooks and the quality and creativity of these books. Stockdale comments that they need ‘a shout out to the photographic community at large to increase awareness’ and that is what his blog attempts to do. However he’s finding that there’s not enough time for his own projects so he announced a a more ‘concise’ Facebook format for the blog in future posts…

 

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Just how pervasive is PBX?

 

Using SM for personal communications

A few days before Mothers Day this year a Brisbane acquaintance received notification that Ciaran Og Arnold’s ‘I went to the worst of bars…’ book was available in a bookshop in Amsterdam – She posted ‘I want this for Mother’s Day’ Her partner responded in less than an hour – ‘You got it’. Weeks later she triumphantly able to post that the book has arrived.

 

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That you know the picture backgrounds for each photobook commentator’s blogs…

Every photobook supplier, commentator, collector or archive has a standard background that is used for his or her social media presence:

Perimeter Books in Melbourne has the shop-view, sometimes with a table of books with Justine or Emma’s hand.

The Indie Photobook Library is the tabletop and a MAC laptop computer keyboard

Asia Pacific Photobook Archive used a knotted wood plank background for quite a while then, the floor of their old space and then confused us all by using every background imaginable.

 

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Can’t walk past a second-hand bookshop – or bookshop markdown table without feeling a twinge to look inside

The anticipation of being rewarded with wondrous things is such a strong motivator

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Spending more than you can afford building your library

The anxiety of photobook collectors was certainly shaken by a FB post from the State Library of Victoria about Karl Largerfield’s personal library. I suppose it comes down to getting one’s priorities right when it comes to collecting and personal finances.

 

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Gotta make sure I’ve got the dates of the next Art Book Fair locked-in to my diary

Were you one of the 16,000 who went to the Melbourne Art Book Fair? If you weren’t there you probably heard and read about how amazing it was. Now you don’t want to miss out on the next one… Well, the ‘Sydney Volume 2015 – Another Art Book Fair’ is on in 2 weeks…

 

Lifeline book sales are marked on your calendar

 

The Benjamin Effect!!

Photobook collectors will feel a connection with Walter Benjamin and his essay on ‘I’m unpacking my library’. In it he states ‘Of the customary modes of acquisition, one of the most appropriate to a collector would be the borrowing of a book with its attendant non-returning.’[i]

But there are ways more desperate than that – stealing books. A significant photobook identity recently admitted that his last resort to save his favourite book from being held in library limbo by committing an act of ‘Bibliokleptomania’.

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Benjamin also has something that any PBX sufferer can take heed of and that is: ‘Of all the ways of acquiring books, writing them oneself is regarded as the most praiseworthy method.’[ii] And that must inspire those inflicted with PBX to go and make a book of their own…

 

Antidotes / To Feed or Cure

  • Reviewing your social media strategy – set your FB preferences to ensure you get ‘Notifications’ and that your selected ‘Friends’ are listed as ‘Family’;
  • De-friend people who post what they ate for breakfast or pics of their cat – unless the cat is reading a book!   (FB Friend Judy Barass posted this as a response to this point);
  • Find new FB Friends – sources of quality information – like Harvey Benge, Stockdale’s The Photobook Blog, Foam, Dazedigital.com, Selfpublishbehappy.com, and Remote Photobooks for what’s happening in New Zealand;
  • Develop equity in social media: Giving = Getting. That is ‘Like’ things that you like, ‘Comment’ and ‘Share’ things adding your own comment to make it interesting for you FB Friends;
  • Don’t just ‘lurk’ on FB otherwise things that you may be interested in will disappear from your Newsfeed as FB may think that you to not engage with the content;
  • Looking at allied book disciplines like artists’ books and zines;
  • Sharing your books – I’ll give you mine if you give me yours. I’ll buy yours if you buy mine;
  • Donate and contribute to photobook archives like the Indie Photobook Archive and the Asia Pacific Photobook Archive;
  • Grow your local – connect with events and people doing things in your region;
  • Lobby art institutions, libraries and criticism networks for more photobook content; and
  • Become an active advocate for photobooks.

 

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In conclusion

Ultimately it’s hopeless and PBX sufferer must give in to their base desires and needs and participate with energy, vigour and indifference to other aspects of your life….

 

Finally: A thought from John Waters…..

 

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Thank You – And – SEE YOU ONLINE….

 

BIFB PSC Symposium logo

 

Benjamin, Walter. “Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting.” Translated by Harry Zohn. In Illuminations, 69-82. New York: Schocken Books, 2007. Reprint, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1968.

[i] Benjamin, Walter. “Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting.” Translated by Harry Zohn. In Illuminations, 69-82. New York: Schocken Books, 2007. Reprint, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1968. P62

[ii] ibid p61

 

 

DOUG Has article on Photobooks in BETTER PHOTOGRAPHY

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The winter edition of Peter Eastway’s BETTER PHOTOGRAPHY includes an article by Doug on Photobooks. The piece covers a step-by-step discussion on making your own photobooks from concept to output, either by DIY or Print-on-demand.

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Here’s page one of the article …

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Page 1 Better Photography

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DOWNLOAD A PDF of the article here: SPOWART-Photobooks-Better_Photography

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AND – Do buy the magazine for the other great stories and prizes!!

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hEADoN into THE FUTURE OF PHOTOBOOK PUBLISHING

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Invite and MOS

The Future of the Photo Book Forum Photo: Victoria Cooper

The Future of the Photo Book Forum ……Photo: Victoria Cooper

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RUNSHEET & OVERVIEW:

Momento Pro/HEADON Event: The Future of Photo Book Publishing

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6.00 pm    Panellists arrive on stage                                                             

6.10 pm    Doug Spowart: Welcome and good evening.

Photographers and those who make photobooks are storytellers – and – with this in mind – I would like to acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners and story-tellers of this land on which we meet; the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.

This evening we will discuss the photobook and consider the opportunities for its future in Australia.

My name is Doug Spowart, I make artists books, photobooks and I have a research interest in photography and the form of the photobook.

This evening I’m joined by an eminent panel of book people with a wide range of knowledge and expertise on the topic.

The order of this evening will begin with an overview by me about the photobook. Then each of the panellists will discuss their involvement within the book and photobook world. Following that the panel will be presented with a range of questions – some sent in from attendees. Towards the end of the forum we have set aside time for your questions and comments to the panel. The forum will close and be followed by refreshments and networking opportunities …

At this juncture I would like to thank our Sponsor Momento Pro and the Organizers of the HeadOn Photo Festival, and the Museum of Sydney for this opportunity to engage in dialogue about this growing and evolving medium …

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AN OVERVIEW OF THE PHOTOBOOK

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Photobook luminary Martin Parr states:

 … that photography and the book were just meant for each other; they always have been. It’s the perfect medium for photography: it’s printed, it’s reproducible and it travels well. (Parr in Lane 2006:15)

The photobook is indeed the ‘perfect medium’ for photography and its history, the history of photography are inextricably linked with that of publishing. In fact some of the earliest experiments in photography made by Hércules Florence (1804 -1879), Nicéphore Niépce (1765 -1833) and Henry Fox Talbot (1800 -1877) were to discover methods and processes that would enable the copying and printing of texts or designs by capturing and fixing camera obscura images.

William Henry Fox Talbot, by John Moffat, 1864 By Michael Maggs [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

William Henry Fox Talbot, by John Moffat, 1864
By Michael Maggs [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In March 21, 1839, Talbot, the inventor of the negative-positive photographic process wrote to fellow researcher Sir John Herschel, about the potential of his calotype research work. In this letter he predicted that photography would make  ‘Every man his own printer and publisher’(Talbot 1839). Talbot within four years set up a printing works at Reading where he printed the images for The Pencil of Nature, his treatise on the photographic process. This was published as a serialised form of text with tipped-in calotype images.

Books illustrated by photographs as a genre of the publishing industry flourished. The photographic image could operate as a storyteller, a precise document of truth, a device to entertain and, at times, a carrier of propaganda. Early photography book works consisted of travel, geographical and military expeditions, trade catalogues, scientific and ethnographic documentation.

Although some photographers, like Talbot, may have established their own publishing ventures, usually the photographer was a supplier of images for a publication that was commissioned by someone else – a publisher, benefactor or government agency. The publishing of a book was, and still is, a task requiring the specialized skills, the entrepreneurship and financial acumen found in the worlds of publishing, marketing and bookselling. Books are created for a purchasing audience: it is a mercantile process where return on the investment in a publishing project is a necessary outcome.

What is it about photographers and their need for photobooks?

Martin Parr describes the influence that photobooks had on his own practice by stating that:

I’m a photographer and I need to inform myself about what’s going on in the world photographically. Books have taught me more about photography and photographers than anything else I can think of. (Parr in Badger 2003:54)

Parr is not alone. The publishing house Aperture – a well established international publisher of contemporary and historical photographic essays and monographs – acknowledges in their organization’s credo that:

Every photographer who is a master of his [sic] medium has evolved a philosophy from such experiences; and whether we agree or not, his thoughts act like a catalyst upon our own — he has contributed to dynamic ideas of our time. Only rarely do such concepts get written down clearly and in a form where photographers scattered all over the earth may see and look at the photographs that are the ultimate expression. (in Craven 2002:13)

Photo Bookshelf

Library

So photographers seek inspiration for their work by building their own reference libraries: have you ever visited a photographer and not had discussions about books or been invited to see their library? It then makes sense that photographers will want a book of their own. Photobook publisher Dewi Lewis exclaims: ‘I have yet to meet a photographer who doesn’t want to see their work in book form.’ (Lewis and Ward 1992:7).

Photobook commentators and publishers of the book Publish Your Photography Book, Darius Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson claim that this need is universal and emotive:

It almost goes without saying that every photographer wants a book of his or her work. It’s a major milestone, an indicator of success and recognition, and a chance to place a selection of one’s work in the hands of hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Plus it is just plain exciting to hold a book of your photographs! (Himes and Swanson 2011:26)

It seems that this ‘rite of passage’ is an important step of professional recognition as photographer, photobook maker and writer – Robert Adams – makes the following statement in his book Why people photograph:

 I know of no first-rate photographer who has come of age in the past twenty-five years who has found the audience that he or she deserves without publishing such a book. (Adams 1994:44-5)

Does it then follow that every photographer of note or the creator of a significant body of work deserves a book?

It is not that easy. Amongst others the photobook publisher Dewi Lewis argues that the market for photobooks is limited – where he identifies that: ‘photographers themselves are the largest purchasers of photobooks’ (Lewis and Ward 1992).

Ultimately unsold books are remaindered – something even Magnum photographer Martin Parr experienced. His first book Bad Weather (1982) sold poorly and was remaindered at 40p. In an essay on photobook publishing Peter Metelerkamp reports that:

Parr himself bought in as many copies as he could at that price (very much below the cost of production) (Metelerkamp circa 2004:7).

But while remaindered books can be a great way to acquire a low priced library they represent a loss to the publisher, who may then be wary of undertaking future photobook ventures.

The photographers who are successfully trade-published are usually either well known and/or are those who produce work that is of interest to a broad audience. Most notably in Australia this has included celebrated photographers such as Harold Cazneaux (1878-1953), Frank Hurley (1885 -1962), Max Dupain (1911-1992), Jeff Carter (1928-2010), David Moore (1927-2003), Peter Dombrovskis (1945 -1996), Rennie Ellis (1940-2003).

In contemporary times other avenues of photobook publishing as a documentary/art project have emerged and include photobooks by Tracey Moffatt (1960-  ), Max Pam (1949-  ), Matthew Sleeth (1972-  ), Stephen Dupont (1967-  ), Trent Parke (1971- ) Michael Coyne (1945-  ) and Wesley Stacey (1941- ) and many others. The field of contemporary pictorial photobook books could be represented by the likes of Ken Duncan (1954 – ), Peter Lik (1959 – ) and Steve Parish (1945 – ).  Then there are so many more …

So what about the photographer doing it for themselves?

Historically, the self-publishing of photobooks was a huge investment of time and money – an individual photographer’s access to the required production and printing facilities was a major barrier. Also those who have financed their own publishing exploits generally lacked the distribution and marketing connections that were attached to the major publishing houses.

Access to printing facilities were overcome by the photographer having contacts in or working in the printing industry such as American photobook-maker Ed Ruscha did with books like Twenty-six Gasoline Stations (1963). In Australia Peter Lyssiotis was able to produce:  Journey of a Wise Electron (1981) and other books by participating in a co-operative that accessed a commercial printing press during down time or on weekends. But these access points were not available for everyone who wanted to publish a book.

Bill Owen’s book

Nearly 35 years ago American photographer Bill Owens, publisher of Suburbia (1972) and other books made the following introductory statement to his info-guide – Publish Your Photo Book (1979) – a statement that may resonate with the experience of today’s photobook publishers:

Had my photographic books made lots of money I would not have written this book. I wouldn’t need to because I would be part of the establishment and enjoying its privileges. (Owens 1979:3)

It has been a long time coming, but 175 years later with digital technologies including DIY book design software, print-on-demand presses like HP Indigo, the self-published photobook is fulfilling Talbot’s prediction. It’s never been easier for anyone to make a photobooks.

Seminal  photobook texts

Some seminal photobook texts

The photobook discipline now has commentators and critics, there are awards, linkages with the artists book, supporting independent groups like Self Publish Be Happy, The Photo Book Club and the Indie Photo Book Library.

However just making a book, even your own, does not guarantee success – whatever that might be. But at this time, what are the barriers and opportunities that we in Australia need to consider and respond to as this boom in photobooks continues?

What ideas, social and political mechanisms and appropriate structures do we need to create to nurture and support this emerging publishing paradigm?

Let us now pose some questions to the panel …

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INTRODUCTION OF THE PANELISTS

See invitation blog post for bios http://wp.me/p1tT11-MT

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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A SELECTION OF THE QUESTIONS POSED TO THE PANEL

  1. What is the recipe for the perfect commercially viable photo book?
  1. Are Awards/Fairs/Festivals/Exhibitions important to or essential for photo book sales and marketing?
  1. It’s often stated that the basic market for the photo book is photographers themselves – how can this market be expanded so that the photo book can become more popular for a broader audience?
  1. Is the Australian photo book consumer more interested in Euro/USA content than homegrown books?
  1. Is there a market for Australian photo books overseas? Are there mechanisms in pace to support photo books as export? Are our photo books internationally competitive?
  1. If, as a publisher, you were approached by a photographer with a photo book idea – What would you expect them to bring to your meeting with them.
  1. What kinds of books/themes or content would an independent or niche publisher take on that a mainstream publisher wouldn’t?
  1. In the photo book genre, as with other special interest low volume publication sales, will print on demand publishing become a viable option – thereby doing away with the practice of remaindering?
  1.  How can we nurture, inspire and develop the Australian photo book market?

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A SYNOPSIS OF THE DISCUSSION WILL BE POSTED SEPARATELY:

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In conclusion …  I’d like to see, and I guess you would as well, that the photobook break from the publishing paradigm that Bill Owens spoke of before.

Let’s hope that as a result of, or perhaps more modestly, that this forum will contribute to a future where photographers and their photobooks will be recognized, revered and financially rewarded for their contribution to telling their stories, our stories and the stories of humanity and of life on this planet and beyond.

Once again thank you to our panelists …

Our sponsor – Momento Pro

The HeadOn Photo Festival

And to you all —–

You are now most welcome to join us for some refreshments and networking

8.15 pm    Close…..

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Bibliography for Doug’s Overview

Adams, R. (1994). Why People Photograph. New York, USA, Aperture Foundation.

Badger, G. (2003). Collecting Photography. London, Mitchell Beazley Ltd.

Craven, R. H. (2002). Photography past forward: Aperture at 50. New York, Aperture Foundation Inc.

Himes, D. D. and M. V. Swanson (2011). Publish Your Photography Book. New York, Princetown Architectural Press.

Lane, G. (2006). “Interview: Photography from the Photographer’s Viewpoint. Guy Lane interviews Martin Parr.” The Art Book 13(4): 15-16.

Lewis, D. and A. Ward (1992). Publishing Photography. Manchester, Conerhouse Publishing.

Metelerkamp, P. (2004). “The Photographer, the Publisher, and the Photographer’s Book.”   Retrieved 12 March 2009, from http://www.petermet.com/writing/photobook.html.

Owens, B. (1979). Publish your Photo Book (A Guide to Self-Publishing). Livermore, California, USA, Bill Owens.

Talbot, W. H. F. (1839). Letter to Sir John Herschel, HS/17/289. The Royal Society. S. J. Herschel. London, UK, The Royal Society: HS/17/289.

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FUTURE-Publishing-NEW-invite

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All  photographs  © 2013 Victoria Cooper & Doug Spowart

Texts an Overview (except references as cited) © 2013 Doug Spowart

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Creative Commons-by-nc-nd.eu

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

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