Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Photobooks

MORE THAN THE COVER: Judging the Photobook of the Year

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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)







PHOTOBOOK WORKSHOPS by Spowart+Cooper @ Maud Gallery

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Doug doing a show 'n' tell with examples of their handmade photobooks

Doug doing a show ‘n’ tell with examples of their handmade photobooks and artists’ books

Vicky making a presentation on constructing narrative in the photobook form

Vicky making a presentation on constructing narrative in the photobook form



As a companion to the exhibition of the Australian and New Zealand Photobooks of the Year at Maud Gallery we developed and presented a workshop series on the Photobook.

Our next series of Photobook workshops are in the planning stage – if you are interested please get in contact with us by filling out the form at the bottom of this page….


  • These workshops are ideally suited to people who want to know what is happening within the discipline
  • How to DIY photobook projects within your studio workspace
  • How to access and master online Print-on-Demand photobook-making services – their needs and products.
  • One-on-one mentorships.


The program has the following 4 sessions:



Show and tell tips, tricks and secrets

The photobook 'Borderlines' by Doug Spowart

The photobook ‘Borderlines’ by Doug Spowart

Participants will engage in a lecture presentation that will develop a broader understanding of what a photobook can be—extending them beyond just a collection of photos into a resolved personal narrative of high technical and aesthetic values.


Wednesdays – 2.5 hours, 6pm-8.30pm






Demonstrate, share and do – tips, tricks and secrets

Photoshopping a book

Photoshopping a book

In participating in this workshop you will gain awareness and knowledge of how to create documents and templates, design, colour manage (for books), select papers, prepare files, print and output self-made photobooks.

$70 including materials (limited to 8 participants)

Saturdays – 3 hours 9.30am-12.30pm







Demonstrations and Practical hands-on

Making a book

Making a book

  • Folding, stitching and sewing
  • Materials, methods and making
  • The 8-page single sided fold booklet
  • The 3-hole pamphlet stitch
  • Concertina and snake books

$70 including materials (limited to 8 participants)

Saturdays – 3 hours 1.30pm-4.30pm





Demonstrate and share tips, tricks and downfalls

POD and trade books

POD and trade books

  • Working with Print-on-Demand service providers
  • Using Publishers and Trade Printers
  • Coffee table books, Zines and Newspapers
  • Colour management
  • Selecting a provider
  • The things that no one ever tells you…


Wednesday April 20, 2.5 hours, 6pm-8.30pm

BOOK HERE: http://photobookspod.eventbrite.com.au.


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


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.


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


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.


Sandy Barrie and the Art Union journal Photo: Doug Spowart

Sandy Barrie and the Art Union journal Photo: Doug Spowart


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


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


WPBD Forum Photo Daniel Groneberg

WPBD Forum Photo Daniel Groneberg


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.


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.


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:


WPBD-Book Cover





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



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




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




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The forum panel

The forum panel….Photo: Anthony McKee


In February this year Melbourne hosted the biggest photobook event ever in this country. Called Photobook Melbourne the event brought together exponents, collectors and critics from around the world as well as from around Australia and New Zealand. Hundreds of books were handled, read and appraised in the many galleries and venues that came on board to support the event.


Martin Parr and Gerry Badger in their second volume of The Photobook: A History (2006), recognised artists who worked with photographs in a specific chapter entitled Appropriating Photography: The Artist’s Photobook.

Participants in the artists’ book discipline have been active indie, DIY publishers worldwide for sixty years or more and many of them use photography in their books. They have well established networks, events activities, awards, critical debate and collectors both private and public.

At a time such as Photobook Melbourne where all things photobook are celebrated and discussed it may be worthwhile to consider what concurrence may exist today between the artists’ book and the photobook. How do artists consider their use of photography and the photograph in their books? Is there any sympatico between the photobook and the artists’ book.

To address these and many more questions I was supported by the Photobook Melbourne organisers Heidi Romano and Daniel Boetker-Smith, to convene a forum to bring the voice of the artists’ book into the photobook conversation. The participants in the forum were; Dr Lyn Ashby, Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, Peter Lyssiotis, Des Cowley and Dr Victoria Cooper (who was co-opted as Georgia Hutchison withdrew due to personal reasons in the final days).

The proceedings of the forum, with the support of the participants, have now been formed into a PDF booklet that can be downloaded FREE from this site. To provide a taste of the presentations I present the following quotes from the texts:


The PDF Forum book

The PDF Forum book




Lyn Asby

Lyn Asby

Lyn Ashby

I make books. With few exceptions, these are hand-made, limited-edition books that would generally be considered to be “artist’s books” using the standard codex form. These are not photographic books. That is, the photograph is rarely the core of the meaning or purpose of the book. But I often use components or aspects of photographs and composite these with graphics, texts, drawings and painting etc, all of which feed into the overall material on each page.



Gracia Haby + Louise Jennison

Gracia Haby + Louise Jennison

Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison

For those of you who we have yet to meet, we are besotted with paper for its adaptable, foldable, cut-able, concealable, and revealing nature. In our artists’ books, prints, zines, drawings, and collages, we use play, humour, and perhaps the poetic, to lure you closer. And sometimes this will incorporate photography. For us, it is not the medium that is always of greatest import, but the message. And so, we use found photographs in our artists’ books and zines not because they are photos, but because of what they can enable us to say, and what we hope you might feel.



Des Cowley

Des Cowley

Des Cowley

History of the Book Manager, Collection Development & Discovery, State Library Victoria

One of the challenges for libraries and collecting institutions is to build representative collections of contemporary books and ephemeral works created by artists, photographers, and zinemakers. Artists books, photobooks, and zines generally circulate outside mainstream distribution channels – publishers, general bookshops, distributors – and are effectively off-radar for many libraries. It is therefore incumbent upon staff in these institutions to build networks and relationships with the communities creating this work in order to be informed about what is being produced, and to ensure this material is acquired and preserved for future researchers.


Peter Lyssiotis

Peter Lyssiotis

Peter Lyssiotis

I had a friend who lived in Belgium. He died a while back. Before he did, though, he painted a pipe on a canvas and underneath it he wrote “This is not a pipe”.

To continue my friend’s mission I say “This is not a book”.

The artists’ book is rather a workshop, a garage; a space where a time-honored craft is practised: it is here that the world gets repaired, reconditioned, reassembled.



Victoria Cooper

Victoria Cooper

Victoria Cooper

The digital cutting, dissecting, layering and suturing of the photographic quotations is an absorbing process through which the visual story emerges. I then materialize this virtual image of the narrative as a physical book in many forms: scroll, concertina or codex.     Rather than images on a gallery wall, the narrative space of the book offers for me an endless potential for interplay of the corporeal and the imagination through the idiosyncratic experience of reading.







PHOTOBOOKS: everyone a publisher – The LA TROBE Journal

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Doug Spowart with the La Trobe journal

Doug Spowart with the La Trobe journal


I’m particularly excited to announce that a copy of my essay on Photobooks published in the State Library of Victoria’s La Trobe journal is now available as a free download.  Here are some details and links


SLV Site

The La Trobe journal with the great Gracia & Louise cover



The photobook: everyone a publisher?



Digital technology, indie DIY and print-on-demand photobooks have transformed contemporary photography book publishing, however the creative and innovative influence that graphic designers have brought to the artists’ book is now extending into the photobook artform.


Over recent years the photographically illustrated book has undergone a massive makeover, in effect freeing it from traditional publisher controls. Digital technologies have been the major cause of this paradigm shift due to the democratisation of photography, new production technologies, and new funding and marketing platforms. The 19th-century polymath Henry Fox Talbot, inventor of the positive/negative process for photography, was so enthusiastic about the potential for his discovery that he made a prediction for a future where: ‘Every man [would be] his own printer and publisher’. It would now seem that Talbot’s prediction has come to pass. Increased public access to book publishing is particularly important for those photographers and artists who employ the camera and the photograph in their art practices.

Topic headings:

  • Photographers desire books
  • A new term emerges
  • A new critique forms for the photobook
  • A new accessibility to book production
  • The happy self-publisher
  • The artist book and self-publishing
  • A new challenge emerges: design my book
  • In conclusion

Features a commentary on Ying Ang’s Gold Coast and photos of books by Louis Porter, Lloyd Stubber and Mimmo Cozzolino.









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.




Here’s page one of the article …


Page 1 Better Photography


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


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






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