World Photobook Day 2015

The day is almost upon us – October 14th, World Photobook Day. For the past few years all sorts of events have taken place to mark the anniversary of Anna Atkins ‘Photographs of British Algae’ and the birth of the photobook. This year is no exception, already Doug Spowart and Victoria Cooper have organised a great day at Maud Creative in Brisbane as well as encouraging all to share photobook selfies (#PhotobookDay). Bonifacio Barrio Hijosa has created the most awesome gif for the day…

…and I will be running an event in Coventry which is open to as many as can fit in the room (email matt@photobookclub.org ). There will be other events popping up all over the shop but right now there is something you can do.

I saw this and thought of you” – Share your books

It is easy to excite fellow photobook nerds with the contents of my bookshelf. Much harder to interest my colleagues, family and friends who have little interest in the medium itself – though I try, often. Many times my waxing lyrical about design and production falls on deaf ears – not that this suggests a need for further discussion and education – a more powerful force is at work here. The books that resonate are those that the reader likes – straight up – likes. It might be the project, it might be the book, it might be the photographs or the cover – who cares.

When I manage to excite someone with a photobook, someone for whom the photobook is not the perfect medium of artistic expression, I have achieved something. Not only in extending the reach of the photobook, bringing work to a new audience, but also in overcoming my own photobook snobbery. I still get something from this encounter too – the book in question might have fallen out favour and found itself relegated to the edges of the shelf, but hearing someone speaking about it passionately, and unfettered by judgement helps remind me why I bought it in the first place.

So, this photobook day, spread the love by sharing something you think someone will like, not something you think they should like. Oh, and if you get a chance, let us know the book you chose and what the reaction was #PhotobookDay.

Lessons from Morocco

I spent the first weekend of the month running a Photobook workshop in Casablanca, Morocco funded by Coventry University’s DMLL and with a great group of students. Some of these participants were photographers, some had studied at art schools, some were passionate amateurs but all were super engaged and I learned a lot…

Images by Daniel Donnelly

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The desire to make is great
– while there is some critique of a maker culture which undervalues curation and debate in favour of production, it was clear that the transition from screen to paper and images into book brought about genuine excitement.

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Sometimes sharing is separating
– Daniel Donnelly (with whom I ran the workshop) and I were keen to involve an online and social element to the project –  to tweet particular moments, Facebook particular questions etc – a way to engage with communities beyond the room. It was apparent though that this took away from the intense experience of the session, removed participants and their attention – it was instead used as refference and record for the ‘real life’ experience. We didn’t push it, and I now notice how these spaces have become a great repository – extending the project longitudinally.

 

Competition isn’t healthy
– competition pushes us, it is a useful element of the learning process – I call bullshit – it was so refreshing to see people truly pleased for one another and their works. I want to find out how to inject some of this into an education system that constantly seeks to place people in competition – either by age, institution, or through high fees and low employment options.

These were exciting books
– it is hard to say without appearing patronising, getting giddy over the exotic or promoting the location-based photobook mining we have seen over the last ten years BUT these were exciting books. Techniques and structures were used without knowledge of their reference to previous works – they were used as they were appropriate. Images were treated as possibilities in the book and the book was treated as a possibility for the images.

11952006_10206688515225138_2471930423207877283_nThese folks would love some books
– it isn’t easy to come by photobooks in Casablanca, in fact it is almost impossible, yet their is a community hungry to see new works and old. I have been sending books to Morocco for some time, and will continue to do so, but maybe think about the next time you send out X% of your edition to reviewers and collectors – send some to a library, community or school – it will likely be far more useful.

 

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Photobook Workshop in Casablanca

Really excited to be running a workshop with Daniel Donnelly in Casablanca this September (4th – 6th) for locals, both professional, amateur and interested. The 3 day workshop will focus on connecting with an audience through edit and design but will also feature a binding tutorial. 11831639_10152985628246835_7613163850113137134_n

Participants will leave with a dummy book and the knowledge, as well as basic equipment, to take the next steps in bringing a photobook into existence. For more information, see the event page here.

This event is supported by the DMLL at Coventry University

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Photobook Bristol – a brief review

Back from Photobook Bristol and getting a chance to look back through notes and reflect on conversations, themes and format. For a quick review of the event from someone involved, have a look at Colin Pantall’s blog in which he celebrates openness and a feelgood atmosphere, and for the programme, see here. It is hard to disagree with the feelgood festival atmosphere – it was clearly a celebration of photography and it’s relationship with the book but there was a distinct lack of substance or openness.

Speakers for the most part were of a particular set and without the inclusion of some newer blood in the likes of Abril, Pez, Degiorgis, Atkinson and Bush, you would very much feel as though you had paid someone to bring all their friends together for a chinwag. Some of the presenters were fascinating to hear from (Kessels and Mitchell in particular) but spoke little about the book, only occasionally and briefly mentioning a publication or design choice. Perhaps with some reorganisation of the available lineup there still could have been more engaging sessions – I would certainly love to hear more about Daniel Meadows thoughts on publication, digital storytelling and community engagement rather than what was essentially a presentation of a project. Similarly Erik Kessels was brought in for a feel good and humorous ending but at the expense of an exploration into his very playful use of the photographic book.

The price of the event should not be overlooked, most folks having paid £115 for the event (including some good food) – as a funding model it works but ultimately degrades the conversations and interactions – essentially the ticket price acts as a barrier for a whole bunch of people who might be less enamoured by the book than the super fans in the room and thus might offer some resistance or alternatives to the celebratory occasion. Despite the rather predictable demographic in the room it would have been interesting to include the audience more often. A large number of sessions had no room at all for Q+A, others only 3 or 4 questions were put forward. The inclusion of a hashtag or digital community space might allow for some additional layers of conversation that could then be expanded on in the break sessions.

Some of the more interesting panels that attempted to address what might be problematic areas of the photobook world (‘PhotoBiblioMania’ and ‘Let’s talk about Money’) were buried in the early morning slots at 09.30. It is worth highlighting Jeff Ladd and Lewis Bush as two voices on these panels that presented alternative views and posited some challenging questions, though the former was heckled for his. A personal lowlight was the ‘First Photobook’ panel with Eamonn Doyle, Kate Nolan and Kazuma Obara, chaired by Colin Pantall – The panel was a great opportunity to unpick the ‘success’ of three recent works in relation to the author’s intent. Unfortunately success was seen as the selling out of a book and Pantall failed to interrogate answers such as ‘I am glad it’s sold out so I can move on with the next thing’ (Nolan), a token question about the sustainability of the photobook world was included, again not in any depth.

Interestingly, both Parr and David Solo, in a separate panel were somewhat negative about consideration of the photobook in online spaces, Facebook groups etc. There is a great deal of truth here in that these platforms can often generate self promotion and repetitive and meaningless confirmation as well as nepotism but I struggle to think of Photobook Bristol any differently.

What was most telling about the event was that the word ‘market’ was used more often than the word ‘audience’, and this is a problem for the event itself. There is as yet no identity or intention for Photobook Bristol, it is not a conference or a book fair, describing itself as a ‘festival’ – and so perhaps it is unfair to expect more than was delivered. I would be keen to hear views from those that went or any that tried to watch form afar.

Matt

The Photobook and Dance in Barreiro

Great to hear about this experimental workshop and reading session in Barreiro that looks to explore links between photography and dance. Thanks to Sofia Matos for the report and images…

24st may | Auditório Municipal Augusto Cabrita

Studies for the Impossible Body

Magda Fernandes (Imagérie – Casa de Imagens)

Studies for the Impossible Body is a series of little artist books that document the making of the Impossible Body project, developed in a photography workshop, in partnership with the photographer Susana Paiva and the Olga Roriz Dance Company, in Lisbon.

In pursuit of an elusive territory, that could be inhabited by photography and dance simultaneously, there were many dead ends and bifurcations along the way. These books are diaries of experimentation and exercise books at the same time, and they speak, through images and words, of discovery, as well as of the infinity and the poetry that emanate from the dancing body.

cargocollective.com/magdafernandes
imagerieonline.com

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Montevideo launches on 22nd May

After a week in which I have attempted some sort of stocktake of the numerous Photobook Clubs around the world, it is great to hear the Photobook Club Montevideo has set its first date – 22nd May. See the note from organiser Federico Estol below and head to the facebook page here.

And for those interested – there are now 49 active clubs who have held over 340 meetings so far!

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The first event of Photobook Club Montevideo is the 22 of may in the Contraluz Art Hostel Montevideo. Will be presentation of local publications and co working to plan new photobooks. Also will be the talk of professional of the editorial process.

– Federico Estol

The Box of Dummies in Alicante

Awesome to see a detailed report from José Carlos Robles of the Photobook Club Alicante about the box of dummies event held recently. A section of the piece is shown below along with several images but for the full article, head here. 

The box didn’t leave anyone indifferent. As usual, we met at the MACA’S (Museum of Modern Art) llibrary were  we could enjoy the amazing work of remarkable artists. We started a brief summary of the works and subsequently we gave a brief time for everyone to carefully observe them.

With great astonishment and why not  certain dose of criticism, I must say, the books were passed from hand to hand  until with great emotion. After the meeting we all gathered at the “October Press Café” to continue the chat , a place highly recommended for further discussions photographically for obsessive minds like we are.

I must say that it could be risky to highlight the most admired books. However, we can not ignore GALAND FLORENCE’S book entitled “ARBRE. PIERRE. NUAGE “, a gorgeous specimen. We also want to highlight the work of DAVID MCBRIDE entitled “THE ANOMALIES”. The author reveals that the story, told in a way of abstraction key, speaks about the time he  spent caring for his father, RICHARD BERNARD MCBRIDE. The period of time during which he was diagnosed with Alzheimer, the  care he gave hime, his memory loss, mood swings, problems with language and inability of reasoning until his death, constitute a marvellous tribute to his father. We are sure he will have been proud of his son.WONDERFUL!

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The Photobook Club Reykjavik Launches!

Great news from Iceland in the form of the first meeting of the Photobook Club Reykjavik. Information on the branch and on their innaugral meeting is shown below…

twitter: @photobookrvk
email: photobookclubrvk@gmail.com
facebook: www.facebook.com/photobookclubreykjavik
location (at least for first meeting):
Samband íslenskra myndlistarmanna (SÍM)
The Association of Icelandic Visual Artists
Hafnarstræti 16, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

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First Meeting of the Photobook Club Mexico City!

Great news from Mariela Sancari of the Photobook Club Mexico City…

We had our first meeting a couple of days ago! It was really good! We still have to adjust some logistics details but it was great.

We had Alex Dorfsman as our first guest and he showed and talked about his 5 published books. Really interesting! We did a skype with the participants in Monterrey 🙂 it was fun!

Here are some pictures of the event.

I will let you know the date for the next meeting soon!

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Huddersfield, Belfast, New York

Huddersfield

Had a fantastic day at the University of Huddersfield with photography students this week, speaking about the photobook as a form of communication and giving some practical help to students working on books. Was great to see photobooks in their infant stages as well as to work with students in re-editing John Gossage’s ‘The Pond’ and Nathan Pearce’s ‘Midwest Dirt’. A few pictures here from Richard Mulhearn…

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Belfast

I will be at Belfast exposed this coming Thursday 5th february for a workshop – spaces limited but click the pic below to find out more information and see if their is availability.

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New York

Will be in New York from 21st – 27th March, if anyone has any recommendations that are a little off the beaten track for exhibitions or book stores they would be greatly appreciated. Similarly if anyone is interested in meeting or having a book club event then shout – matt@photobookclub.org