IN EARLY DECEMBER Australian photobook collector and maker Bill Purvis and AMERICAN SUBURB X managing editor Brad Feuerhelm initiated what turned out to be two lengthy online thread discussions on the FlakPhoto Books Facebook page about the end of year ‘BEST PHOTOBOOK’ lists. Topics included: the value or otherwise of lists, who makes the lists or to whom should we give the authority to make them, the gatekeepers and those amazing books that may be missed above those that didn’t deserve a mention.
Feuerhelm responded the next day, December 6th, by posting the following provocative call to action on FlakPhoto:
Feuerhelm’s post prompted me to make contact with him and offer my list – He responded very positively ‘… I’m chuffed you reached out!’ I only had a couple of days to review Antipodean Photobooks that I had encountered in 2020. I passed the list I had drafted to Victoria for a quick review and then submitted it Brad @ ASX.
American Suburb X posted Photobooks of the Year 2020/Welcome to the Castle on Xmas Eve. It consists of a lengthy and unusual essay dotted with books and their publishers. At the end there are 3 BEST BOOK submissions that included my list.
(NOTE: There is one book which Feuerhelm chose to omit as it was in Pre-Sale for 2021 supply and couple of typos which I have been unable to get corrected to this time)
HERE IS MY SUBMISSION:
FROM DOUG SPOWART: I live in Australia and publish with my partner the https://theantipodeanphotobook.com/.
We attempt to connect the stories in the photobooks made by Australian & New Zealand photographers, designers and publishers with a worldwide audience.
So here is my BEST ANTIPODEAN PHOTOBOOKS of 2020. I prefer to call this list THE BOOKS I LUSTED AFTER IN 2020…
Though I don’t own many of the books listed my comments come from my knowledge of the authors and the publishers… ENJOY… !
.Bill HENSON’s ‘SIC TRANSIT’
Published by Stanley / Barker UK
Henson presents a kind of Greek tragedy told through a dark lens, a Caravaggio-like dream. Young naked figures wrestling, resting and canoodling with accompanying images of a landscape of ruined temples, roads to nowhere and shadowed landforms kissed by shafts of failing light. Through the symbolic framework of history Henson creates a space for us to consider our present suggesting that… ‘sic transit – thus passed…’
Tom GOLDNER’s ‘Do Brumbies Dream in Red?’
Self-published in Australia
Goldner uses the tenuous plight of the feral wild-roaming mountain horse – the Brumby as a metaphor for climate change. In his book Goldner weaves an evocative photo-narrative where the animal is trapped in a world impacted by catastrophic bushfires and the human indifference to Nature. The book is a poignant comment on the contemporary ecological uncertainty for both human and their non-humans companions on this planet.
Sara McINTYRE’s ‘Observations of a Rural Nurse’
Massey University Press in New Zealand
In the work of New Zealand photographers there is a pervasive sense of the immensity of this place, its community and the visual glue that holds everything together. McIntyre’s book brings her long-term connection with community as a nurse, her astute documentary eye and her familiarity with landscape, architecture and people. This book of New Zealand’s rural quotidian life may seem to be grounded in old fashioned community values but in todays uncertain conditions these connections have become something in which we all crave.
Ann SHELTON & Duncan MUNRO’s ‘Mother Lode’
Bad News Books in New Zealand
On first reading the garden/space appears to be an overgrown and infested with weeds. Deeper investigation reveals the author’s intent to share an alternative approach to ecological systems for growing the food she needs. Shelton’s detailed colour images present a botanists challenge to name the collections of trees, shrubs, vegetables and herbs. Munro’s digital illustrations generated from Shelton’s photographs extend the visual material in graphic ways to present the unseen worlds of microbes, soil and other organisms.
Haru SAMESHIMA & Paula MORRIS’ ‘Shining Land: Looking for Robin Hyde’
Massey University Press in New Zealand
The book was created from the collaboration between a writer, Paula Morris and a photographer Haru Sameshima in their poignant search for the spirit of New Zealand writer and poet Robin Hyde. Though Hyde died at the age of 33 eighty years ago she is an enigmatic figure in the culture of her country.
Sameshima sought out places where Hyde lived and looked for subjects that he felt still held the ‘trace’ of the person. Morris’ words tell another powerful and entertaining story. This collaboration creatively blended both word and image to form a much larger story…
Alex FRAYNE’s ‘Landscapes of South Australia’
Wakefield Press Press in South Australia
Anyone familiar with Alex Frayne’s Instagram feed will know of the quirky snapshot ethic in his photographs capturing one’s attention in the constant daily stream. This book of his images of South Australian landforms, ramshackle outback buildings and a wild juxtaposition of the two, presents the reader/viewer with challenging visual and psychological calisthenics.
Wakefield Press: https://tinyurl.com/yap7lj9t
Alex Frayne’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alex.frayne/
Allan McDONALD’s ‘The Holding’
Rim Books in New Zealand
The book is intended to provide commentary on ‘material culture in a time of transition’ from analogue to digital through the ‘pleasures of walking and reading’. It contains many photographs of book and music shop shelves that evoke the call of the hunter to seek their desired objects in the bookshop, hoping to ferret out long-lost photobook tomes or vinyl LPs. As I turn the pages there is a palpable anxiety as I scan the shelves in the book…
Narelle AUTIO’s ‘Place in between’
Stanley / Baker UK
In the indigo of deep water Autio has photographed the plunge and bubble of swimmers as they dive and aggressively immerse themselves in the ritual of Australian summers – diving into water. But there is an uncanny sense of trepidation as the author also suggests ‘do not stay too long…’
Morganna MAGEE’s ‘All the things unsaid’
Self-published artists book Australia
The making of this book created a cathartic and healing space to confront difficult memories for the author. In encountering the narrative sequence of portraits, ephemeral items and dark misty forest glades there is an uncanny calling to the viewer touching with those buried deep dark places of their mind.
NOTE: the book is not available for sale at present
Tim PAGE’s ‘NAM Contact’
NOTE: Text edited from original submission.
This book is testimony to Page’s documentary work and the power of the photograph to position the viewer in the time and place of its capture. The pages of the book present single images as well as the contact sheets from which the images came. Additional information is provided in the form of ephemera from Page’s archive that adds to the narrative of the photographer as witness and storyteller.
Stephen Dupont collaborated with Page on the image edit and in the design of ‘NAM Contact’. The book and its presentation package consists of a simulated Kodak paper box containing a exposed film satchel along with a gelatine silver print and magnifying loupe.
‘NAM Contact’ is a powerful document of war, a photographer and the stories that that they still need to tell…
About the Tim Page book project…
FROM STEPHEN DUPONT’S Instagram page
NOTE: NAM Contacts will be available for purchase soon …
Coming soon to this BLOG…
PLEASE recognise and respect the Copyrights of the contributors.