On Friday 10 June 2022, Photobook Friday took place at DEMO*, in Grafton, Auckland. This was the sixth Photobook Friday – an annual event sponsored by the Auckland Festival of Photography, and was presented by PhotoForum.
What follows is an overview OF THE EVENT by David Cowlard, Host and Chair of the Photobook Friday Panel discussion
When I took on the role of chairing the panel discussion earlier this year I had invited three photographers; Georgia Carr, Anton Maurer and Yvonne Shaw, to join the panel, as well as the award-winning designer, Katie Kerr.
The event was well-attended and there was a great atmosphere on the night as we were also hosting the winning, highly commended and shortlisted books from the Aotearoa Photobook Awards which had been announced in March.
PhotoForum also had a book stall and it was a great opportunity to secure some of the PhotoForum Publications back catalogue at discounted prices.
.I had prepared some questions for the panelists with the aim of discussing their work and their processes of photobook production and publication. The conversation started with each of the panelists outlining the benefits of working in the photobook format and points were made around the continuing importance of a DIY attitude and the independence that this allows for artists and photographers to maintain control over the publishing process.
.While budgets are often an issue, Georgia Carr described how she works in a lo-fi way using photocopiers and short runs. This enables her to collect her varied digital and analogue pictures in a ‘butterfly net’ kind of way and her images often sit most comfortably in this format.
Yvonne Shaw discussed working in series and how the photobook format continues to offer a more whole expression of this for an artist / photographer. Katie Kerr, who works as both a designer and publisher underlined the importance of the physical book, noting that the very processes of publishing a book involves scrutiny, various levels of editing and critique which in turn allows for a certain trust in the book over more ephemeral, digital, forms of publication.
While all three photographers present also work with exhibitions, everyone was in agreement that the book’s longevity and portability can allow work to be reach a wider audience than an exhibition alone.
We discussed the various levels of collaboration that go into producing a book. Anton Maurer spoke of his collaboration with Wellington based publisher Bad News Books and how the model of printing smaller print runs allows for risks to be somewhat managed, but it is the lasting impact a photobook can have that is of key importance. Katie Kerr described how she set up Gloria Books with Alice Connew in order to be involved at all stages of book production, from concept to design to print.
Georgia spoke of her use of (family) archives and how this can be a form of collaboration with images and artists. Yvonne Shaw discussed her role as Publications Editor for Photo Forum and how a collaborative process is essential from selecting potential books for publication via an open call process, through to working with emerging photographers.
The discussion opened up onto the reasons that the panelists actually continue to see the book format and publication as viable. Being based in the South Pacific means that there are many obvious obstacles to publishing. These include production costs, the small scale of the market and audiences and the huge costs of distribution. Despite these odds, all of the panelists were enthusiastic about the possibilities for publication.
Katie Kerr spoke of design decisions that can keep costs down. One of her key design strategies came from her wish to produce ‘art books that could be carried in your pocket’ and this informs her choices around smaller books that can be printed more economically. She also talked of the virtues of always looking out for ‘book mules,’ friends, family and colleagues who can carry books to faraway places now that the many travel restrictions are being lifted.
At the end of the discussion Katie and Yvonne offered valuable advice to anyone making photobooks. Katie reminded everybody to use ISBNs, as in NZ this will guarantee two of your books are stored in the National Library. She also said to always have a book launch and sell as many as you can on the night. Yvonne advised artists and photographers to enter competitions as a way of getting their work seen by audiences and judges around the world.
The Finalists of the Aotearoa Photobook Awards along with panelists’ books were available for viewing, and a selection of PHOTOFORUM books were also on hand for purchase by the attendees ……
THE PANELIST’S BIOs
Thanks to all of the panelists for a great night!
Georgia Carr is a picture maker and digital artist. Her current work investigates the cyber-self through digital and printed platforms. She has self-published a number of photobooks that explore analogue and digital manipulation. Georgia is currently studying for a Masters of Fine Art at Whitecliffe in Auckland where she also teaches Moving Image, Medium Format Photography and Photobooks in the School of Fine Art.
Katie Kerr is a graphic designer, publisher and educator whose practice revolves around bookmaking. Her studio produces print publications for publishers, artists and organisations from Aotearoa and abroad. With Bristol-based photographer Alice Connew, she runs GLORIA Books — a platform for producing art and photography books that experiment with the publishing process.
Katie holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Canterbury (2018) and lectures in publication design at Auckland University of Technology. She also has a hand in studio space Strange Haven, art bookstore Strange Goods and art book distributor Expensive Hobby
Anton Maurer is an artist and educator. He recently published Endeavour, with Wellington based photobook publisher Bad News Books. The book presents a reflection on the impacts of capitalism and colonisation on the Aotearoa New Zealand landscape and was the result of a long-term project which saw him travel to the far reaches of the country. Works from the series have been widely exhibited throughout Aotearoa and have also been published in Australia and the US.
Anton holds qualifications from Unitec, Elam and Whitecliffe, where he currently teaches in the Photo Media department. His latest work stems from legislative inequalities in ACC, the under-resourcing of DHBs and the punitive nature of Work and Income.
Yvonne Shaw is an artist and lecturer in photography at Unitec. She has twice been a finalist in the NZ Photobook of the Year Awards and her self-published book Auxiliary Movement was a finalist in the 2020 Kassel Dummy Awards. Yvonne is the Publications Editor for PhotoForum and is completing a PhD at Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland. She is investigating expressions of spontaneity within the therapeutic method of psychodrama. Her interest is in photographic portraiture and its ability to reveal social dynamics, and potentially to foster a greater critical awareness of the intersubjectivity of relationships.
David Cowlard is Programme Leader for Photo Media at Whitecliffe and is also a member of the Photo Forum Publications sub-committee.
The event was generously hosted by Whitecliffe.
*DEMO is a new project space to support Whitecliffe’s postgraduate Fine Arts programmes.
.Thank You David CowlaRd for supplying this report
All photos by: Lana Green