MEL PHOTO BOOK FAIR: March 18+19 2023

MEL Photo Book Fair (Saturday) PHOTO: Mat Hughes
MEL Photo Book Fair (Saturday) ………………. PHOTO: Mat Hughes


The MEL Photo Book Fair is a collaboration between Matt Dunne and Morganna Magee of Tall Poppy Press, Rohan Hutchinson of ACB Press and Angus Scott on behalf of the Photo Collective which took place in Naarm/Melbourne on March 18+19, 2023.

The organisers proposed that the event would aim ‘to shine a light on local publishing and welcome exhibitors and visitors to immerse themselves in books and print’. Though the strong focus was on the photobook discipline the book works presented intersected a wide range of practice from livre d’artiste books and artists’ books to zines and photographic prints.

The event was convened at Collarts (Australian College of the Arts private college) in Collingwood and while Naarm sweltered on Saturday with 37o temperatures the visitors and table holders enjoyed a cool temperature-controlled space.


MEL Photo Book Fair (Sunday) PHOTO Gus Scott
MEL Photo Book Fair (Sunday) .………………….PHOTO Gus Scott


Attendees were able to browse the 25 different tables and talk with the attendant presenters who had their books and merchandise spread out before them. It is always good to see the major publishers including M.33 and Perimeter Books with an expansive presentation of contemporary local and international books. In recent years Tall Poppy Press and the Photo Collective have been establishing themselves as innovative and energetic players within the local contemporary publishing and photography scene. Also in the fair it was great to see some emerging entrepreneurial publishers like MOM!

Visiting a book fair can sometimes present challenges. Those who have attended fairs as a ‘looker’ will know of the visual and mental struggle that exists between engaging with the books in a considered and thoughtful way while being courteous to the stallholder.  From the other side of the table there is the anticipation of the stallholder, ‘will the person before me like my book … and maybe buy it…?’    Anxieties on both sides …


The Stallholders


I wandered from table to table talking with each representative. It was not only a pleasure to handle their books but also to talk about the work, what brought them to make books and how their work was going.

Here are some general observations of work presented at the Fair:

  • The diversity of products ranged from unapologetically simple self-pub A5 book-lets to case-bound trade editions and on to limited edition slipcased artists’ books.
  • Photographs always dominated – scant presence of text
  • Stream of consciousness layouts
  • Concept books that explored a theme investigated through a long-term commitment
  • I felt that many books required the reader to encounter the book in a quiet reflective space not really possible on the floor of the Fair
  • Some makers presented a single publication assembled in stacks on the table before them – it seemed to me that the books cried out to be taken home to a new bookshelf.

While I was present for 3-4 hours on Saturday around 70-90 people may have come by the event.


The Table Tops


In this post, I present a portrait of the stallholders I spoke with, and a list of URLs where readers can engage online with the books and their publishers and makers.

Thanks go to the organisers Morganna, Rohan, Matt and Angus for their energy in making this happen and to Collarts for their support of the enterprise.

Doug Spowart







Thanks to Mat Hughes and Gus Scott for the images of the Mel Photo Book Fair room
All images of table tops and portraits ©2023 Doug Spowart
We believe all URLs, captions and titles are correct – please advise any errors or omissions and we will make the necessary changes.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Lou Gilbert says:

    Hi D & V
    Thanks so much for doing this summary. I wanted to fly down for it but it’s been a busy month. Great to have the links and images. Is this event going to be run annually?


  2. Doug says:

    Hi Lou – thanks for your comment about the post. I have not heard if the event will be a regular occurrence. Probably the next BIG photobook event and Fair will be part of this year’s Ballarat International Foto Biennale to be held around World Photobook Day – October 14. It will be a weekend of events …!


  3. symonster says:

    Hi Doug, all the links I have clicked on so far go to try the rest soon and get back to youCheers David

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android


    1. Thanks – I thought I’d corrected that ….!


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