The Photography Book Now 2011 Winners are announced!
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I’m excited to be participating in a late-September, 2011, 3-day photobook workshop with the amazing photographers Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb. The workshop, which runs from September 23–25, is being hosted by Radius Books in Santa Fe, and I’ll be participating along with David Chickey, a fellow co-founder of Radius Books, along with being the publisher and creative director of the publishing house.
The workshop is open to anyone “who is passionate about a photography project that he or she has been working on—from serious amateurs to seasoned professionals, from documentary to art photographers, from those photographing a theme, place, or issue to those working on a more personal series of photographs of family or friends.”
Needless to say, it’s going to be intense, informative, inspiring and loaded with great energy (all the while in the beautiful setting of Santa Fe, New Mexico). More info below.
[Alex and Becky speaking at the Boston MFA.]
We’ll kick off the weekend with a Friday evening slideshow + talk of the work of Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb, a creative team who’ve edited six books together, including Violet Isle: A Duet of Photographers from Cuba (Radius, 2009), a project that’s currently being exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Their slide talk will be followed by a conversation and Q&A with the Webbs and David Chickey, the publisher and creative director of Radius Books who has designed photo books for more than 20 publishers and museums over the last 15 years. This event will be open to the public.
Saturday will begin with a review of each participant’s project (each photographer will present 30-80 small prints—4×6 to 5×7, either inkjet or inexpensive photographic prints). Through a group editing process, the Webb/Radius team will devise an individual assignment tailored for each photographer, which will be due the next morning. On Sunday morning, the Webb/Radius team will go over the assignments, and offer specific suggestions for each photographer about how to take his or her project to the next level. Sunday afternoon will feature presentations by David Chickey, acclaimed book designer and Radius publisher, and noted photobook expert and editor, Darius Himes, coauthor of the new book, Publish Your Photography Book. This will be followed by a panel discussion led by David and Darius about the making and publishing of photobooks, which will end with an in-depth Q&A with the participants.
Throughout this intensive weekend, this workshop will explore a variety of photobook related topics through discussion, presentations, and an editing exercise, including such issues as how to find the heart of your photography book, how to edit and sequence a photo book intuitively, how to figure out what’s left to photograph for your book, how to choose a writer for your book, how to select the right title for your book, how to decide on the right size for your photo book, how to choose a cover image, how to work with a designer, what to expect when you go on press for a book, how prints in a book differ from prints on a wall, and how to publish your photobook.
Alex and Rebecca are handling all of the applications: photographers must submit 10 small jpgs (72 dpi, no more than 8 inches on longest side) from their project, and a short statement about it (no more than 250 words), as a Word doc (if possible) to Alex and Rebecca at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
More info here, on the Magnum Photos website.
[All photographs courtesy Mickey Smith. View her website here.]
“Will Blurb’s Photography Book Now competition award any non-Blurb self-published books this year? The competition’s credibility depends on it.” ~Twitter post
Here we are midway into the fourth year of Photography Book Now, Blurb’s annual photography competition that has, over the past three years, awarded cash and prizes to numerous photographers. I’m serving as the lead judge for a fourth year and am proud to do so.
The straightforward question pasted above was originally posted as an innocuous Tweet, but behind it is a deeper and legitimate concern. It not only deserves a thoughtful response, but it affords me an opportunity to voice my thoughts about the development and overall ethos and goals of the contest.
The most direct challenge of this question concerns the credibility and legitimacy of the contest. For the sake of clarity, I’ll state the point even more baldly: Is this truly a contest about the most current self-published photography books? Or is this simply a competition in which Blurb promotes itself and bestows self-serving awards?
I want to answer this directly. As lead judge since the inception of the contest, I’ve had the joy of reaching out to colleagues and heroes of mine in the photography community to serve as fellow-judges: Kathy Ryan, Dana Faconti, Vince Aletti, Martin Parr, Charlotte Cotton, Frish Brandt, Kira Pollack, Todd Hido, Anthony Bannon, Jen Bekman and so many others. They have all served happily and fairly in this role, and I thank them again.
I can happily say that of the books submitted to the contest, the judges have responded to and selected the most creative, the most accomplished, and those in which the artist and photographs were most engaged with the book form. In short, the judges have chosen the best books submitted.
Ultimately, this question of just what gets submitted is the key point, and leads right into the question of legitimacy. As is obvious, the judges are limited to the submissions. If it’s not on the table, we don’t get a chance to see it. At the end of last years’ contest, I was concerned with precisely this issue, that the contest was being perceived as solely the “Blurb contest”, and that the submissions were only for books produced using Blurb’s platform.* I wanted to know, could we encourage submissions from around the world and increase the number of non-Blurb produced books in order to advnace the explicit goal of celebrating all self-published photography books?
The answer is yes.
The first thing we** decided to do was look at the language used. There is a very careful use of wording this year informing and surrounding the announcement and marketing of the contest. The contest is “presented by Blurb” but supported by so many other companies within our industry: HP (who provides the Grand Prize money), Adobe, Wacom, x-rite, New Page, Mohawk, livebooks, and on and on. In other words, this is a group effort.
In the promotional material produced, as well as on the website, there is a concerted effort to avoid implying that one must use Blurb’s platform to produce a submission. The front page of the website states, “PBN is an international juried competition celebrating the most creative, most innovative, and finest self-published photography books – and the people behind them.” This should be read literally and taken at face value.
Sometimes there is confusion around the rules and guidelines, which, as we all know, are ultimately crafted by lawyers. Here, in plain language, is what we hope will be submitted: any self-published photography book by any artist (young or old, “professional” or not), using any reproduction and binding technique—from offset lithography, to web-press on newsprint, to print-on-demand, to bound ink-jet prints, to saddle-stiched Xeroxes. The point is, it doesn’t matter how you make your book, just make the best one you can and submit it!
Lastly, this year the organizers produced a series of videos with me, as lead judge, in which we explain and clarify the criteria of what the judges will be looking for in each submission and how to approach the categories. You can find those videos here, for the judging criteria, and here, for the categories. I hope you’ll find them explanatory and useful.
Friends, we are witnessing and participating in an extremely rich moment in the history of photography. This moment is quite unparalleled; the resources and tools available for artistic expression and distribution are immense. The interest in the photographic book form has blossomed over the last decade due to a variety of factors—the Roth and Parr/Badger volumes, the advent of print-on-demand (POD), the healthy flourishing of numerous small publishing houses and independent photobook distributors and libraries, exhibitions and awards devoted to photography books, and the global interconnectedness that the Internet has facilitated, to name a few. (I’ve highlighted some of these resources in a blog posting here).
The contest organizers have explicitly expressed the desire to provide a forum—the contest itself—as well as the financial capital and human resources to offer these amazing awards and parties around the world to honor those photographers that are making books that advance the medium of photography. In “presenting” this contest, they are stating a deep conviction to the book as a vehicle for ideas, for creative expression, and ultimately a belief in the arts as a means to advance human society.
Once again this year, we have an amazing line-up of judges drawn from the wide, wide world of photography: historian Gerry Badger, Chris Boot of Aperture, Matt Eich of LUCEO, photographer Larry Fink, Claudia Hinterseer of Noor Agency, photographger Henry Horenstein, Whitney Lawson of Travel+Leisure, Larissa Leclair of Indie Photobook Library, Jon Levy of Foto8, photographer Steve McCurry, Laura Brunow Miner, and Markus Schaden of Schaden.com.
If you aren’t excited about showing your book to these folks, I’m not sure who you’re waiting for.
This contest is here for us. It is here to seek out and celebrate the best self-published photobooks of our time. We have pulled together an amazing group of judges this year, all of whom represent a firm commitment to the medium, and are known throughout the photography world for their efforts.
It is up to the photographers and bookmakers to show us what they’ve got. We can’t wait!
—Darius Himes, June 2011
PS Want to continue this conversation? Head over to Flak Photo’s Facebook page and post your comments.
[All photographs courtesy Mickey Smith. View her website here.]
** I am not an employee of Blurb, but I consult with the contest organizers as the lead judge.
On Monday night, the 9th of November, I had the real privilege of participating in a conversation with Roger Ballen live at the SVA auditorium on 23rd street in Manhattan. Roger Ballen’s work has fascinated me for a long time, and I was thrilled to be able to engage him in dialogue before an audience in New York City. Hosted by SVA and introduced by Chair of the Photography Department, Stephen Frailey, the evening proved to be one of riveting photographs and thought-provoking dialogue. My own introductory notes are below, followed by a video of the evening as well as two passage—one from C.G. Jung and another from Robert Sobieszek’s essay for Shadow Chamber—that I used during the on-stage conversation.
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”—Alan Kay
Last night, on a beautiful, balmy, breezy September eve in New York City at Tribeca Rooftop, Blurb.inc hosted the awards ceremony for the 2009 Photography.Book.Now contest. As lead judge not only did I MC the evening event, but I got to give a very deserving photographer by the name of Rafal Milach from Warsaw, Poland $$$TWENTY-FIVE-THOUSAND-U.S.-DOLLARS. Not only did it make him happy but it made me very, very happy.
In many ways, Blurb is inventing a part of the future, and their support of books and photography is phenomenal. So, one more “Thank You” to Eileen and the Blurb crew (Robin, Lori, Brenna, Mike and the rest of the team + Wendy and the NYC collaborators for putting on an amazing evening).
Below is the text of my prepared statement for the evening:
There has been a lot of news of DEATH, DYING and KILLING in recent times and I don’t just mean the dozens of wars and armed conflicts worldwide. When we listen to the media we hear that newspapers are dying and photography is dead. They say that digital killed analog, bloggers killed print-journalism and any number of magazines are listed on deathwatch websites.
If you believe it there is carnage and unprecedented global upheaval from which we’ll supposedly never recover.
Personally I think all of that is a load of bull.
I’d like to suggest that this “is what real revolutions are like,” to borrow the words of Clay Shirky, a brilliant social commentator. They involve slippery and exciting change that cannot be controlled by the usual methods.
I fully agree.
“The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place. The importance of any given experiment isn’t apparent at the moment it appears; big changes stall, small changes spread. Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen.”
And so it is with us assembled tonight. We are here not because one technology has killed another, or because some set of industries are in danger of dying, real as that may feel. We are here to celebrate newness, innovation and the glorious creativity of the human spirit. And yes, CHANGE. Whether we know it or not, we are living through revolutionary times.
When someone demands to know whether print-on-demand will kill publishing and whether newspapers and magazines will die “they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution.” As Shirky says: “They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be lied to.”
I cannot tell a lie.
But I can say that books are ancient vehicles for the dissemination of ideas and resonate with us as objects even today. Photography, by contrast, is no more developed than a toddler in the scope of human history. It is a gift of modernity and it is changing rapidly before our eyes … and all of that is as exciting as anything I can think of.
To be attached to old ways and outdated systems in this new day is foolhardy and naive, for who can any longer believe that technologies won’t change radically every six months or more. And who cares!? Change is inevitable. Has anyone mentioned we are living in the 21st century? I don’t know how all of these changes will affect the larger industries many of us work in; no one really does. But I do know that we are the future—we are the architects and the builders and there are more and more powerful tools at our disposal every time we blink our eyes.
So let me remind everyone to please take out your cell phones … and make sure they are on. Please Tweet, Blip, Facebook, Blog and Qik video anything and everything you want. We are witnessing changes the likes of which previous generations could never dream.
The Photography.Book.Now contest was not just another “photography” contest. This was a photography-book contest—and specifically, one that celebrates print-on-demand technology. Many thanks and shout-outs to all the photographers who submitted, attended the party and decided to participate in something fresh and exciting, without really knowing where we’re all headed.
[Posting this entry from 34,000 ft & the future. Here is the full text of Clay Shirky's talk on the state of newspaper publishing. Follow me on Twitter @dariushimes]
Out of the winning titles selected by the great team of judges, of which I served as Lead Judge, Rafal Milach‘s “Black Sea of Concrete” stood out as the best overall photobook. It stands as a wonderful embodiment of all of the criteria I asked the judges to consider: strong photography, important subject matter, vigorous edit and intelligent sequencing, combined with a thoughtful attention to those elements that are specifically book-centric, including type treatment, page-layout and cover design.
At the heart of the contest was the combination of photographs and books. The contest was not just about photographs, but about photographs in book form.
Overall, Milach’s book is one that I think people will want to return to repeatedly. He enlisted the assistance of a designer and an editor, and in doing so exhibited care and attention to the book, as a whole, acknowledging his own strengths and weaknesses in the process; it was truly teamwork that led to a better end-result. As lead judge, I’m extremely proud to have been able to award the Grand Prize to a relatively young photographer and book artist and I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.
The other winners include:
Kurt Tong, who won in the Editorial Category with People’s Park (below, top)
Joshua Deaner, who won in the Fine Art category with I Sell Fish (below, bottom)
And Dennis Kleiman, who won in the Commercial category with Volume One
Photography.Book.Now is an international juried self-published book competition, and a celebration of the most creative, most innovative, and finest photography books – and the people behind them. Now in its second year, Photography.Book.Now offers photographers of all stripes the opportunity to showcase their work to a world-renowned panel of judges, and take a shot at a $25,000 grand prize. Submissions closed on July 16, 2009. For more information on prizes, sponsors, and upcoming social events, visit www.photographybooknow.com.
(“Embarrassing Books“, by Penelope Umbrico)
Pretty much the best annual contest for book-loving photographers is about to END on July 16, a mere 3 weeks away!*** I’m talking about Photography.Book.Now, version 2.0, folks. Hosted by Blurb, one of the acknowledged leaders of the print-on-demand revolution, the Photography.Book.Now contest is important for several reasons. Besides the big carrot of $25,000 USD (just ask Beth Dow how fun it was to receive that last year, no strings attached), and other goodies and parties along the way, it’s a chance to get your work in front of a group of top-notch judges who will all be judging the entries in New York shortly after the end of the contest in mid-July.
(*** I’m one of the judges in this contest, heading up the team for a second year.)
But, to be honest, the educator side of me thinks this contest is important because of how it gets photographers to think outside of the box and to think in relation to the book as a separate entity, one that is a combination of many arts.
Let me explain. …
A book, in general, is a very democratic and accessible vehicle to disseminate ideas, in the form of either text or images—two primary advantages are that books require no electricity and can be returned to again and again, unlike an exhibition, for instance, or the Internet.
Creating a successful book involves editing and sequencing and design all in light and in line with an overriding concept which has to be determined ahead of time. Asking yourself ahead of time, “Who is this book for?” and “What am I trying to accomplish with this book?” is extremely important.
The three categories of this year’s contest Fine-Art, Editorial and Commercial are designed to encourage photographers to think about books the way publishers do. Let me restate that: the categories require that photographers think like publishers.
The fine-art category is extremely broad and the most subjective, in that photographers and artists using photography can do whatever they want to produce their book. Books from “art” photography publishing houses like Nazraeli Press, Twin Palms, J&L Books, Aperture, Phaidon, or Radius Books—are often “name” driven and rely on an audience that recognizes that name, whether that’s a really huge name, like Annie Leibovitz, or someone lesser-known, like Julie Blackmon. What is most important in relation to this category is that the content of the book is driven by the personal, artistic concerns of the artist/photographer, and not by “market conditions”.
Editorial photography, which is the second category, is a much different animal than ‘fine art’ photography and book making. Let me state two things at the outset, though. I’m not really interested in or trying to stoke the debate surrounding questions about what constitutes ‘art’ photography. First of all, anything done well is done artfully. If it serves the goals that one sets out with, then ‘art’ has been employed. With more ‘utilitarian’ tasks, art enhances the outcome—think of ‘the art of cooking’ or ‘the art of furniture-making.’ There are more abstract tasks, such as teaching or public speaking, which also benefit from thoughtful and inspired attention, and which employ ‘art’. So, in our case, I don’t want anyone to think that any of the three categories don’t somehow employ art or don’t constitute artfully done work.
Editorial and commercial photographers often serve patrons other than themselves, however, and this is a big distinction. So, an editorial photographer sent on an assignment to cover X, may find themselves with a much larger, broader, more engaging body of work than will ever get published in a magazine. And they may want to turn that project into a book, and get it out there to a wide audience. Likewise, a commercial shooter ofter has photographic skills that translate into a broadly accessible visual language, and can be used for a ‘commercial’ book project. Publishers often conceive of book projects in-house and then commission commercial photographers to produce work for the book. [cont'd below]
[Image Collection #1: Instances of Books Being Read, 2007, by Penelope Umbrico]
Perhaps some concrete examples would help. A new book from Princeton Architectural Press—Bamboo Fences, by Isao Yoshikawa and Osamu Suzuki—is a great example of a commercial book project, in my mind. It’s about a very specific subject—bamboo fence building in Japan, written by Yoshikawa—and Suzuki’s photographs perfectly illustrate the work and convey the physical and abstract beauty of these objects. It’s primarily a photography book, but is supplemented by the text. The name of the photographer (or even the author) is not what will drive the sales of this book. It’ll be bought by architects and interior design folks that are hip to the subject matter.
Here’s another example: Bird, by Andrew Zuckerman. It has a specific subject matter that has been very artfully photographed by a commercial photographer. The audience for this book—and by that I mean ultimate sales for this book—is hoped (by Chronicle Books the publisher), I would guess to be upwards of 50,000+. Who doesn’t like birds?
Further: here are two examples of books that have a pretty broad ‘trade’ appeal, but which are not really ‘commercial’ books the way I’ve talked about the books above. They are Jonah Frank’s Right, Portraits from the Evangelical Ivy League (Chronicle Books), and Articles of Faith by Dave Jordano (Center for American Places). In my mind, both of these books probably stemmed from assignments, and once embarked upon, held a fascination for the photographers, blossoming eventually into the book length projects we see on the shelves. Both have more of a storytelling quality to them then either Bamboo Fences or Bird. In that sense, that come out of a ‘documentary’ tradition, but are presented in as appealing a way to as broad an audience as possible.
In either the editorial or commercial category, I would emphasize again that you need to think like a publisher if you are going to submit to that category. Visit websites of publishers (like this one and this other one) and read the ‘catalog copy’ that they produce about their own books. It’ll give you great insight into what type of audience they are aiming for. In many ways, creating an intelligent, succesfull commercial is as hard as creating a successful fine-art project.
[For more reading on the current explosion in the art & photobook market, you'll all have to wait for the book I'm co-authoring with Mary Virginia Swanson about just that. It will be published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2010. For a self-taught graduate seminar in your hands, pick up The Photobook: A History, Volumes 1 & 2 by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger (Phaidon) or a copy of the newly released WordsWithoutPictures.org conceived and edited by Charlotte Cotton at LACMA, to which I contributed an essay.]
And lastly, a huge shout out to Penelope Umbrico, whose work with photos from Flickr is smart and stunning. Penelope, if you’re reading this, I hope we all get to see a book of yours someday soon!
This is your last chance to submit to the Photographic Center Northwest contest, with the photography world’s most Web-savvy misstress, Jen Bekman! Fancy-amazing gallery director Ann Pallesen is the organizer and is sure to treat your entries right. I say, “Do it now!”
So, just do it, now.
As the semester winds up amidst uncertainty about the future of the College itself, some of my students from PHO 406 (History of Photography III) are preparing for the opening of their BFA thesis exhibition. Both Cougar Vigil and Adam Figliola have produced beautiful bodies of photographic work that bodes well for their creative futures. The opening reception is tonight, May 14th from 5â€“7 pm at the Marion Center for Photographic Arts on The College of Santa Fe campus. Congratulations to all the students!