It’s a prestigious prize, which earns the winner an exhibition at Photo London plus a photobook published by the well-regraded specialist MACK Books. This year it’s gone to Hayahisa Tomiyasu for his book dummy TTP. Shot from the window of his eighth-floor student flat in Leipzig, Germany, TTP shows a park with a ping pong table, shot at various times of day and in various seasons, and showing different protagonists each time. The table is used as a tischtennisplatte (table tennis table, as a sun lounger, as a climbing frame, as a skate obstacle, and as much more, and, states MACK Books “thanks to Tomiyasu’s sustained curiosity, we observe the habits, humour, and idiosyncrasies of human behaviour”.
In 1972, while studying photography at Manchester Polytechnic, Daniel Meadows took over a disused shop in Moss Side’s Graeme Street and turned it into a ‘free photography studio’. Shooting people for nothing, and sending them their portraits or putting the prints in the shop window, Meadows was able to keep going for eight weeks before he ran out of money. Troubled by the fact that those whose images were in the shop window could no longer see the photographs, he laid out the remaining prints on wooden boards and nailed them to trees in the local park. He later realised this had been his first exhibition.
From mass shootings to a family hotel – the shortlist for the 2018 First Book Award is nothing if not eclectic. Set up in 2012 to support emerging talent, the First Book Award is open to previously unpublished photographers who have been nominated by an international panel of experts, and previous winners include Irish photographer Ciarán Óg Arnold, Polish photographer Joanna Piotrowska, and Malagasy photographer Emmanuelle Andrianjafy. The ten shortlisted photographers this year come from all over the world, including Indian photographer Tenzing Dapka, Japanese photographer Hayahisa Tomiyasu, and Australian photographer Lionel Kiernan.
London-based publisher MACK Books is one of the world’s best-respected photobook makers. A leading producer of contemporary books, working with some of the most established artists in the field, MACK has also won acclaim for republishing hard-to-find classics such as Masahisa Fukase’s Ravens and Luigi Ghirri’s Kodachrome, and for supporting and promoting emerging artists, particularly through its prestigious First Book Award. In addition, MACK has published several books compiling writing on photography by artists such as Joan Fontcuberta, Allan Sekula and Victor Burgin. MACK was originally set up as steidlMACK in 2004 and was part of the Steidl publishing house, but its founder, Michael Mack, left the German company to go it alone in 2010. Now MACK’s work to date under both imprints is being showcased at the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Australia, in an exhibition presented by Perimeter Books which features over 200 books and special editions, including MACK’s pioneering experiments in digital publishing via MAPP Editions. In most cases, visitors are able to hold, handle and read these rare and sometimes out-of-print photobooks.
A project called I went to the worst of bars hoping to get killed. but all I could do was to get drunk again, by Irish photographer Ciarán Óg Arnold, has won this year’s First Book Award. Born in 1977, Arnold has spent almost his whole life living his pictures in the town of Ballinasloe. The project, taken over the past five years, shows drunken knuckle-fights, hard men’s tears and derelict homes as the active participants in a post-recession landscape. “I never really had a project in mind,” Arnold tells BJP. “I just took the photographs at weekends to have something to do. The photographs are about this fatalistic atmosphere of male negativity. Machismo, and having nowhere to express it. I wanted to show how something feels, how it looks – to get the emotional desperation and the anger. I’ve never really talked about it with anyone before. It’s hard. “You would go into one nightclub on weekends, there’d be no one in the entire place except for these guys in the corner with the boxing machine, getting out their aggression …