From a series of diptychs designed to stimulate senile dementia patients to - controversially - an alternative take on Bertolt Brecht's War Primer which was first published in 2011, Arles' book awards went to images from the archives
Three winners and one special mention have been announced for the 2018 Prix du Livre at Rencontres d’Arles – and in all four cases, the books use archival or found photography. The Author Book Award went to Laurence Aëgerter’s Photographic Treatment, which is published by Dewi Lewis; the Historical book award went to The Pigeon Photographer, a collection of images by Julius Neubronner published by Rorhof; and – controversially – the Photo-text Book Award went to Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s War Primer 2, which was first published by MACK in 2011 but reissued in paperback this year. A special mention went to Giorgio Di Noto’s The Iceberg in the Author Book Award, which is published by Édition Patrick Frey.
Aëgerter’s Photographic Treatment is a series of five books, Daily Photo Dose 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, each of which contains 30 diptychs of black-and-white archive photographs found and edited by the artist. Created in collaboration with neurologists, psychologists, and old age specialists, the books aim to provide an image-based therapeutic tool for senile dementia patients – for whom brain stimulation has been shown to be key. The books can be bought singly or as a series, and have also been shortlisted for a innovation care award in the Netherlands.
Giorgio di Noto’s The Iceberg is also a series of found images – images used to sell drugs on the deep web. The iceberg of the title refers to the internet, which comprises of 10% surface level but 90% the hidden deep web; only accessible via specialist software, the darknet stands outside the law and is often used to sell illegal goods, sometimes advertised via images relating in some way to the product. These images are anonymously uploaded and probably designed to self-erase once they’ve served their purpose, and di Noto has printed the images in ink which is only visible under ultraviolet – the same light used by the police find traces of narcotics.
The Pigeon Photographer is a series of images by German photographer Julius G Neubronner, who was born in 1852 and died in 1932. In 1907, Neubronner patented a camera designed the be attached to pigeons, which would automatically take pictures during their flight in order to track their journey. The camera was used for a wide range of recreational, scientific, press, and military purposes, but was quickly superseded by more technically advanced methods and fell into obscurity. The images are edited by Nicoló Degiorgis and Audrey Solomon – Degiorgis was also nominated for the Author Book Award for Blue as gold, a collection of images of migrants crossing the sea to Europe which was also published by Rorhof.
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s War Primer 2 also uses found images – but takes reappropriation one step further by also reappropriating a book, Bertolt Brecht’s 1955 publication War Primer. Brecht’s book combined images of World War Two taken from newspapers with four-line poems; in Broomberg and Chanarin’s “belated sequel”, this commentary on war and its depiction in print is updated with images found online, many of which relate to the War on Terror. First published by MACK in 2011, War Primer 2 was first published in 2011, and went on to win the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2013, prompting critics to question why its paperback re-issue was picked out over more contemporary first publications.
Arles’ Les Prix du Livre has been running for 49 years and offers a prize of €6000 in each category, to be shared by the photographer and publisher in each case. This year 39 books were nominated in the Author Book Award, 17 in the Photo-text Book Award, and 15 in the Historical Book Award category; the jury was chaired by Marloes Krijnen, director of FOAM, and otherwise comprised of: Véronique Bergero, Libraire Fnac; Ilgın Deniz Akseloğlu, curator; Irene De Mendoza, artistic director of Foto Colectania; and Muriel Enjalran, director of the Centre régional de la photographie des Hauts-de-France.
MACK, which is based in London, had five books nominated for prizes in total – more than any other publisher – including Morgan Ashcom’s What the Living Carry; Bertien Van Manen’s, I Will be Wolf; John Divola’s Vandalism; and Susan Lipper’s Domesticated Land. Dewi Lewis Publishing, which is based in Stockport, England, also had a strong year in the Prix du Livre with two other books also nominated for prizes – Louis Quail’s Big Brother, and Laia Abril’s On Abortion. RVB Books had four books nominated – Thomas Mailaender, The Fun Archaeology; Tiane Doan Na Champassak, Censored; Clément Lambelet, Two Donkeys in a War Zone; and Luce Lebart, Gold and Silver.
For more information, and a full run-down of all shortlisted books, read BJP’s story: http://www.bjp-online.com/2018/07/revealed-the-photobooks-in-the-running-for-the-arles-prix-du-livre-2018/