History confirms it – the first photobook was made by a woman, with British photographer Anna Atkins publishing Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in 1843, a year before Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature. Still, many historians, including Allan Porter in his introduction to The Photobook: A History, dismiss Atkins’ work as “photographic prints” rather than photography.
“Unfortunately, this is far too often emblematic of the uphill battle women photobook-makers still encounter when we talk about their history,” says Russet Lederman, co-founder of 10×10 Photobooks. “As we conducted research for the How We See project, we discovered that although women photographers produce relatively equal numbers of photobooks to men, their representation in the higher-profile sectors was, and still is, disappointing.”
Brussels-based photographer Rebecca Fertinel has won the Unseen Dummy Award with her book Ubuntu. The book was shot in a Congolese community in Belgium, which Fertinel first visited in August 2015, when she was invited to a wedding by a friend. Whilst there she was introduced to a warm and friendly society, and the concept of “ubuntu” – the idea that “you become a human being by connecting with everything and everyone”.
The judges were particularly impressed with the editing of Fertinel’s book proposal which, they say, “transforms documentary photography into an unexpected narrative flow of community events”. The images move from one party to another party to a funeral, for example, the latter creating “a kind of breaking point” in the middle of the book, creating “a kind of dance where you don’t know what comes after”, and thereby summing up something about life.
Unseen Amsterdam has announced the 34 photobook dummies shortlisted for the Unseen Dummy Award 2018. Picked out from 212 submissions by a five-strong committee, the shortlist respects “a degree of rawness, including an ‘unfinished’ look and feel’, in keeping with the prize’s ethos of celebrating books-in-progress. The winner will be announced on 21 September at Unseen Amsterdam, after being picked out by an international jury including: Paul van Mameren, managing director of the award’s sponsor Lecturis; Sarah Allen, assistant curator, Tate Modern; Tim Clark, editor-in-chief and director, 1000 Words; Russet Lederman, co-founder, 10×10 Photobooks; and Małgorzata Stankiewicz, winner of the Unseen Dummy Award 2017. Stankiewicz’s winning book dummy, cry of an echo, was published by Lecturis in May. Showing the Białowieża Forest, the last remaining primeval forest in Poland, Stankiewicz used several unusual interventions when processing her images – including masking, uneven development, and even bleaching – to protest against the intensive logging which has been allowed in the forest by new legislation passed in 2016. Unseen Amsterdam takes place from 21-23 September at Westergasfabriek https://unseenamsterdam.com
“Asselin’s Monsanto® is a courageous, investigative project that connects evidence-driven photography and visual research to the democratisation of knowledge; it’s important that this book exists in physical form, as a document, and not just in the virtual world,” says Cristiano Raimondi of Mathieu Asselin’s photobook Monsanto®. A Photographic Investigation. Raimondi is head of development and international projects at the New National Museum of Monaco and an invited curator for Platform 2017 at this year’s Paris Photo, but he’s speaking as a jury member for the 2017 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards because Asselin’s book has just won the prestigious First PhotoBook prize.