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This year Australia has a new photography festival to add to the calendar: Photobook Melbourne. The brainchild of fine art photographer and designer, and now Festival Director, Heidi Romano, and co-founder Daniel Boetker Smith – Director of Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive, Photobook Melbourne kicks off on 12th February.

This ten-day Festival promises to introduce Melbournians to a vast array of photobooks, including those that were finalists in the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards over the past three years.

Today the term photobook is somewhat generic. It is used to describe high-end photographic publications, handmade books and everything in between. While artists understand the differentiation of ‘art’ photobooks, others know only the photobook that one can make at kiosks in large chain stores, or online. In fact, this is one of the primary motivations for the Festival – to introduce more people to artists’ photobooks.

Photobook Melbourne will have more than 200 photobooks on display, the majority of which will be available to physically engage with, although a few very high-end works will be exhibited under glass.

“What we’re showing are pretty much the best books of the world. I was really lucky to see the Aperture books at Paris Photo in 2013 and I just fell in love with this whole idea that you can see, and touch all these amazing books…It is the tactility, which inspired me so much,” says Romano.

She continues. “Books travel lightly. With the limited funding we had I could afford to get lots of books over here, but I couldn’t afford 200 exhibitions! With all of these books coming from around the world I feel like I can actually showcase these little mini-exhibitions within the Festival. And it is also very interesting to expose Australia and especially Melbourne to the Aperture Prize and to share the awards that are happening around the world”.

In addition to the Paris Photo-Aperture Awards finalists, books from Photobook Ireland’s library project and the Photobook Club UK will be on display. A Book Fair is also scheduled with representation from local and international photobook publishers. Romano is keen to see local photographers take advantage of being able to examine a wide variety of publications.

“Photobooks are such a big market, and I thought it would be really interesting to share these books with the photography community and inspire them to think differently of their books. Here (in Australia) I feel like a lot of photographers think they can design, publish and do it all themselves and I guess I often disagree. If you look at the books from overseas I doubt that hardly anyone would have designed it themselves, they are collaborations. I think this festival is to inspire people to make their own books and to see what is possible and look at the different ways that people have told their stories and their narratives.”

Photobook Melbourne’s programme features the aforementioned books as well as talks, workshops, studio visits and nine exhibitions. #dysturb will also participate, although what they are posting on the streets of Melbourne is a closely guarded secret. The inclusion of #dysturb fulfills Romano’s desire to have a “political element” without it becoming a photojournalism festival.

The Festival also features the 2015 Australian Photobook of the Year Awards, which attracted around 100 entries. Romano says the judging panel is diverse, and comprises artists, trade and book publishers. Fifteen finalists have been chosen with the winner to be announced on the Festival’s opening night.

It is ambitious to mount any kind of visual arts festival in a climate where funding for the arts, especially non-mainstream activity, is extremely tight. Romano has been resourceful, but admits the programme’s scope is limited because of lack of money. Yet despite the challenges she says, “I’ve had the best time ever doing this…It’s been a labour of love”.


Photobook Melbourne
12-22 February 2015

Selected Programme Highlights:

Photobook Melbourne Opening Night &
Australian Photobook of the Year Awards
12 February, 6pm
Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St

Australian Photobook of the Year Awards* – Finalists
Ashely Gilbertson – Bedrooms of the Fallen
Jackson Eaton – Better Half
Jesse Marlow – Don’t Just Tell Them, Show Them
Glenn Sloggett – Fibro Dreams
Ying Ang – Gold Coast
Kristian Laemmle-Ruff – In the Folds of Hills
Odette England – Lover of Home
Kelvin Skewes – Nauru: What was taken and what was given
Jessie + Jacqueline DiBlasi – Nonna to Nana
Emma Phillips – SALT
Brendan Esposito – The Beginning
Andrea Francolini – The Kings of KKH
David Kirkland – Tribal PNG
Stephen Dupont – Typhoon
Raphaela Rosella – We Met a Little Early But I Get to Love You Longer

*Presented by the Festival’s major sponsor Momento Pro

Paris-Photo Aperture Photobook Awards Exhibition
Opening Friday 13 February
The Baron Said
83 Kerr Street

The Photobook Melbourne Fair
14 & 15 February
Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St

Photobook Publishing Panel Discussion
16 February
Photography Studies College
65 City Road
Free. Limited seats.

Photobook Melbourne Exhibition Programme:

Opening 12 February:

Robert Zhao Renhui – A guide to the flora and fauna of the world
Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St

Wouter van de Voorde – Sunrise
Colour Factory
409 – 429 Gore Street

Glen Sloggett – Fibro Dreams
Strange Neighbour
395 – 397 Gore St

Opening 14 February:
Jordan Madge – Backwoods
Lindberg Gallery
67 Cambridge Street

Sarah Pannell – East of the Euphrates
7 Campbell Street

Katrin Koenning – Indefinitely
James Makin Gallery
67 Cambridge Street

Yaakov Israel – The Quest for the Man on The White Donkey
Lindberg Galleries
67 Cambridge Street

Opening 17 February:
Sam Wong – NY
Jack Shelton –
No Vacancy Gallery
34 – 40 Jane Bell Lane,