The thirty-five books, shortlisted for the fifth edition of the Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards, offer a snapshot of the photobook community's recent output—a sampling from a period in which we have seen an ambitious reinvention of the traditional book form, evolving sophistication in approaches to storytelling, and bold experimentation with production techniques.
The three final winners were selected from this set of books and chosen based on the quality of the photography or the project itself, while also taking into account the design of the book as a complete object (formatting, editorial structure, and production quality).
The First PhotoBook Prize recognizes emerging artists or first-time bookmakers, and the winner receives an award of $10,000. The PhotoBook of the Year Prize gives special recognition to more experienced bookmakers—the "masters" category. Finally, the Photography Catalogue of the Year Prize recognizes the importance of visual scholarship, as well as the use of the book platform as a means of "installing" and further expounding on the content of a curator or author's research.
What we have seen over the past five years of the prize is an increasing number of publications that seem to verge on the baroque in form, borrowing and adapting any number of possible production variables: different materials and paper finishes, from extreme gloss to extreme toothiness; varying page sizes; bindings of all kinds; gatefolds; and tip-ins. A smorgasbord of possible techniques are available to make one's book stand out, and they are all in play. One thing that is abundantly clear, however, is that these many possible innovative techniques work best when they are used in support of a set of images or the story told, not simply as decorative flourish. What the shortlist jury looks for, above all, is that each decision that goes into the making of the book, from the choice of images to the choice of fonts, paper, and other details, has been made thoughtfully and with intention. Even more critically, however, as this year's shortlist—and the winners—bear out, sometimes all you need is a simple platform and a carefully made selection of compelling photographs that allow the work to speak for itself.
Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation
PhotoBook Awards 2016 winners:
The First PhotoBook – Libyan Sugar, Michael Christopher Brown (Twin Palms)
The Photography Catalogue of the Year – Wojciech Zamecznik: Photo- Graphics, Karolina Puchała-Rojek And Karolina Ziębińska-Lewandowska (Fundacja Archeologia Fotografii)
The PhotoBook of the Year – ZZYZX, Gregory Halpern (MACK)
Jury Special Mention – Taking Stock of Power: An Other View of the Berlin Wall, Annett Gröschner, Arwed Messmer (Hatje Cantz)
The Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography
Bolotnaya emb, b. 3-1
Book descriptions compiled, in part, by Katie Clifford, Simon Hunegs, Samantha
Marlow, Lesley Martin, and Nicole Maturo.