The rise of New Zealand photobooks

The inaugural Photobook New Zealand Festival 2016 and NZ Photobook of the Year Awards 2015 brought together photographers, designers and publishers, and showcased their work to the growing local and international photo book loving community.

Photobook festivals and fairs are now such a fixture of the international photography scene that one could spend their whole year trekking to an event in a different country every week. In March this year, New Zealand, joined the circuit when it hosted  the inaugural Photobook New Zealand festival from 11-13 March at Massey University, Wellington. The event was co-presented by a group of Photoforum NZ affiliates with Momento Pro sponsorship, and established and emerging photographers came out in droves, confirming that the production of photo books is alive and well in Aotearoa.

In addition to the Book Fair that was buzzing with people browsing, buying and trading books, the 200+ attended presentations by local photo book personalities Anita Totha of Remote Photobooks, Harvey Benge, Bruce Connew, Neil Pardington, Catherine Griffiths and Jonty Valentine. They offered advice on book design and distribution – two areas Antipodeans would be wise to focus on to stay on par with the international community. Ying Ang, creator of Gold Coast – winner of the New York Photo Festival Photographic Book prize 2014, and Daniel Boetker-Smith, founder of the Asia Pacific Photobook Archive also discussed the importance of connecting and collaborating with the international community as well as artists in the Asia Pacific region.

A screening of the documentary, Pictures on Paper – Photobooks in New Zealand, by Becky Nunes, Anita Totha, David Cowlard and Parisa Taghizadeh, also revealed the extensive work of Haruhiko Sameshima, Ann Shelton, Harvey Benge, Shelley Jacobson, Solomon Mortimer and David Cook.  Tangent Collective has kindly allowed us to publish the documentary here and it is well worth viewing.

Another highlight was the inaugural New Zealand Photobook of the Year Award presentation. The Awards attracted 72 entries, with the majority entered into the Self Publishing category, and the diversity in the creators’ age and experience, as well as the books’ subjects and formats was significant. The winners selected by judges David Cook, Paul McNamara, Geoffrey H. Short, Anna Brown and Harvey Benge proved that the book’s physicality contributes to its success as much as its photography and visual narrative, while the People’s Choice winner suggests that the public particularly enjoys books they can relate to, with imagery that is recognisable and familiar.

NZPOTY-groupF.16 G3 20/25/30 for the Self Published Award
By Solomon Mortimer
25-year old Mortimer has received significant attention in the last few years for his artistic, handmade, softcover books. The judges found F.16 G3 20/25/30 “rich with pathos. Its edgy design and construction is intriguing, as the layering of pages opens it up to multiple readings.” The edition of 40 copies sold out at the Book Fair, where Mortimer shared space with Bruce Connew. Their partnership reflected a camaraderie between established artists experienced in publishing and the international photo scene, and emerging photographers knowledgeable in social media and contemporary marketing.


Certainty to Doubt for the Trade Published Award
By Mark Purdom and Ramp Press
Purdom’s book was inspired by man’s relationship with nature and the local landscape – an inspiration for many other entries including three Highly Commended books by David Straight, Shelley Jacobsen and Georgia Periam. The multi-part, softcover, staple bound package challenged the established definition of a photobook but the judges found it, “beautifully bizarre” and identified it as the characteristic that made it stand out from the crowd.  Purdom lectures at the School of Media Arts, Waikato Institute of Technology, Hamilton, and encourages photography and design students to collaborate on book projects – an approach that may contribute to more sophisticated book designs.


Waipureku for the People’s Choice Award
By Conor Findlay

Visitors to the NZ Photobook Of The Year exhibition in Wellington, Sydney and Brisbane voted the self published Waipureku by recent graduate Conor Findlay, winner of the People’s Choice Award. This was Conor’s first book, and a political statement about the socio-economic issues affecting his small coastal hometown of Clive (Waipureku in Maori). After generous encouragement Findlay entered the Awards and has been thrilled by the exposure his work has received. He chose to present the work in a book rather than an exhibition as it allowed the viewer to be more engaged with his work. The next round of Awards open for entry in late 2016. Visit the Award website for details.

Waipureku-03Photobook New Zealand and the Photobook of the Year Awards were successful in bringing  local photobook creators, publishers and lovers together, and in establishing a trans-Pacific collaboration that should see the festival hosted every second year, alternating with the Photobook Melbourne festival, directed by Heidi Romano, editor of international photography blog, Unless You Will.  We look forward to working with the Festival coordinators, Award entrants and book creators, to make it easier to produce, distribute and showcase Kiwi photo books to a growing local and international audience.

Wander through Photobook New Zealand as experienced by Dr Doug Spowart.

Images © Photobook New Zealand

Photobook New Zealand was supported by Momento Pro, Massey University, Boosted crowdfunding, PhotoForum Inc, Creative New Zealand and the NZ Festival Writers Week.

About the author Momento Photobooks

Co-founder + Marketing Manager of Momento, creators of premium photo books + custom stationery. A 100% Australian owned + made company dedicated to helping amateur, enthusiast + professional photographers preserve their images in style at

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