We feel it’s important to tell the story behind photo books as it gives insight into their purpose and process. It can also enlighten those creating their own photo book or looking to enter international photo book competitions.
Today we interview the Australia and New Zealand Photobook Award Student Winner for 2018, Kira Sampurno, about her playful publication, ROYGBIV, that presents a fresh perspective on the streetscape of downtown Wellington. Indonesian born, Sampurno, produced the book as part of a Bachelor of Design (Honours) at Massey University, New Zealand. Read on to learn how she put it together.
Your book attracted much praise from the judges. What did they like most about it?
ROYGBIV was driven by a vibrant and visually playful design, and they felt it presented a unique perspective on New Zealand vernacular architecture. Their official comment was that, “the foldout and tipped-in pages make use of lively colours and present an alternative, sometimes abstract view of ordinary buildings that have become familiar. It is refreshingly simple and fun, and an excellent example of how photo books can be creatively produced.”
Dutch photo book designer, Teun van der Heijden was particularly impressed with the format of your book. Describe it for us.
It has a bright yellow spiral hardcover with red plastic coil binding, and it weaves together full colour pages with full bleed photo pages, that have been sequenced and arranged by colour. The 44 ‘full size’ pages shift in format, while the three ‘foldout’ pages, and four smaller ‘tipped-in’ pages emphasise the physicality of the photographs, add to the architectural concept of the work.
What was the aim of your book?
To direct the viewer’s eyes off a familiar track to open them up to new perspectives of the built environment with photographs and a format that hovers between the familiar and unfamiliar; realism and abstraction.
Did you plan the format before shooting, or did it evolve over time?
When I was photographing, I didn’t have any preconceptions of how I wanted the book to turn out, I was open to figuring it out along the way. So I experimented with ideas of my own, as well as those of my peers and lecturers. I ended up creating 12 dummies of the inside pages, and 8 dummies for the cover, eliminating formats that didn’t showcase my images in the best possible way.
How many images did you select from, and what was your process?
Around fifty images. My selection was guided mainly by the colour groupings in the book, and I tried to balance the number of images for each colour group.
How many copies did you produce?
A limited edition of three.
Did you work with an editor or designer?
No. Before majoring in Photography at Massey University, I majored in Visual Communication Design, so I trusted my skills to design the book. My mentors were my lecturers – Helen Mitchell and Ann Shelton. They both pushed me to create a unique photo book, and I’m very thankful for their invaluable feedback throughout the whole process.
Why did you choose to present the images in a book?
I wanted to create a different experience for the viewers and how they look at their immediate surrounds. Putting my images in a book also allows the viewer to really look closely at each image, at their own pace. It mimics how we move at our own pace around a city, which impacts how much of our surrounding we really take in. By presenting the smaller details of these vernacular architectures, the photo book reminds us to slow down and take more notice of our immediate environment.
What’s your favourite photo book or photo book creator and why?
I’m always very intrigued by photo books that take on a unique format, so most recently I’ve been impressed by Robyn Daly’s book, I Want this Life and Another (also a 2018 Award finalist). It’s over 3 metres long and folds into a single-piece concertina, which is a highly ambitious book to create. It’s also such a clever way to play with the narratives of the images and how they speak to one another.
What will you do with your print credit prize?
I’ll use it to print my new project with Momento Pro. I haven’t started it yet, but I’m looking forward to creating another unique book that pushes the boundaries of the format. For the first time after completing my degree, I don’t have a strict deadline, so I’ll be taking my time with this one.
Since Kira won the Student prize her ROYGBIV photographs were chosen to feature in the promotional material for the Photival 2019 Festival in Wellington. Teun also nominated two other Australia and New Zealand Award 2018 finalists. So we’ll keep our fingers crossed, and keep you posted after the winners are announced.