One of the the antipodes most prolific and outspoken photo book creators, passed away last month, Harvey Benge. In his own words, “I live and work between Auckland and Paris. My interest lies in the strange anthropology of cities, observing and making photographs of the unusual and overlooked in the human landscape where nothing is as it seems. I make photographic series which evolve into book works.”
We first met Harvey at Photobook Melbourne in 2015, when he moderated a panel on publishing a photo book. We quickly learnt that he: loved creating and talking about his photo books; he didn’t romanticise the world of photo book publishing; and his favourite quote was, “90% of life is showing up.” Something he felt applied to successful photo book creators.
Over the years, Harvey printed various artist proofs with Momento Pro to send to his international publishers. During which time we also learnt that he had his photo book production and distribution strategy down pat. He knew the exact dimensions, weight and packaging of the biggest book he could print and distribute from New Zealand without incurring prohibitive shipping costs, and that he’d strategically choose which books to self publish and those to collaborate on with a publisher.
It was interesting to read Dewi Lewis comments on Harvey’s passing, which was further proof of his prolific body of work and desire to create book works:
“Really sad to hear the news that our good friend, the great photographer Harvey Benge, died last night. It must be almost 25 years since he and I worked on our very first book together. In our last conversation just over a week ago we’d talked about getting his next book out – Dreams.
He knew that he was unlikely to ever see a finished copy but remained as enthusiastic about it as he always was about every project. He’d known for several weeks that he had only a short time left but still talked with great positivity – of the great experiences that life and photography had given him and of the wonderful friendships that he’d had.
To me it seemed that in those last few weeks he was more concerned about avoiding upset in others than thinking about himself or his own strictly limited future – warm, kind, considerate to the very end.
Working with Harvey was always such a pleasure, he was always so direct and straightforward – with no hidden agenda, just a love for the work he was doing and the wish to share it. Harvey – you will be very much missed by very many people.”
As Harvey’s website confirms, “My first photobook was published in 1993. Since then, these are my commercially published photo books and those published under my own imprint FAQEDITIONS.” We identified 66 works in his collection and have borrowed the cover graphics from his website and copied below.
Comments from the photo book community
Harvey was well known in the antipodes, Europe and beyond. Here are a few statements that give insight into his personal and artistic character.
Becky Nunes of the Tangent Collective
“I first knew Harvey in his previous design life, when I was a wet-behind-the-ears photographer’s assistant to master lensman @nicholbill. I realise that was the best part of 30 years ago! since then Harvey has metamorphosed into the profiling, passionate and (dare I say!) opinionated photographer and book maker everyone is remembering here. He leaves quite a legacy, most of all his much loved children. We shred much and argued over plenty. He will be missed!”
“Harvey, the kind man who invited Alec Soth and I to NZ and let us stay in his home. I will sorely miss your friendship.”
Andy Adams of Flakphoto
“This is sad news. Harvey and I corresponded for years but never met in person. I always thought that would happen but someday never came. But that’s life, I guess. He was a kind man and passionate photographer. Rest in peace brother.”
Christian Patterson, creator of Red-Headed Peckerwood
“Harvey. So earnest and nice; so fun and positive to be around. Always ready with honest words or a quick joke and a wink, often all at the same time. Glad to have met you Harvey. Rest in Peace.”
Daniel Boetker-Smith of The Asia Pacific Photobook Archive
“Goodbye to our friend @harvey.benge who passed away last night in Auckland surrounded by his family. Never was there a more prolific, honest, forthright, and smart photobook maker. Thanks for all the guidance & advice, you’ll be missed old friend.”
It’s fair to say that Harvey has left the antipodean photo book community with a huge legacy of work and commentary. Thanks Harvey. You shall live on through your books.
Douglas Stockdale of PhotoBook Journal
“Harvey Benge was a prolific photobook artist, always with a new photographic project in the works as he constantly bounced between his two “homes”; Auckland and his adopted Paris. We kept working on dates and places to meet up as he busily traversed between his two homes and we were usually content to fit in a phone conversation, usually about photo books, always about family and mutual friends (and some book shop-talk always crept in). Although a sad start for the day, nevertheless a day to celebrate his wonderful, kind, and adventuresome spirit.”
Doug Spowart’s tribute
Australian photo book creator and historian Doug Spowart felt a special affinity with Harvey, who inspired a photo book titled, Channelling Harvey Benge and a tribute, Harvey Benge: an appreciation from a fellow traveller. You’ll find a snippet below and the full tribute at wotwedid.com.
“Harvey gave so much to those he met. He enriched lives as well as nurtured and encouraged networks to form, information to be shared and contributed to the critique and philosophy of photo books to a worldwide audience. It’s not hard to find erudite statements from photobook commentators and critics from all over the world about Harvey and his work – But I wanted to find his manifesto for life, photography and books … and I found it in his description for Harvey’s book The Traveller.
The Traveller is a personal reflection of the world where strange connections occur. The photographs never offer answers, only questions to tempt the curious. This democratic view is an acerbic, wry response to the world in free-fall where nothing is certain. Yet I hope that readers can find humour, affection, and unexpected beauty.
Photos courtesy of Harvey Benge, Doug Spowart and Momento Pro.