The Photobook Lab brings together three projects of which books are the central subject: The Paris Photo Aperture Foundation Book Exhibition; the Toronto Photobook Library reading room, consisting of a curated selection of photobooks; and work by the 2018 Burtynksy Grant recipient, artist Birthe Piontek. This eclectic gathering of photobooks offers visitors an opportunity to access more than 50 acclaimed international titles, offering a glimpse into the current moment of publishing. Many titles are self-published, or small-run editions by independent presses, mainly from cities outside of Canada, such as London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, and Oslo, among other locales.
Established in 2012, the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards celebrate the genre’s contribution to the evolving narrative of photography. In 2018, the call for submissions received 983 books from 60 countries; the exhibition features the 36 shortlisted titles by artists and photographers often tackling complex subjects through long-term projects, collaboration, research, and archives. The three award winners all address socio-political issues revolving around issues of race, gender, and power: First PhotoBook winner Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa explores Blackness in America for One Wall a Web; PhotoBook of the Year winner Laia Abril addresses intense issues surrounding women’s health and liberty in On Abortion; and Photography Catalogue of the Year Award winner Ursula Schulz-Dornburg examines the intersection of landscape, power, and conflict in The Land in Between.
Established by photographer Zackery Hobler, the Toronto Photobook Library creates roving temporary reading rooms with a collection of photobooks based on varied themes. This iteration, created for The Photobook Lab, is influenced by notions of place and how they are reflected in personal and national identities. It includes a poetic book of archival images of frontier-era United States with work by Timothy H. O’Sullivan, edited by Bryan Schutmaat; Ron Jude’s trilogy about his home state of Idaho; and a series of new books by 20 artists compiled by Kris Graves Projects (KGP) into an immense anthology titled LOST II.
The Burtynsky Grant annually supports an emerging Canadian photo-based artist who is in the advanced stages of developing a photobook. The 2018 recipient, Vancouver-based artist Birthe Piontek, recently published her book Abendlied with Gnomic Press. Part of a long-term project, the book focuses on notions of family, memory, and loss. Piontek’s images are based her repeated trips to visit her family in Germany, where she captured the last years that her parents lived in their house (the artist’s childhood home) before her mother’s dementia made it necessary to move. Abendlied, which translates as “evening song,” comprises images that reveal nauanced connections between identity, belonging, and place, through poetic compositions that consider the people, objects, stories, and secrets that transform houses into homes. This exhibition presents the book with a selection of images from the project.
The Photobook Lab celebrates a wide range of artists and photographers working in the medium, exploring timely and important subjects in thoughtful and innovative ways. It aims to be an interactive space where visitors are encouraged to spend time leafing through the books, and discovering projects by a range of international artists and photographers whose coveted publications are often difficult to source and acquire. Alongside the exhibition, a series of talks, workshops, and panel discussions will offer further insight into the ever-evolving nature of the photobook and its contribution to contemporary culture.
Supported by Dara and Marvin Singer
The Paris Photo Aperture Foundation Photobook Award are co-produced by Aperture Foundation and Paris Photo