Obsessive and stubborn, the passion behind the best photo books of 2022

Sage Rossie and Jane Wilcox are finalists for the 2022 Aotearoa Photobook Awards. Rossie's Book

Ross Giblin

Sage Rossie and Jane Wilcox are finalists for the Aotearoa Photobook Awards 2022. Rossie’s book ‘Mooning the Sun’ was filmed over two years at Essex St, Te Aro while Wilcox’s ‘Between Dog and Wolf’ was filmed near at her home in Karori.

The 2022 Aotearoa Photobook Awards are expected to spotlight a thriving culture of photographers, authors and artists who devote hours of effort to capturing images and turning them into a tangible, tactile experience for the reader.

Photobooks elevated the photographer’s work beyond a collection of images online or on a gallery wall, Judge Athol McCredie said.

“Photographers have to work hard to think the book works as a whole. How do these photographs work together in terms of spread or sequence, placement, size and scale. All of these things work together in a serial photographic language,” McCredie said.

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Photobooks were produced in New Zealand as early as the 1960s, but the term didn’t come into use until the early 2000s, McCredie said. Since then, the medium has grown as photographers seek an alternative to the glut and lack of control of images online.

“There has been a backlash to digital. Photographers seem to be more and more interested in the material aspects of photography. It’s kind of like vinyl in music or the whole movie comeback movement,” McCredie said.

This year, a field of 50 pounds had been reduced to 10 finalists. On March 4, the authors of the top three books would each receive an equal share of a pool of $5,000 printing credit for their next project.

Finalist Sage Rossie’s Photo Book Mooning the sun documented a community of student artists living together for two years in an apartment in Wellington’s Aro Valley.

The Sage Rossie Photo Book

Sage Rossie/Provided

Sage Rossie’s photo book “Mooning the Sun” is a collection of images taken over two years while living in a flat in the Aro Valley.

Rossie hand-bound each of the 50 books made, a process that took up to six hours per book.

“I think it was my stubbornness. I really wanted to do it the way I was going to do it. Even though it made my life difficult,” Rossie said.

Organizing committee member Mary Macpherson said photo books in New Zealand tended to be independently produced in small numbers and purchased online.

“New Zealand has a vibrant photobook culture, but the size of the market means you’re unlikely to find them in local bookstores,” Macpherson said.

The finalists of the Aotearoa Photobook Awards would be displayed and available for sale alongside a host of others at a book fair and exhibition at Te Papa in AugustMacPherson said.

Images from Jane Wilcox's photo book 'Between Dog and Wolf'.  Wilcox took the footage while walking near his Karori home at dusk.

Jane Wilcox

Images from Jane Wilcox’s photo book ‘Between Dog and Wolf’. Wilcox took the footage while walking near his Karori home at dusk.

Finalist Jane Wilcox said she was obsessed with photo books as a medium.

“A photo book engages you, it has a narrative. I’m really a storyteller and a good photobook takes you on a journey, it’s how we look at the world and how we recognize it and tell about it,” Wilcox said.

Images from Wilcox’s book Between dog and wolf were shot as they walked near his home in Karori at dusk.

“For me, Twilight is a time full of myths and fables. It’s quite magical, we all have stories around twilight,” Wilcox said.

The 2022 Aotearoa Photobook Awards finalists are:

  • … and then there were none: Photographer/Author: Harvey Benge, Jon Carapiet, Lloyd Jones, Haru Sameshima and Stu Sontier, Text: Lloyd Jones
  • A room in Wanganui: Photographer: Solomon Mortimer and Zahra Killeen-Chance
  • Between dog and wolf : Photographer: Jane Wilcox, Text: Caroline McQuarrie
  • Droplet: Photographer, writer: Sheryl Campbell
  • Mooning the sun: Photographer: Sage Rossie, Text: Kat Lang
  • Motel Life: Photographer: Peter Black, Text: Mary Macpherson
  • Parent sector: Photographer: Ann Shelton, Text: Pip Adam and Ann Shelton
  • Scream like at home: Photographer: Thomas Lord, Text: Rachel Allan
  • SLT: Photographer: Mark Purdom
  • Yesterday’s house: Photographer, writer Lily Dowd