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OPEN BOOK CALL

As part of this year’s festival there was a free-to-enter exhibition of photobooks, zines and printed publications, open internationally. Submissions could be commercially published, unpublished, zines, dummies, or artists books – there were no restrictions in terms of format as long as they fit broadly within the idea of a photobook or a photo-zine.

We received entries from all over the world. Books were reviewed on 1 July by a distinguished panel of judges (Tamsin Green, Colin Pantall, Christiane Monarchi, Amak Mahmoodian). The books are all being exhibited at Frome Library throughout the festival (24 June to 12 July 2023).

The call was open to photobooks concerned with any subject. There was a £500 cash award (Photo|Frome Open Call Book Award) for the strongest submission that connects with the ‘Decolonising Environments’ festival theme, and an Honourable Mention for diligence and innovation in sustainable photobook production and/or publishing. During the judging, the team decided to add two further Highly Commended books.

Thank you to everyone who entered this year, and congratulations to all winners and highly commended below!

The winners and highly commended were announced on Saturday 1 July at the Photo|Frome Symposium.

Books are all exhibited at the Frome Library until 12 July.

Frome Library | Justice Lane, Frome, BA11 1BE
Saturday 24 June to Wednesday 12 July, 9:30–17:00. Saturday until 16:00, closed Sunday

OVERALL WINNER

REHAB ELDALIL (Egypt)

The Longing Of The Stranger Whose Path Has Been Broken

Published by PhotoEvidence, 2023.

The Longing Of The Stranger Whose Path Has Been Broken’ is a personal project in which I reconnect to my roots and work collaboratively with the Bedouin community to explore the notion of belonging and the interconnectedness of people and land.

The project focuses on the process of finding and seeking the meaning of belonging cited through the Bedouin community of St. Catherine, South Sinai, Egypt. The community are participants in the creative process, they’ve contributed with their traditional mediums such embroidery and poetry. The result is a dance, a conversation as we explore what it means to belong, what is this indescribable connection to the land that we all long for and the indigenous experience that is filled with both sorrow and celebration. The final outcome of the project is a complementary collection of photographs, written content, embroidered photographs on fabric and photographic paper, artifacts, sound and video

The project attempts to understand the layers of an identity and the interconnectedness between people and land which defines the notion of belonging. I  believe it’s a common human emotion to seek a definition of one’s identity, yet its complexity is often ignored, creating flattened labels and othering. With this dialogue, I’m building a bridge between the voices of the Bedouin community and the western audiences who have long seen the Bedouins and many other indigenous communities through a romanticized gaze.

As a North African and Arab woman, there are few stories told about my community from an insider perspective. Many labels and stereotypes about my identity were created from misrepresentation of my community in visual storytelling and documentary photography influenced by colonization. Resulting in the othering and dehumanization of my community as well as many other indigenous, African and Arab communities around the world. The project challenges past colonial narratives told of the Bedouin community specifically and of the indigenous experience at large.’

JUDGES’ COMMENT

The Longing Of The Stranger Whose Path Has Been Broken is an exquisitely designed and produced photobook that draws together nuanced imagery with Eldalil’s collaborators’ stories, poetry, textile art and other elements. Whilst it does look at a certain geographic territory, the project sensitively portrays a sense of a community and its idiosyncrasies, weaving together an intimate portrait of place, people and their contemporary situation.

HONOURABLE MENTION – FOR THE CONSIDERATION OF SUSTAINABILITY IN DESIGN AND PRODUCTION

ALFREDO BLASQUEZ (Mexico)

La playa de los juguetes perdidos

Published by Inframundo|Hydra. 2018

‘In a culture where consumerism is an essential part of our lives, we use and throw away plastic products that are made of indestructible materials, that do not disappear when we discard them but continue to exist as they decompose, fragment and transform. From the estimated thirteen million tons of plastic waste deposit in the oceans every year, only a small percentage are recovered, separated and recycled, while a great part finds its way to the oceans, where they navigate through the marine currents to be then washed up on beaches around the world.

The objects that appear in the book were found in beaches of the Mexican Caribbean, Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, during a period of five years (2013 to 2019) while documenting different programs and campaigns related to beach cleaning, environmental education, scientific exploration and recycling of recovered materials. The production of the photographs is related to activities that are intended to heal a coastal environment affected by plastic waste and benefit coastal communities

For the production of the book I tried to be congruent with the subject that it addresses, therefore the printing was done with local suppliers, mixing offset, digital and screen printing with seven different recycled or FSC-certified papers. For the cover, I used the material from the bulk bags we use to separate materials for recycling. I did the binding manually including a small piece of plastic recovered from beach cleanups so that each book had something unique. For the packaging of the books, I use the sheets of paper discarded during printing so don’t use any plastic wrap.

For me, the main challenges were not limiting myself in wanting to use different local processes and materials, with the intention of maintaining low-cost production so that the book had an affordable price. Due to budget issues, I had to assemble the books in stages of approximately 200 copies, which made the process very long and sometimes difficult to find the same papers. So I think a smaller print run would have been nice, although I’m glad it’s almost out of stock.’

 

JUDGES’ COMMENT

Alfredo Blasquez’s work is incredibly tactile and demonstrates an exceptional appreciation for the materiality of his photobooks. The work draws the viewer vividly to the challenges of plastic pollution, creating a highly engaging object and narrative with unique materials, features and details. The judges were inspired by Blasquez’s determination to use stock and process in spite of his suppliers’ and manufacturers’ objections and reservations, and his commitment to producing an object with the greatest integrity that could be achieved in a territory with fewer sustainable options than others.

HIGHLY COMMENDED

CAITRIONA DUNNETT (Ireland)

Mass Paths

Published by IPhotoMuseum Ireland, 2017.

Mass Paths is a series of handcrafted photographs, landscapes of the Irish countryside embedded with absence. They portray the traces of paths walked by Catholics to reach illegal mass during penal times.

The Penal Laws were imposed on Catholics in Ireland in 1695 and religion was prohibited. The Church was kept alive by operating under great secrecy. Dunnett’s aim is to visually unearth the history behind these paths and the people who walked them.

The locations of these sites were passed on by word of mouth. This local knowledge was handed down through generations. The oral tradition in Ireland disappeared gradually during the 1960s alongside land exchange and redevelopment.

Dunnett has spent years researching mass paths and other penal sites, piecing the information together, scouring the internet, finding little snippets posted by schools, regional newspapers and walking clubs. These fragments led to a mapping process, hunting for locations hidden in the landscapes.

She has followed in the footsteps of the thousands of people who walked to penal sites across Ireland. Then recorded these re-enactments in an attempt to capture their stories of resilience, courage and commitment so that they are not lost.

Dunnett has been experimenting with converting the digital photographs of her walks into contact negatives, creating and then toning cyanotypes, opening up a dialogue between photography, painting and etching. She is engaged by how this multi-layered process echoes that of a landscape which has been coated over the years by the complexities and tensions of politics, society, religion and people.

JUDGES’ COMMENT

In the face of glorious, sumptuously produced photobooks, the judges felt compelled to highlight the potential of much more modest production approaches to deliver the intimate and moving experience a photobook has the potential to offer. Mass Paths, as well as other submissions, demonstrated the value and effectiveness of this approach and invites viewers to a quieter reflection upon a particular part of the land and its prior narratives.

HIGHLY COMMENDED

OLIVER LEU (Netherlands)

Leopold’s legacy

Published by the Eriskay Connection, 2020.

Leopold’s Legacy is a reflection on both the visible representations of colonialism in present-day Belgium, and the hidden traces of its gruesome past. Oliver Leu presents an eclectic collection of visual research, focusing on various topics from colonial monuments and prestigious architecture to antique postcards and collaged sculptures for alternative monuments. All these remnants of a once glorious past paint a wry story of decades of structural exploitation and genocide, and demonstrate how in Europe our collective perception of these events is gradually changing.

At the Berlin Conference in 1885, King Leopold II of Belgium was proclaimed the founder and sole owner of the Congo Free State, by convincing the colonial nations of Europe to commit to common trade and improving the lives of the native inhabitants. But in reality he extracted a fortune from the territory. Initially by the collection of ivory, but since the invention of the rubber wheel by Dunlop in 1888, mostly by exploiting the Congolese people to harvest and process rubber. His administration of the Congo was characterised by forced labour, torture and murder, causing the deaths of millions of Congolese people. A large part of the monetary gains from this exploitation was spent on public and private construction projects in Belgium that are often still part of our urban space.

With Leopold’s Legacy, Leu paints the portrait of an ambitious ruler with delusions of grandeur, and the influence the exploitation of his private colony still has on his home country today.

Including an introductory text by Professor of History, Matthew G. Stanard, and an extensive essay by Bambi Ceuppens, researcher at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren.

JUDGES’ COMMENT

Leopold’s Legacy unflinchingly evidences institutional failures to redress the colonial atrocities inflicted by Leopold II. It is a superb example of successfully weaving together different strands of research and myriad, even divergent, ways of responding to and representing a subject – presenting a lucid, coherent and compelling narrative.