The 2017 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Award winners

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“Asselin’s Monsanto® is a courageous, investigative project that connects evidence-driven photography and visual research to the democratisation of knowledge; it’s important that this book exists in physical form, as a document, and not just in the virtual world,” says Cristiano Raimondi of Mathieu Asselin’s photobook Monsanto®. A Photographic Investigation.
Raimondi is head of development and international projects at the New National Museum of Monaco and an invited curator for Platform 2017 at this year’s Paris Photo, but he’s speaking as a jury member for the 2017 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards because Asselin’s book has just won the prestigious First PhotoBook prize. The French-Venezuelan photographer, who has already shown Monsanto® at Les Rencontres d’Arles this year, wins $10,000.
Created over five years, and designed by Venezuelan designer, curator and photobook collector Ricardo Báez, Monsanto® “submerges the reader into an exposé of the corporation’s practices, whether by showing contaminated sites and the health and ecological damage they cause, the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam, or the pressure on farmers to use patented GMO seeds”, wrote BJP contributor Juan Peces in an interview with Asselin published on earlier this year.
Spread from Mathieu Asselin’s Monsanto®. A Photographic Investigation
“As a photographer, I am at the service of the story, and not the other way round,” said Asselin. “The story is the centre of this project, and not a mere complement. I lean on available tools: text, document, image appropriation, postal cards, objects… to make the story reach the public, its ultimate target. I have relied on existing research, but the challenge, from a photographer’s point of view, was to put all the Monsanto-related stories together and reveal how they are all connected.”
Dayanita Singh has won the PhotoBook of the Year with Museum Bhavan, described by photographer and jury member Mitch Epstein as having “extended the concept of what a book might be”. “Her work is a sophisticated merger of Eastern and Western sensibilities, and celebrates the democratic possibilities of the offset multiple,” Epstein added.
Dayanita Singh’s Museum Bhavan
Dayanita Singh’s Museum Bhavan
Unusually, the jury has added a Special Mention for another publication shortlisted for PhotoBook of the Year, however – La Grieta (The Crack) by Carlos Spottorno and Guillermo Abril. Combining photography and graphic art to narrate the duo’s journey along the EU border, from Africa to the Antarctic, it includes people and incidents such as Sub-Saharan migrants in the Gurugu Mountain, the rescue of a raft off the coast of Libya, the exodus in the Balkans, NATO tanks on the Byelorussian border, and Arctic forests, where Finn conscripts train.
​The Photography Catalogue of the Year award went to New Realities: Photography in the 19th Century by Mattie Boom and Hans Rooseboom from Rijiksmuseum/nai010. “New Realities takes what might be considered ‘dusty’ material of the nineteenth century and brings new perspectives and fresh design to enliven this classical material,” said Natalie Hershdorfer, jury member and director of Museum of Fine Arts, Le Locle, Switzerland. “It’s an important example of how to preserve and capture new interest in the history of photography.”
New Realities: Photography in the 19th Century by Mattie Boom and Hans Rooseboom (Rijiksmuseum/nai010)
New Realities: Photography in the 19th Century by Mattie Boom and Hans Rooseboom (Rijiksmuseum/nai010)
“Our jury choices speak to the pluralism of the medium; photography continues to be a vital language in the art, science, and documentary worlds,” commented Epstein; fellow jury member Krzysztof Candrowicz, artistic director of the Triennial of Photography in Hamburg, added, “What I see in all the books points to a change in traditional thinking about the photobook, blurring the boundaries and expanding the scope of what a photobook can be.”

In total, 20 publications were shortlisted for the First PhotoBook prize, 10 for the PhotoBook of the Year, and five for the Photography Catalogue of the Year. All 35 books are currently on show at Paris Photo, after which they will travel to 6 pt Book Design Conference, Vilnius, Lithuania; Dusseldorf Photo Weekend, Germany; Month of Photography Los Angeles, Venice Arts, Venice, California; Photobookfest 2018, Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography, Moscow; Triennial of Photography, Hamburg, Germany; Photo Basel, Switzerland; Cortona on the Move, Italy; and Medium Festival of Photography, San Diego, California, among other venues.

The full shortlist for the First PhotoBook was: Mathieu Asselin, Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation; Zackary Canepari, REX; Teju Cole, Blind Spot; Sam Contis, Deep Springs; Debi Cornwall, Welcome to Camp America, Inside Guantánamo Bay; Albert Elm, What Sort of Life Is This; Mary Frey, Reading Raymond Carver; Jenia Fridlyand, Entrance to Our Valley; Darren Harvey-Regan, The Erratics; Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonen, Eyes as Big as Plates; Dawn Kim, Creation.IMG; Laura Larson, Hidden Mother; Feng Li, White Night; Cecil McDonald Jr, In the Company of Black; Virginie Rebetez, Out of the Blue; Claudius Schulze, State of Nature; Nadya Sheremetova, ed, Amplitude No.1; Senta Simond, Rayon Vert; Alnis Stakle, Melancholic Road; Mayumi Suzuki, The Restoration Will.

La Grieta (The Crack) by Carlos Spottorno and Guillermo Abril
La Grieta (The Crack) by Carlos Spottorno and Guillermo Abril
PhotoBook of the Year shortlist was: Anne Golaz, Corbeau; Jim Goldberg, The Last Son; Nicholas Muellner, In Most Tides an Island; Mark Neville, Fancy Pictures; Alison Rossiter, Expired Paper; Mike Mandel, Susan Meiselas, Bill Burke, and Lee Friedlander, Subscription Series No. 5; Dayanita Singh, Museum Bhavan; Carlos Spottorno and Guillermo Abril, La Grieta (The Crack); Erik van der Weijde, This Is Not My Book; Henk Wildschut, Ville de Calais.
The Photography Catalogue of the Year shortlist was: Brassaï: Graffiti, Le Langage du Mur, Karolina Ziebinska-Lewandowska; CLAP! 10×10 Contemporary Latin American Photobooks: 2000–2016, Olga Yatskevich, Russet Lederman, and Matthew Carson; Diary of a Leap Year, Rabith Mroué; Hans Eijkelboom: Photo Concepts 1970, Gabriele Conrath-Scholl, Wim van Sinderen, Gerrit Willems and Dieter Roelstraete; New Realities: Photography in the 19th Century, Mattie Boom, Hans Rooseboom.
In addition to Krzysztof Candrowicz, Mitch Epstein, Nathalie Herschdorfer, and Cristiano Raimondi, the full jury also included Florencia Giordana Braun, director and founder of Rolf Art gallery, Buenos Aires. The Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards were set up in November 2012 to “celebrate the photobook’s contribution to the evolving narrative of photography”. To read BJP’s interview with Mathieu Asselin, click here
Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is a freelance journalist who contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, The Calvert Journal, Aperture, FOAM, IMA, Aesthetica and Apollo Magazine. Prior to going freelance, she wrote and edited at BJP for 15 years. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy