From mass shootings to a family hotel – the shortlist for the 2018 First Book Award is nothing if not eclectic. Set up in 2012 to support emerging talent, the First Book Award is open to previously unpublished photographers who have been nominated by an international panel of experts, and previous winners include Irish photographer Ciarán Óg Arnold, Polish photographer Joanna Piotrowska, and Malagasy photographer Emmanuelle Andrianjafy.
The ten shortlisted photographers this year come from all over the world, including Indian photographer Tenzing Dapka, Japanese photographer Hayahisa Tomiyasu, and Australian photographer Lionel Kiernan. Dapka has been nominated for his photo-book The Hotel, a look at his family-run hotel in Gangtok, Sikkim, for example, which draws on ideas about labour, family and significance of place.
“Aspiring to make a photo-book that centres around my parent’s labor, for me, sets up a parallel universe in which my parents are engaged with a place they built and one to which I can always return,” says the artist.
Hayahisa Tomiyasu was nominated for his project TTP. Shot while living in a student dorm, the photographer pictures the same spot in a park throughout the seasons showing how this shared space is used for different purposes.
Lionel Kiernan’s nominated series At Night chronicles the nightclub scene in Melbourne, Australia, his hometown. “I am drawn to the mechanics of club life, the interactions, desires and dramas that swim together in this intense environment,” he says.
Andres Gonzalez has been nominated for his project American Origami, a close examination of mass shootings in American schools. Instead of addressing the incidents explicitly, the book ruminates on how we collectively process trauma, and the patterns of our response to violent acts.
Anita Benjamin was nominated for her project Familiarity, which centres on the Falkland Islands – situated 350 miles off the east coast of South America in the South Atlantic. In her work, she is drawn to the human attachment to the land. Pairing archival family pictures and recent photography, she attempts to give a personal vision on a sense of place.
Dafna Talmor is nominated for her ongoing project Constructed Landscapes. The work stems from a personal archive of photographs taken in different locations including Venezuela, Israel, the US and the UK. In collaging medium format colour negatives, the resulting photos blend the real and the imaginary in ‘staged landscapes’.
Andrew Waits was nominated for his black-and-white series Aporia, which explores the phenomenon of rapid growth being experienced in urban locations across the globe. Presented as a fictional narrative, the project aims to address a feeling that something is amiss.
“For the most part, we are disconnected from the underlying mechanisms of the system in which we live,” observes the photographer. “Aporia attempts to highlight this disconnect and struggle for understanding and connection.”
Diane Severin Nguyen was nominated for her book Flesh Before Body. “Within my studio practice, I like to push everyday materials and found objects to their limits of recognisability,” explains Nguyen. “There are layers of sentimentalities, injury, abjection, and desire, all of which have infinite physical tensions.”
Thomas Locke Hobbs has been nominated for Vedute Los Angeles, a small photobook composed of views of LA apartment blocks. Shot using consistent framing, the photos depict the negative space between residential buildings and aim to draw out a deeper meaning.
Véronique Besnard was nominated for her book The Wall, a trilogy consisting of three volumes: the Arena, the Omen, and the Garden. Shot in the Auvergne-Rhônes-Alpes, France between 2015 and 2016, “the volumes can be read as three different periods in history and three ways of relating to our environment,” says the artist.
The First Book Award 2018 jury is: Hannah Starkey, artist; Amira Gad, exhibitions curator at London’s Serpentine Galleries; Martin Barnes, senior curator of photographs at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A); Polly Fleury, director of special projects at the Wilson Centre for Photography; and Michael Mack, founder of MACK.