Best of 2019: Daniel Boetker-Smith

Every year, BJP-online asks a selection of industry leaders to recommend the photobooks, exhibitions, and projects that stood out to them most. Throughout December and January, we will be sharing their nominations for the Best of 2019

An expert on photobooks and self-publishing in the Asia-Pacific area, Daniel Boetker-Smith is a writer, curator, photographer and educator based in Melbourne, Australia. He has worked as a lecturer for the past 15 years, and in 2013 he took up the post as an academic director at Photography Studies College in Melbourne — the oldest independent photography institution in Australia.

Boetker-Smith regularly contributes to British Journal Photography, as well as Photo-eye and Paper Journal, among other international publications, and is the director of the Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive, a non-profit library of self-published and independent photobooks. 

From a special release of Taiwan’s Voices of Photography magazine, to a fascinating exhibition in the outskirts of Hanoi, below, Boetker-Smith shares his top five photobooks and exhibitions from 2019. 

Meg Porteous: Tears in rain

Exhibition at Hopkinson Mossman, Wellington, New Zealand (May – June 2019)

Meg Porteous plays with time, self-portraiture and surveillance in ways I have not seen before. Her work is a heady mix of childhood snapshots, grainy images of passers-by in the street, naked selfies, and covert photographs of her neighbours through their apartment windows, which all combine to form a smart and confronting examination of a woman moving through and existing in public and private spaces in the 21st century. Collectively, her work is provocative and enthralling; I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Carrera Lady, Quasi Femme, The Watches, 2019 © Meg Porteous. Courtesy the artist and Mossman, Wellington.


Special release from Voices of Photography magazine, Taiwan (November 2019)

The publishers of Taiwan’s excellent Voices of Photography (VOP) magazine occasionally release the SHOUT series. Now in its fourth edition, SHOUT enables the team at VOP to publish new work by emerging photographers outside of the framework and limitations of their regular printed magazine. As a result, the publication always takes an exciting and experimental form and includes surprising and unexpected imagery. This volume features the work of Su Misu, Lin Chien-Wen and Wu Mei-Chi, and includes zines, postcards, folding books and posters. A must-have for anyone interested in emerging photographic practices in Asia.

Shout IV, Voices of Photography.

Patrick Pound: The Fall

Exhibition at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney (February — March 2019)

New Zealand-born Patrick Pound is somewhat of a national treasure in his adopted Australia, and it is still a mystery to me how he hasn’t represented either country at the Venice Biennale. Pound is an obsessive collector of photographs and cultural ephemera, and his installations come to life when he organises his curated collection around a specific theme. The Fall exhibition at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney, brought together signed movie posters, vintage postcards, porcelain figurines, pulp novels, a range of “nik-naks”, and a huge array of found photographs. The result was a joyful jaunt through the ridiculousness and richness of the 20th century.

Patrick Pound, The Fall at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. © Simon Hewson.

Nhung Ngay Doi Nang: Days in the Sun

Exhibition at Matca, Hanoi, Vietnam (August — October 2019)

Nhung Ngay Doi Nang (Days in the Sun) showcased the extraordinary career and life of Nguyen Van Chanh,  who founded the successful photo studio chain, Luminor Photo, in North Vietnam during the French colonial period. Chanh’s portraiture and commercial work became much sought-after from the mid-1920s to the mid-1950s, and this reappraisal of his oeuvre was presented alongside images from his family photo albums, selected by his eldest daughter Bach Diep, Vietnam’s first female film director. The exhibition was first shown at Matca, a community hub for contemporary photography established in April 2019 with a gallery, photobook library and studio, and is now on show until 18 December at Angkor Photo Festival.

Courtesy of the gallery.

jump into bed with me

Photobook by Paul Knight, published by Perimeter Editions

Published by Australian imprint Perimeter Editions and part of a larger suite of autobiographical work titled Chamber Music, this book takes the intimacy between the photographer and his partner Peter as its conceptual starting point. Knight positions his camera on any available surface – a coffee table, a rock at the beach, a mantelpiece – and the result is a refreshingly loose and honest account of their day to day life — from the banal to the pornographic. The snapshot aesthetic and simple structure of the book, which is folded and stapled, combined with edited transcripts of the couple’s texts message history, makes for a lo-fi and personalised insight into a modern love affair.