Paris Photo x Aperture Foundation Photobook Award 2021 winners announced

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Sasha Phyars-Burgess wins First Photobook; Photobook of the Year is awarded to Muhammad Fadli; and Photography Catalogue of the Year to Russet Lederman and Olga Yatskevich. Vasantha Yogananthan receives a special mention

It is a sunny, November afternoon in the French capital, and the 24th edition of Paris Photo is in full swing at the Grand Palais Éphémère. Since 2012, each year the fair partners with Aperture Foundation to select the best photobooks in three categories; First Photobook, Photobook of the Year and Photography Catalogue of the Year. Of over 700 initial entries, just 35 books were presented to the final jury for the three titles. The judges this year were Aurélien Arbet, founder and creative director of Études; visual artists Daniel Blaufuks; Taous R. Dahmani, art historian and author; Fannie Escoulen, head of the photographic department of the Ministry of Culture in France; and Tatyana Franck the director at Photo Elysée.

Handkerchief, Port of Spain, Trinidad, 2013 © Sasha Phyars-Burgess. Courtesy of the artist and Capricious Publishing
Drying in Chacha’s Yard, Tunapuna, Trinidad, 2013 © Sasha Phyars-Burgess.

First Photobook: Untitled, Sasha Phyars-Burgess

The First Photobook Award this year, a prize of $10,000, is awarded to Sasha Phyars-Burgess, for Untitled, published by Capricious. It is a prize reserved for an artist’s first finished, publicly available photobook that is judged to be the best of the year. Born in Brooklyn and based in Chicago, Phyars-Burgess’ work is “a multilayered study of diaspora, identity, family and place through black-and-white photographs, which sit somewhere between documentary and fine art,” as Hannah Abel-Hirsch writes, introducing Phyars-Burgess’ conversation with Carolyn Lazard in BJP’s Then & Now Issue earlier this year

“The photographer Bill Gaskins used to always say to me, ‘The sheer amount of images made of Black people by non-Black people is so immense that we have not even gotten halfway up to matching that archive.’,” Phyars-Burgess told Lazard. “So for me, producing these images is about the act of matching that archive. It’s people of African descent making photographs about ourselves so that when people want to look at images of Black people, they can go to images that are generated by us. Also, I just like to make images, it’s something that I enjoy.”

Untitled by Sasha Phyars-Burgess, Capricious Publishing, New York

Photobook of the Year: The Banda Journal, Muhammad Fadli & Fatris MF

The Photobook of the Year is awarded to The Banda Journal, by photographer Muhammad Fadli and writer and folklore enthusiast Fatris MF. The beautifully-designed book charts a layered narrative, telling the story of the Indonesian Banda Islands. The little-known archipelago of 10 islands has a centuries-long history of colonisation, but has continued to have an “outsize role in global trade and the modern economy”. Published by Jordan jordan Edition, juror Daniel Blaufuks describes the book as one where, “text and image are expertly intertwined, inviting return viewing and reading—and that offers us new perspectives from a region we don’t often have the opportunity to hear from artistically.”

Statue of nutmeg (myristica fragrans) at the top of a warehouse in Banda Naira © Muhammad Fadli from The Banda Journal
The Banda Journal by Muhammad Fadli and Fatris MF, Jordan, jordan Édition, Jakarta, Indonesia

Photography Catalogue of the Year: What They Saw: Historical Photobooks by Women, 1843–1999, Russet Lederman & Olga Yatskevich

The Photography Catalogue of the Year award was received by Russet Lederman and Olga Yatskevich for What They Saw: Historical Photobooks by Women, 1843–1999, published by 10 x 10 Photobooks. Recognised for its “extensive, original research and the contributions it makes to the history of photography,” as said by Fannie Escoulen, it comprises 250 photobooks, journals, zines and other print media.

What They Saw: Historical Photobooks by Women, 1843–1999 by Russet Lederman and Olga Yatskevich, eds.; 10x10 Photobooks, New York
Spread from What They Saw: Historical Photobooks by Women, 1843–1999 by Russet Lederman and Olga Yatskevich, eds.; 10x10 Photobooks, New York

Juror’s Special Mention: Amma, Vasantha Yogananthan

The final jury also chose to award a Juror’s Special Mention to Amma by Vasantha Yogananthan, the final volume of A Myth of Two Souls published by Chose Commune, a seven-book series the artist started in 2016. The jury chose, “books with strong narratives that were able to find the right forms for the stories they were telling; up-and-coming image makers surprising us with transatlantic stories, highlighting the things we have all been missing over these last few difficult years—families and communities, parties, traveling, and being able to connect with each other,” explains Taous R. Dahmani. “Importantly, the selected winners present strong individual investigations and artists whose stories have been untold, using the book form to disseminate those voices more widely.”

Amma by Vasantha Yogananthan, Chose Commune, Marseille, France
Vasantha Yogananthan, The Fishermen, Danushkodi, Tamil Nadu, India, 2013. Archival inkjet print hand-painted with acrylic

To find out more about the full Photobook Awards shortlist this year, head to Aperture’s website.

A conversation between Carolyn Lazard and Sasha Phyars-Burgess is published in BJP‘s Then & Now Issue. You can also read it here

Paris Photo runs from 11 to 14 November 2021 at the Grand Palais Éphémère. Head to the website for more information

Izabela Radwanska Zhang

Starting out as an intern back in 2016, Izabela Radwanska Zhang is now the Editorial Director of British Journal of Photography in print and online. Her words have appeared in Disegno and Press Association. Prior to this, she completed a MA in Magazine Journalism at City University, London, and most recently, a Postgrad Certificate in Graphic Design at London College of Communication.