Self-publishing was huge in 2015, even bigger than the years before. This is probably because it’s quite affordable and accessible now. Plus the only way to really cut through the noise on social media and say, “Hey, I’m pretty proud of this work and would maybe even like to make a small amount of money from it (or at least recoup some of my costs),” is to commit something to paper. Here’s a shortlist of our favourite photo books to come out of Australia this year.
The first print volume from the people behind Sydney’s best independent photo book store features a wide range of stunning work from international photographers. When VICE spoke with Heavy Collective co-founder Jack Harries earlier this year, he was dying to get this out and expand their extremely well-curated site into print. “Photography at the moment is kind of like running water: Everyone's a photographer and all that. In reaction to that, I feel the photo book community has really come together,” he told VICE. “There are more photo books being published now than in the last ten years. I think it’s never been as healthy, but never been as hard to define.”
This title is the result of the culmination of three annual trips to Hong Kong. Looking into the quieter side of the peninsula is something that hasn’t been widely published. Sarah Pannell’s book is excellent value once you take into account that it’s a perforated poster book. Buy a few Ikea frames and you’ve decorated your whole house for under $100.
Lloyd Stubber runs Bloom Publishing, so it’s no surprise that his fourth personal publication is all class. Fossil Fuels is a long-form study into the Phillip Island Classic, Australia’s premier race festival for historic cars, something that his family is involved in. The photos inside highlight the ‘aesthetics of old-school racing’ and the subcultures attached to the hobby.
Photographer Kate Golding has a knack for the serene. Shooting in some of the most hectic and overwhelming places on earth, she always manages to draw out a moment of calm. The photos inside this book are a meditative exploration of India, including the ashram the Beatles escaped to in the late '60s while seeking a break from their own hysteria. As she told VICE about shooting for the book, “I do to seek out areas that are a bit quieter I guess, that's what I tend to look for when I'm shooting. A big Hasselblad isn't an easy camera to travel with either, so the times I did go out to shoot, I was very much trying to be calm and still as well, very conscious of the way I was shooting.”
Another first of what will hopefully be many volumes. With layout and design by Alice Oehr, Homegirl is an exploration into Ingrid Kesa's self-confessed voyeurism. “When I first moved to Melbourne I blogged for Nasty Gal and took photos, for some reason, of the girls in their houses. Girls like Seala and Laila. I thought it was a really cool setting,” Ingrid told i-D. “When I met Mima [one of the girls in the book], I guess I'm a little bit voyeuristic but I was like, "I wonder what her house is like?". There's a really great creative community in Melbourne. It's not competitive, everyone's in it together and I really like that. So I wanted to showcase a whole range of women. “
This is not strictly a photo book, but it’s a book with photos in it, so we reckon it makes the cut. Melbourne local Thomas Rennie photographed, designed, illustrated and collaged Riding Round and Getting It whilst in a deep state of psychosis after returning to Australia from a motorcycle journey across the United States, following the death of his father. It comes across with an unprecedented level of honesty and it certainly wasn’t planned. “I only got a camera halfway across the country. But I wanted to do something with the photos and stuff. When I went into the psychosis I became obsessed with the idea of the book,” he explained to VICE.
Paul Schonberger is a straight-shooter that has absolutely zero time for bullshit and we can see how that would lead to him spending his spare time chasing old men around Asia to take photos of their balding hairstyles. Instead of mocking these guys, Paul puts the combover on a pedestal as a modern symbol of self-love and contentedness. “A lot of them are pretty comfortable in their skin. They're happy to be alive and aren't really worried about other shit,” Paul told VICE about his subjects. “They're just out there playing chess or whatever they're doing.”
This is the product of an exhaustive five-year exploration into the Belanglo State Forest, the infamous site of the Ivan Milat backpacker murders in the 90s. The book features an eerie mix of aerial footage, hand-held medium format, large format landscapes, and still-life images that investigate if the trauma that occurred has remained part of the land.
It’s easy to get caught up in dense themes and meanings, but Heather Lighton's first book is simply a celebration of the young women she’s met and befriended. The project was a huge undertaking that was eventually whittled down to 60 or so of her favourite photos of girls who she met mostly on social media, plus some interviews to give the images an insight into their personalities. In a time of internet stranger danger, stalkers, and weirdos, we wanted to know how Heather approached the girls online. “I felt confident that they’d google me and see I was legit and not some creep,” she tells The Creators Project. “Usually we got a coffee first and talked about their lives and really normal things. We also spent a lot of time walking around, which gave us time to chat.”
Regular VICE contributor Ben Clement has to be one of the busiest guys around town. He recently launched Karakia back in his homeland of New Zealand. The book features archival photos shot by his mother Sallyann Clement in the ‘80s, alongside his own work. It paints a nice picture of cross-generational photographic excellence.
So there you have it, your holiday reading list. We can’t wait to see what next year holds for independent publishing and print.