9 July 2021

The Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards, founded in 2012 to celebrate the photobook’s contributions to the evolving narrative of photography, comprise three major categories: First PhotoBook, PhotoBook of the Year, and Photography Catalogue of the Year. This exhibition which runs from July 9 – September 18, includes the thirty-five books shortlisted for the awards in 2020.

In September 2020, shortlist jury members met to make their selections from almost eight hundred submissions. The conversations were inspiring, intense, and wide-ranging, with the overarching goal of arriving at a list that might sidestep—and even better, enlarge—the expectations and conventions of the contemporary photobook. Which books make us think and look at the world via new perspectives? What is the balancing point between bearing witness and the aestheticization of trauma or pain; or between the form of a book and its content? What obligation does a jury such as this have to eschew the usual suspects in favor of the unexpected? The resulting shortlist offers a number of surprises, discoveries, and treasures, all while accepting that any jury process of boiling down hundreds of submissions must necessarily leave some gems on the cutting-room floor.

While it was anticipated that 2020’s submissions would be very different indeed, the good news is that committed and creative bookmaking persisted. As juror Oluremi C. Onabanjo asserts: “In 2020, the book and catalogue in contemporary photographic practice continued to evolve and unfurl in many different directions while offering more audiences the opportunity to get involved and fall in love with books.” Even in the darkest times, this can become an increasingly urgent mandate: just keep making things. Big books, little books, sumptuous books, or rough-and-ready handmade books to serve as witness to this time—to help bring new ways of looking at and seeing the world. A special and heartfelt thank you to those who shared their books with us. It was a tremendous light in an uncertain moment.

To meet the unique circumstances of the year 2020, Aperture and Paris Photo joined forces with Delpire & Co., who hosted a shortlisted exhibition and the final jury at its gallery in Paris. The exhibition of the shortlist is accompanied by a selection of materials drawn from The PhotoBook Review, copublished by Delpire & Co.

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