Interview with the Jury 2017: Ann-Christin Bertrand

by Unseen July 19 2017

With the Unseen Dummy Award 2017 deadline fast approaching, we get to know the jury members in this series of interviews. This week we talk to Ann Christin-Bertrand, curator of C/O Berlin, about her love of photobooks.

Having established C/O Berlin Book Days and Thinking about Photography, a series of exhibitions focused on new trends in contemporary photography, Ann-Christin Bertrand is an active member in the international debate about the future of photography. Since 2010, she has been in charge of the C/O Berlin Talents program, a yearly competition for young contemporary photographers and critics.

Could you tell us a bit more behind the concept for the event Book Days that you organised for C/O Berlin?
Founded in 2011, Book Days is a platform for photographers, self-publishers and smaller publishing houses that have an unconventional and high quality publishing programme. The idea started around 2010, when self-publishing became more and more present, thanks to Offprint in Paris and the London based organisation Self Publish, Be Happy, that were both founded to promote a new generation of photographers and self-publishers. The Book Days followed in 2011 to offer a similar platform in Berlin. We have always been keen to think about new ways of presenting photobooks, which have included live performances, an international photobook slam, workshops and live presentations. As C/O Berlin is a photography foundation, we often tie the Book Days to our openings, or to our Opening Days, the festival we curated alongside the European Month of Photography (EMOP) in Berlin.

What criteria are important for you when you evaluate a photobook?
First and foremost, I am considering the content, design and materiality of a book, but ideally, all these elements should create a strong and positive synergy. I am also concerned with the quality of the photographs and their sequencing, the size of the book, the layout and typography, the paper, the binding, and the cover.

You have a keen interest in the future of photography. What are your predictions about how photobooks are going to develop?
I think that most changes are likely to take place in the market and with platforms and ways of presentation, rather than with the photobook itself. For example, I think that the future will bring interesting developments in terms of connecting the digital and the analogue, such as the work DER GREIF does. I can also foresee process and collaboration becoming more incorporated into the final photobook. Already now, we are seeing more and more collaborations, live performances and workshops, where books are created in new and innovative creative situations. Maybe one could say that the photobook is becoming more of an ongoing process. I am curious how this will develop further – I think that it might become even more important than it already is.

How do you think digitisation influences the world of photobooks?
Digitisation has created a vast number of possibilities for photobook publishing and has given self-publishing a real boost. Everyone can publish their own photobooks these days by exchanging ideas with like-minded communities, creating collaborations and networks, and distributing their books online. Developments in digitisation have meant that new models of designing, producing, presenting, and distributing photobooks have been made possible.

What was the last book you purchased for your own collection? 
This is Not My Book by Erik van der Weijde, published by Spector. I love how he reflects humorously on his own experiences as a self-publisher. He manages to translate the topic through the content, layout, design, and feel of the publication. Having published numerous books, he announces the end of his self-publishing career in this book.

I also recently bought Sugar Paper Theories by Jack Latham, co-published by Here Press and The Photographers' Gallery. The book focuses on the unusual topic of an unsolved crime that took place in Iceland. The layout and binding, the use of different papers and paper sizes, and the way the photographs are used creates a multi-layered publication that gives a very good example of how content, design and materiality can come together in the best possible way.

You can submit your photobook dummy here