FORMAT23 Photobook Market: Performing the Photobook

The Performing Photobook Exhibition


Francesca Seravalle, FORMAT23 Photobook Market Curator


Can a photobook still surprise you? What remains unseen and what has yet to be discovered? We obsess over, sometimes even fetishise these objects. Like bodies, photobooks are in a state of becoming through ‘performing’. The Performing Photobook Exhibition aims to re-establish a new relationship with the photobook by opening our imagination, isolating and performing the photobook through our senses and gesture, both publicly and privately. The public becomes the performer.  


Over the past few years, we have witnessed the unceasing development of the Photobook community; a community that questions the potential and the limits of the medium. During Covid, the Photobook Market continued despite the rising cost of paper, production, and distribution – giving new enthusiasm for its future.  


There is no doubt Photobooks are theatrical; they play with our imagination and ability to read between the pictures. They move public opinion, support political protests, or give visibility to social issues. They document a performance or are made through performance. Sometimes they are the performance; communicating with each other through installation. Photobooks are continually reimagined, as they were in the Baroque era: audible, cut, shot, deconstructed, burned, reassembled, and obscured. We can even speak of ‘anti-photobooks’ when their photographs are absent and entrusted to the imaginative power of the word; when they assume the shape of maps, vinyl, and cassette, or when they are unbounded, unreadable, hard to open and to leaf, with many pages giving us a pause when our eyes are tired of playing ping pong between the pages.  There is a time when photobooks seem to have reached Arte Povera when they incorporate objects, or they are made to please our touch, with a special emphasis on the materials.  


The collective exhibition is in progress, it can be considered the first experiment and is to be continued – including more communities and more experimental photobooks. It has been possible thanks to the incredible support of publishers from all over the world, from the most established to the self-publishers, and above all, the support of the photographers, artists, collectives and curators. The exhibition is a tribute to the many international photobook communities, even anonymous or less known, from every corner of the world, to demonstrate how creative and polyglot the language of the photobook is, and how even some unfamiliar projects can be an inspiration for others. 


Publishers in the Photobook Market:

Dewi Lewis Publishing

Gloria book

Overlapse Books

Photobook Club Collective

Fistful of books

GRAIN Projects

Gignoux Photos


Welford press


Thanks to the publishers who have sent their books for the performing photobook exhibition.

JBE Books

Edition Patrick Frey

Edition Taube & Printed Matter

Fw: Books

Chose Commune

Dewi Lewis

Cafè Royal


Witty Books

Schilt publishing

Occasional Paper

The Eriskay Connection

Highchair edition

Kehrer Verlag

Fistful of books 


Danilo Montanari

Cahier d’Image


The Performing Photobook Events:

A tea with Victoria Forrest (VIKA Books), Léonie Hampton, Miranda Gavin

Friday 17 March, 1:00-2:00pm

Showcasing the immersive and the interactive, in this session, VIKA Books will demonstrate the potential for photobooks to expand into deeply personal multimedia archives. Works by photographer Léonie Hampton and curator Miranda.


Gaslighting Art: New works and insights

Friday 17 March, 2:00-3:00pm

‘Gaslighting Art’ will launch new work on its global, online platform showcasing art focused on domestic abuse. There will be opportunities for the Format audience to share insights and participate in creating a collaborative activist art piece.


Playing dice with the senses: Photobook as Performance

Friday 17 March, 3:30-4:30pm

What Is the main function of a photobook? How is It expected to perform and to whom? How does a photobook have performative aspects? Erik Vroons and Francesca Seravalle will play the dice for a sensorial approach to the photobooks through a playful tour around the exhibition.


The Antiphotobook by Duncan Wooldridge

Saturday 18 March, 11:00am-12:00pm

In this talk, Duncan will speak about testing the limits of the photobook. Can the photobook be resisted or contested, and if so, how, and for how long?  This talk will share a variety of examples of photobooks at the boundary of the discipline: books where images are absent, books which are barely books, books which are hard to use, and books where photography is challenged or experimented with.


The Protesting Protest by Amak Mahmoodian

Saturday 18 March, 2:30-3:30pm

How can a silent protest be visualized in photobooks? How does visual language talk about political issues? This talk will link to The Protesting Photobook Installation to explore how a Photobook can move public opinion, support political protests, or give visibility to social issues.


Talking Pints: History, Protest and Public Space 

Saturday 18 March, 3:50-5:00pm

During this talk, artist Alejandro Acín will outline the creative process behind the creation of The Rest is History, a photobook exploring ‘Brexit Day’—the result of one of the biggest performances a democratic society can deliver, a referendum. Acín appropriates the form of a referendum to create a book with content only produced over one day, the outcome and its consequences are up to the public to decide.


In Visible Presence: The photobook as a performance of cultural body reunification with Eva Katsaiti

Sunday 19 March, 12:00pm-1:30pm

A yoga ujjayi breathing session with Asanas (low impact, appropriate for all, even beginners) and end relaxation meditation and writing on photobooks. The yoga session will be followed by a talk on the photobook project from a collective of students and professors of the Department of Photography and Audiovisual Arts of the University of West Attica.





It will cost you – Absurdities of austerity by Kelly O’Brien

Friday: 10:30am-1pm, 3:00-5:00pm

Saturday: 10:30am-1pm, 2:30-5:00pm

Sunday: 11:00am-1pm, 2:30-4:00pm

The artist will make a book onsite about the impact of the economic crisis on our lives during the festival with the collaboration of the public.


The Photobook as a Seed by with Vassilis Triantis

Friday: 3:00-5:00pm

Saturday: 10:00am-1:00pm


Beyond the Mountain by Maki Hayashida

Friday: 12:30-3:30pm

Saturday: 12:30-3:00pm