Blurb, the self-publishing giant, and sponsor of the Photography Book Now, announced the competition’s $25,000 Grand Prize winner today—Italian photographer Valerio Spada for Gomorrah Girl. The book, which lead judge Darius Himes, assistant director of Fraenkel Gallery and co-founder of Radius Books, described as compelling, explores the murder of Naples resident Annalisa Durante, a young woman caught in the crossfire of violence in “the land of Camorrah,” (the name for the Mafia in Naples).
“Gomorrah Girl shows the problems of becoming a woman in a dangerous, crime-ridden area,” says Spada, who studied in Milan and has worked as a fashion photographer. “At age 9 they make themselves up as TV personalities and dream of becoming one of them. At age 13 or 14 they often become mothers, skipping the adolescence which is lived fully everywhere else in Italy.”
The story comes together in the books innovative design—Spada’s own documentary photographs, along with a smaller book of photographs detailing the police investigation, are bound together. Captions offer details into the personal tragedies suffered by the subjects alongside stone-cold factual information provided by police evidence. “At first glance, Gomorrah Girl may seem to be an unassuming even haphazard book,” says Larissa Leclair, a photography curator/writer and a judge in this year’s contest, “but as each page unfolds, the viewer is challenged by layers of meaning.”
“This is a moving book of photographs and documents that one wants to return to repeatedly,” says Himes, describing what made the book a winner.
Spada, whose early forays into self-publishing involved a short-lived periodical Cross Magazine, says the book’s design, which he worked on with Sybren Kuiper, was the result of circumstance. He had wanted to take pictures of the original murder evidence, but the Italian police denied him permission. Handing over photographs of the crime scenes, “the police told me, ‘If you want, you can take pictures of the pictures.’ I remember I was depressed, thinking, ‘I cannot get what I want,'” says Spada, “But I shot every single page. And while I was shooting, all was clear once again. This had to be a book within a book.”
The Photography Book Now competition, now in its fourth year, is open to anyone, amateur or professional, as long as the work is self-published.
The winners of Photography Book Now 2011 are:
Grand Prize Winner: Valerio Spada, Gomorrah Girl
Fine Art Category Winner: Rene Nuijens, Yuri Gagarin, 50 Years of Human Space Flight
Documentary Category Winner: Rafal Milach, In The Car With R
Travel Category Winner: Thomas Michael Alleman, Sunshine & Noir
Student Category Winner: Goseong Choi, Umma
Fine Art, First Runner Up: Alexey Vanushkin, A Letter
Documentary, First Runner Up: Christopher Capozziello, The Distance Between Us
Travel, First Runner Up: Dimitri Mellos, It’s Strangest Patterns
Student, First Runner Up: Mandy Barker, Soup
Fine Art, Second Runner Up: René Clement, Promising Land
Documentary, Second Runner Up: Yann Gross, Kitintale
Travel, Second Runner Up: Zoltan Vancso, Ocean of Sighs — Cuba
Student, Second Runner Up: Matthew Avignone, An Unfinished Body
People’s Choice, Fine Art: Zoltan Vancso, Unintended Light
People’s Choice, Documentary: Peter Irmai, Summer Garden
People’s Choice, Travel: Idan Hojman, Along The River
People’s Choice, Student: Ian Waelder, Circus Life
To learn more about the contest, visit here.
Free and open to the public.