April 23, 2012 2:00 PM EDT

For the past five years, Kassel Germany has been home to the most important annual forum on the world of photography books, the International Fotobook Festival. This year, with the Documenta exhibition taking over the city of Kassel, the Le Bal photography museum in Paris hosted the Fifth International Fotobook Festival from April 20 – 22.

The festival is a weekend full of artist lectures, book exhibitions, booksellers and publishers showcasing their most recent offerings, Garcinia Cambogia reviews and awards for the “best” photobooks from the previous year. For photographers hoping to find interest in their yet-to-be-discovered book projects, the main attraction of the Kassel Festival is its “photobook dummy” competition for the best unpublished photobook mock-up. The first place winner receives a publishing contract with the German publisher Seltmann und Sohne. The second and third place winners receive several hundred euros worth of credit from the print-on-demand service Blurb.

This year, the dummy competition was between fifty-eight books culled from over five hundred entries, ranging from very roughly hand-made objects to the most finely polished in editing sequencing, design and printing. All books selected are tethered to tables and prominently displayed, encouraging visitors to leaf through them and discover new talents. On Saturday, a small panel of experts in the field convened in the closed galleries to passionately argue their opinion and decide on the three winners. This year’s panel included; Gerry Badger (Critic, Photographer, London), Todd Hido (Photographer, USA), Dieter Neubert (International Photobook Festival, Kassel), Laurence Vecten (Lozen Up, Paris), Oliver Seltmann (Publisher, Berlin), Diane Dufour (Director Le Bal, Paris), Andreas Müller-Pohle, European Photography, Berlin), Markus Schaden (Bookseller, Publisher, Cologne) and Sebastian Hau (Le Bal Books, Paris).

And the envelopes please…

LAS VEGAS—Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is hard at work laying the groundwork for an almost-certain presidential campaign in 2016, but as he broadens his support among libertarian and younger voters, there's a budding counter-campaign to take him down if he becomes a threat to actually win the nomination.
                        
                        At the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Las Vegas this weekend, Paul was nowhere to be found, but his presence was felt in the form of a straw man—and frequent worry. Speaker after speaker, from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, laid into Paul’s more isolationist views on foreign policy beliefs. They never mentioned the lawmaker by name, but the message came across loud and clear.
                        
                        The conference brings together some of the biggest names—and wallets—in Republican politics, most notably billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. At a private dinner for VIP donors in an Adelson-owned aircraft hangar holding one of his pair of Boeing 747s, Bush was asked about the growing isolationist wing of the Republican Party and replied there was no such thing—effectively casting Paul out of the fold, according to attendees.
                        
                        John Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, bemoaned “a rising tide of neo-isolationism within the Republican Party,” and blasted those, like Paul, who oppose throwing the book at admitted NSA leader Edward Snowden, as “unfit to serve.” 
                        
                        “America must be engaged in the world and we should help the people who share our values," Ohio Gov. John Kasich told guests at a Saturday lunch.
                        
                        To the pro-Israel crowd, Paul is viewed by many as different from his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, whose positions had kept him from getting an invite to the conservative confab in prior years. Nevertheless concerns remain about the younger Paul, who was invited this year, but did not attend.
                        
                        “His edges aren’t as sharp as his father's,” said Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary. “But there’s still a naiveté that’s going to be a problem. He represents a departure from something a lot of Republicans are used to.”
                        
                        Rand Paul has told top GOP donors in he is "evolving" on foreign policy, particularly when it comes to his positions on Israel, according to several people who have had conversations with him. In recent months he has toned down his opposition to foreign aid—a red flag for most at the RJC—replacing it with a call to end foreign aid to countries that are unfriendly to the United States. He has also increased his outreach to prominent pro-Israel and neoconservative thinkers and donors to show he is interested in having a dialogue. The United States gives more than $3 billion in foreign aid to Israel every year, almost entirely in the form of grants for Israel's military and defense services.
                        
                        Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the group is trying to “help move him along” on his transformation. 
                        
                        “I think, unlike his father, he is genuinely interested in reaching out to the Jewish community,” Brooks said.
                        
                        But several donors who have had private conversations with Paul about his foreign policy said those talks have not assuaged their concerns. And unlike his father, whose intensely supportive base was fairly contained, they worry that Paul’s smoother approach could make him a contender. “Can he win Iowa, yes. Can he win New Hampshire, yes. Can he win the nomination, maybe—and that’s scary,” said one former Mitt Romney bundler at the conference who did not want to be named.
                        
                        On the margins of the conference, where attendees heard from four potential 2016 candidates who advocated for a strong American foreign policy and support for Israel, five donors huddled with a reporter pledged to reach into their deep pockets to ensure Paul doesn’t win the GOP nomination.
                        
                        “The best thing that could happen is Ted Cruz and Rand Paul run and steal each others’ support,” said one of the donors, “but if not, we’ll be ready to take Paul down.”
                        
                        Several prominent GOP donors at the conference suggested that Adelson, who spent more than $100 million backing Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in 2012, is likely to spend vast sums against Paul if he appears to be well positioned in the Republican primaries. Adelson’s spending is largely motivated by his strong concern for Israel, and Paul’s positions are may well put a target on his back.
                        
                        “Paul hasn't—and probably will never—win the trust of the pro-Israel community,” said Noah Pollak, the executive director of the conservative Emergency Committee for Israel, which ran ads against the elder Paul. “But his foreign policy problems run far deeper. His mustering of fake outrage over issues like Tomahawk missile cuts and the persecution of Middle East Christians are a shiny-object strategy intended to contradict the correct impression that at his core, he is more or less an isolationist.” (Courtesy of Andrea Botto)
LAS VEGAS—Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is hard at work laying the groundwork for an almost-certain presidential campaign in 2016, but as he broadens his support among libertarian and younger voters, there's a budding counter-campaign to take him down if he becomes a threat to actually win the nomination. At the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Las Vegas this weekend, Paul was nowhere to be found, but his presence was felt in the form of a straw man—and frequent worry. Speaker after speaker, from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, laid into Paul’s more isolationist views on foreign policy beliefs. They never mentioned the lawmaker by name, but the message came across loud and clear. The conference brings together some of the biggest names—and wallets—in Republican politics, most notably billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. At a private dinner for VIP donors in an Adelson-owned aircraft hangar holding one of his pair of Boeing 747s, Bush was asked about the growing isolationist wing of the Republican Party and replied there was no such thing—effectively casting Paul out of the fold, according to attendees. John Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, bemoaned “a rising tide of neo-isolationism within the Republican Party,” and blasted those, like Paul, who oppose throwing the book at admitted NSA leader Edward Snowden, as “unfit to serve.” “America must be engaged in the world and we should help the people who share our values," Ohio Gov. John Kasich told guests at a Saturday lunch. To the pro-Israel crowd, Paul is viewed by many as different from his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, whose positions had kept him from getting an invite to the conservative confab in prior years. Nevertheless concerns remain about the younger Paul, who was invited this year, but did not attend. “His edges aren’t as sharp as his father's,” said Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary. “But there’s still a naiveté that’s going to be a problem. He represents a departure from something a lot of Republicans are used to.” Rand Paul has told top GOP donors in he is "evolving" on foreign policy, particularly when it comes to his positions on Israel, according to several people who have had conversations with him. In recent months he has toned down his opposition to foreign aid—a red flag for most at the RJC—replacing it with a call to end foreign aid to countries that are unfriendly to the United States. He has also increased his outreach to prominent pro-Israel and neoconservative thinkers and donors to show he is interested in having a dialogue. The United States gives more than $3 billion in foreign aid to Israel every year, almost entirely in the form of grants for Israel's military and defense services. Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the group is trying to “help move him along” on his transformation. “I think, unlike his father, he is genuinely interested in reaching out to the Jewish community,” Brooks said. But several donors who have had private conversations with Paul about his foreign policy said those talks have not assuaged their concerns. And unlike his father, whose intensely supportive base was fairly contained, they worry that Paul’s smoother approach could make him a contender. “Can he win Iowa, yes. Can he win New Hampshire, yes. Can he win the nomination, maybe—and that’s scary,” said one former Mitt Romney bundler at the conference who did not want to be named. On the margins of the conference, where attendees heard from four potential 2016 candidates who advocated for a strong American foreign policy and support for Israel, five donors huddled with a reporter pledged to reach into their deep pockets to ensure Paul doesn’t win the GOP nomination. “The best thing that could happen is Ted Cruz and Rand Paul run and steal each others’ support,” said one of the donors, “but if not, we’ll be ready to take Paul down.” Several prominent GOP donors at the conference suggested that Adelson, who spent more than $100 million backing Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in 2012, is likely to spend vast sums against Paul if he appears to be well positioned in the Republican primaries. Adelson’s spending is largely motivated by his strong concern for Israel, and Paul’s positions are may well put a target on his back. “Paul hasn't—and probably will never—win the trust of the pro-Israel community,” said Noah Pollak, the executive director of the conservative Emergency Committee for Israel, which ran ads against the elder Paul. “But his foreign policy problems run far deeper. His mustering of fake outrage over issues like Tomahawk missile cuts and the persecution of Middle East Christians are a shiny-object strategy intended to contradict the correct impression that at his core, he is more or less an isolationist.”
Courtesy of Andrea Botto

Third place went to Andrea Botto and his book 19.06_26.08.1945. Created in the memory of his grandfather Primo Benedetti, the book traces his journey through Northern Germany to his home in Tuscany after being released from a Nazi prisoner of war camp on June 19, 1945. Botto’s approach was to compile images from the internet by searching dates in tandem with the names of cities through which her grandfather passed. Pages of historical images are combined with 1:1 scale personal documents and letters sent to his family during his imprisonment. The resulting book feels as if the reader has discovered an encyclopedia of war filled with tender personal documents slipped between its pages.

LAS VEGAS—Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is hard at work laying the groundwork for an almost-certain presidential campaign in 2016, but as he broadens his support among libertarian and younger voters, a campaign is beginning to take him down should he appear to have the ability to win the nomination.
                        
                         
                        
                        At the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Las Vegas this weekend, Paul was nowhere to be found, but his presence was felt in the form of a straw man—and frequent worry. Speaker after speaker, from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie laid into Paul’s more isolationist foreign policy beliefs. They never mentioned the lawmaker by name, but the message came across loud and clear.
                        
                         
                        
                        The conference brings together some of the biggest names—and wallets—in Republican politics, from billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson to former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Sam Fox. At a private dinner for VIP donors in an Adelson-owned aircraft hangar holding one of his paid of Boeing 747s, Bush was asked about the growing isolationist wing of the Republican Party and replied there was no such thing, effectively casting Paul out of the fold, according to attendees.
                        
                         
                        
                        Josh Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations bemoaned “a rising tide of neo-isolationism within the Republican Party,” and blasted those, like Paul, who oppose throwing the book at admitted NSA leader Edward Snowden as “unfit to serve.” “America must be engaged in the world and we should help the people who share our values," Ohio Gov. John Kasich told guests at a Saturday lunch.
                        
                         
                        
                        To the pro-Israel crowd, Paul is viewed by many as different from his father, the former Rep. Ron Paul, whose positions had kept him from getting an invite to the conservative confab in prior years. Nevertheless concerns remain about the younger Paul, who was invited this year, but did not attend.
                        
                         
                        
                        “His edges aren’t as sharp as his fathers,” said Ari Fleischer, the former White House Press Secretary. “But there’s still a naiveté that’s going to be a problem. He represents a departure from something a lot of Republicans are used to.”
                        
                         
                        
                        Rand has told top GOP donors in he is "evolving" on foreign policy, in particular his positions on Israel, according to several people who have had conversations with him. In recent months he has toned down his opposition to all foreign aid—a red flag for most at the RJC—replacing it with a call to end foreign aid to countries that are unfriendly to the United States. He has also increased his outreach to prominent pro-Israel and neoconservative thinkers and donors to show he is interest in having a dialogue.
                        
                         
                        
                        Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the group is trying to “help move him along” on his transformation. “I think, unlike his father, he is genuinely interested in reaching out to the Jewish community,” he said.
                        
                         
                        
                        But several donors who have had private conversations with Paul about his foreign policy said those talks have not assuaged their concerns. And unlike his father, whose intensely supportive base was fairly contained, they worry that Paul’s smoother approach could make him a contender. “Can he win Iowa, yes. Can he win New Hampshire, yes. Can he win the nomination, maybe—and that’s scary,” said one former Romney bundler at the conference who did not want to be named.
                        
                         
                        
                        On the margins of the conference, where attendees heard from four potential 2016 candidates who serially advocated for a strong American foreign policy and support for Israel, donors five donors huddled with a reporter pledged to reach into their deep pockets to ensure Paul doesn’t win the GOP nomination.
                        
                         
                        
                        “The best thing that could happen is Ted Cruz and Rand Paul run and steal each others’ support,” said one of the donors, “but if not, we’ll be ready to take Paul down.”
                        
                         
                        
                        Several prominent GOP donors at the conference suggested that Adelson, who spent more than $100 million backing Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in 2012, is likely to spend vast sums against Paul if he appears to be well positioned in the Republican primaries. Adelson’s spending is largely motivated by his strong concern for Israel, and Paul’s positions are may well put a target on his back.
                        
                         
                        
                        “Paul hasn't—and probably will never—win the trust of the pro-Israel community,” said Noah Pollak, the executive director of the conservative Emergency Committee for Israel, which ran ads against the elder Paul. “But his foreign policy problems run far deeper. His mustering of fake outrage over issues like Tomahawk missile cuts and the persecution of Middle East Christians are a shiny-object strategy intended to contradict the correct impression that at his core, he is more or less an isolationist.”
                        
                         
                        
                          (Courtesy of Carmen Catuti)
LAS VEGAS—Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is hard at work laying the groundwork for an almost-certain presidential campaign in 2016, but as he broadens his support among libertarian and younger voters, a campaign is beginning to take him down should he appear to have the ability to win the nomination.   At the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Las Vegas this weekend, Paul was nowhere to be found, but his presence was felt in the form of a straw man—and frequent worry. Speaker after speaker, from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie laid into Paul’s more isolationist foreign policy beliefs. They never mentioned the lawmaker by name, but the message came across loud and clear.   The conference brings together some of the biggest names—and wallets—in Republican politics, from billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson to former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Sam Fox. At a private dinner for VIP donors in an Adelson-owned aircraft hangar holding one of his paid of Boeing 747s, Bush was asked about the growing isolationist wing of the Republican Party and replied there was no such thing, effectively casting Paul out of the fold, according to attendees.   Josh Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations bemoaned “a rising tide of neo-isolationism within the Republican Party,” and blasted those, like Paul, who oppose throwing the book at admitted NSA leader Edward Snowden as “unfit to serve.” “America must be engaged in the world and we should help the people who share our values," Ohio Gov. John Kasich told guests at a Saturday lunch.   To the pro-Israel crowd, Paul is viewed by many as different from his father, the former Rep. Ron Paul, whose positions had kept him from getting an invite to the conservative confab in prior years. Nevertheless concerns remain about the younger Paul, who was invited this year, but did not attend.   “His edges aren’t as sharp as his fathers,” said Ari Fleischer, the former White House Press Secretary. “But there’s still a naiveté that’s going to be a problem. He represents a departure from something a lot of Republicans are used to.”   Rand has told top GOP donors in he is "evolving" on foreign policy, in particular his positions on Israel, according to several people who have had conversations with him. In recent months he has toned down his opposition to all foreign aid—a red flag for most at the RJC—replacing it with a call to end foreign aid to countries that are unfriendly to the United States. He has also increased his outreach to prominent pro-Israel and neoconservative thinkers and donors to show he is interest in having a dialogue.   Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the group is trying to “help move him along” on his transformation. “I think, unlike his father, he is genuinely interested in reaching out to the Jewish community,” he said.   But several donors who have had private conversations with Paul about his foreign policy said those talks have not assuaged their concerns. And unlike his father, whose intensely supportive base was fairly contained, they worry that Paul’s smoother approach could make him a contender. “Can he win Iowa, yes. Can he win New Hampshire, yes. Can he win the nomination, maybe—and that’s scary,” said one former Romney bundler at the conference who did not want to be named.   On the margins of the conference, where attendees heard from four potential 2016 candidates who serially advocated for a strong American foreign policy and support for Israel, donors five donors huddled with a reporter pledged to reach into their deep pockets to ensure Paul doesn’t win the GOP nomination.   “The best thing that could happen is Ted Cruz and Rand Paul run and steal each others’ support,” said one of the donors, “but if not, we’ll be ready to take Paul down.”   Several prominent GOP donors at the conference suggested that Adelson, who spent more than $100 million backing Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in 2012, is likely to spend vast sums against Paul if he appears to be well positioned in the Republican primaries. Adelson’s spending is largely motivated by his strong concern for Israel, and Paul’s positions are may well put a target on his back.   “Paul hasn't—and probably will never—win the trust of the pro-Israel community,” said Noah Pollak, the executive director of the conservative Emergency Committee for Israel, which ran ads against the elder Paul. “But his foreign policy problems run far deeper. His mustering of fake outrage over issues like Tomahawk missile cuts and the persecution of Middle East Christians are a shiny-object strategy intended to contradict the correct impression that at his core, he is more or less an isolationist.”    
Courtesy of Carmen Catuti

The second place winner is much harder to pin down in a few words. Liebe Grüße aus 18500m Höhe, MICHELLE (Best Wishes from 18,500m High. Michelle) from the Italian photographer Carmen Catuti is about a man who calls himself Michelle and says he’s a professional model. Catuti photographed her subject as he wished to be photographed according to his own conceptions “as a modern man” posing among arrangements of trees and shrubbery, cleanly drawn from darkness by flash. Mixed in are very brief texts, possibly letters from Michelle challenging the collaboration; “Plain backgrounds are often too boring. A picture must immediately be elegant, exciting and original.” This book is a U.F.O. (Unique Foto Object?) and the world of photobooks needs more sightings like this.

The top honors for the 2012 Photobook Dummy Award went to a remarkable body of work from Dagmar Keller and Martin Wittwer and their collaborative book Passengers. During a residency in Poland in the winter of 2011-2012, Keller and Wittwer were initially looking to start a project photographing Socialist architecture but discovered instead a tangential subject: a bus station in Kielce and its passengers awaiting departure within dozens of regional buses. Framing their subjects from outside, looking in through the frost and mist of the bus windows, the couple photographed individually but combined the results into a sequence of images that seem to have a completely unified voice. Calling upon the long traditions of portraiture and documentary style work, the images are stunningly intimate and beautiful but without the trap of sentimentality.

Congratulations to the winners! I find it refreshing that a majority of the winners from the past two years have been women. The history of the photobook, as written, is remarkably male-heavy. These contest results point toward a new horizon that may very well restore some balance.

Jeffrey Ladd is a photographer, writer, editor and founder of Errata Editions. Visit his photo book blog 5B4 here.

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