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The Photobook Award 2021 will be exceptionally shared by two photographic art books: Sheung Yiu’s “Ground Truth” and Elina Brotherus’ “Seabound. A logbook”

The Association of Photographic Artists and the Finnish Museum of Photography have granted the Photobook Award 2021 prize to Sheung Yiu’s Ground Truth and Elina Brotherus’s Seabound. A logbook. The award is granted annually to an exceptional fine art photographic book. The winning prize is worth 2,000 € – 1,000 € for each winner –, and the other finalists receive 500 €. 

“This year, the prize is shared by two artists in different stages of their careers and with very different approaches to their artistic practice. The two winning books demonstrate that the photographic book as a genre allows the artist to approach their topic very freely, and also to question the conventions of bookmaking,” notes Henna Harri, the Director of the Association of Photographic Artists. 

The winners were chosen by paula roush, a London-based photographic artist and founder of the msdm house-studio-gallery. Exceptionally, roush selected two winners among the five finalists. The other finalists were Laura Horelli’s Changes in Direction. A Journal, Marko Hämäläinen’s Silence moves with the wind and Niko Luoma’s For Each Minute – Sixty-five Seconds

roush explains that she used five anchors in her appreciation of the short-listed books and selection of the winners: photographic collection, story-showing, photo-text relationship, haptic-mode, and visual structure. According to roush, selecting a single winner among five outstanding finalists was a tough process – one which has prompted her to give a special mention to each short-listed book, as well as award the top prize to two publications.  

roush describes the winning books by Sheung Yiu and Elina Brotherus as “two books about our relationship to the world – forest/sea – relying on playful, affective and experiential modes of knowing place.” 

Sheung Yiu (b. 1991) is a Hong-Kong-born photographer, researcher and writer based in Helsinki. He is a Doctoral Candidate at Aalto University’s School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Elina Brotherus (b. 1972) is a distinguished photographic artist based in Helsinki and Avallon in France. Her latest significant exhibition  was a joint presentation  with Hannele Rantala at the Ateneum Art Museum this spring (Dialogue, 2022). 

Sheung Yiu’s Ground Truth draws upon the tradition of landscape photography from multiple perspectives. Yiu travels through woodlands with forestry researchers and, as a photographer, considers the relationship between traditional photography and the current phenomena of visual technologies. Within the book’s pages, the tradition of photography–represented by a pull-out supplement of the landscape photography textbook The Art of Scenic Photography (1982)–is placed into dialogue with the contemporary data modelling of forests. Today, data from aerial photographs is used to assess forest growth; but, as Yiu is keen to point out, this alone is not enough. ‘Reading’ aerial images requires field studies by scientists in the forest: their physical presence, sweat, and measuring equipment are all entwined with the data used to produce mathematical models of forests and their growth patterns. paula roush, who selected the book, reflects that Ground Truth raises questions about the survival of forests in the midst of the current–and human-induced–ecological crisis.

Elina Brotherus’s Seabound. A Logbook comprises photographs taken in Kristiansand, Norway, over a period of two years. In addition to the sea and its surrounding landscape, the photographer’s starting points were a local museum’s historical landscape paintings and event scores by conceptual artists Kurt Johannesen, Yoko Ono and John Baldessari. The photographic segments of the publication are complemented by a logbook which maps out everyday moments, along with details of scenes to be photographed. paula roush, who chose Seabound. A Logbook as one of this year’s winners, invites future readers to: “Take this book to sea. Place it between two stones. Go deep into its pages. Close your eyes.”

Read more on the website of the Photobook Award, where you can also find paula roush’s essay about the process of choosing the winners.


Note: the artistic name of paula roush is intentionally written in lowercase at the artist’s request.


Image: Minna Kurjenluoma