Our presentation of the AIPP Reflections books to the National Library of Australia last Wednesday, will go down in Momento’s history as one of our most memorable experiences. Geoff, James and Libby were intensely proud to handover two large leather-bound archival books in the presence of 14 veterans and their families, and seeing the look of joy and gratitude on their face as they found their portrait among the pages, was priceless.
National Coordinator, Louise Bagger, described the book as the ‘grand finale’ of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography Reflections Project – Honouring our WWII Veterans. Their mission was to capture a portrait of every surviving veteran and gift the collection to the people of Australia. The photography spanned two years between 2015 to 2017, involved 400 AIPP volunteers, and resulted in 6,500 portraits. The digital photos were presented to the Australian War Memorial in late 2017, where they have since appeared in a permanent slideshow.
After hearing about the project, Momento’s founder and Managing Director, Geoff Hunt, approached the AIPP about taking the project one step further by preserving the portraits in book form, an archival format that would extend Reflections legacy and lifetime.
To ensure the books could be seen for centuries to come we chose ink, paper and materials that have the greatest lifespan available today. The inks were 10-colour museum-grade Epson Ultrachrome, the pages are 100% cotton rag that is acid free and resistant to discolouration and deterioration, and they were coated in archival spray for further protection and longevity.
The printing process was completely manual, taking Geoff and our Fine Art printer Parvez Munawar nearly 5 days of continuous printing to complete. Every page was carefully checked then folded into sections before being meticulously hand bound into two books rather than the expected one, as the 6,500 images were too great to fit in a single volume that could support the spine.
The books were bound in genuine leather and foil-stamped by our binding master, Martin Penny. Marty is not one for emotion but he commented on the extreme pride and respect he felt for the veterans while working with the books. By the time the two volumes and one enclosing box were finished, 7 members of our team had been involved, 4 weeks has passed, and 550 pages at 43.5 x 43.5cm had been printed and bound, weighing in at 16 kilograms.
Special thanks to the following people for their contribution:
- John de Rooy, the Reflections Project Leader
- Ross Eason, for securing Dr Brendan Nelson as Project Patron
- Starleaton paper merchants who generously donated the Cotton Rag pages
- Kashifa De Antonis for the layout and design
- Paul Atkins of Atkins Lab for his painstaking file preparation and proofing
Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, Director General of the National Library of Australia graciously accepted the books and promised that they would be worthy custodians, preserving them for public viewing for hundreds of years to come, starting with an exhibition in the Special Collections Reading Room until Saturday 8 December. For directions and opening hour details visit the Library’s website.
Dr Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial and project patron, also confirmed his gratitude for, “this generous gift to the nation.” He described the project as, “a poignant and powerful photographic portrait of a generation … an emotional, transformative experience for the subjects, their families and for the men and women who photographed them.” You can hear his full speech along with those of Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, Louise Bagger and Libby Jeffery below.
In closing, we’re incredibly proud to have used our printing and binding expertise to create these one-off books for the National Library of Australia’s archives. Not only has it allowed us to express our respect for the veterans but it has also allowed us to demonstrate the power of photography and print. These books are physical proof of our WWII heroes service and sacrifice, and it is our greatest wish that their legacy will live on through its pages so they can never be forgotten.
- Veteran portraits by Louise Bagger Photography
- Ceremony photos by Alison Cooke Photography
- Bookbinding photos by Momento