Twelve Australian Photo Artists, Blair French and Daniel Palmer Piper Press, Sydney, 2009. 200 pp, RRP $99

Authored by two of Australia's most respected writers on photography, this splendid book is the product of collaboration with a publisher who understands the importance of substantial, yet accessible, accounts of contemporary art.

Blair French, from his base in Sydney, and Daniel Palmer in Melbourne have selected artists whose practices are exemplary within the period in which photography arguably held centre stage in this country. The majority of the chosen twelve made their first distinctive body of work in the early 1980s and have gone on to forge careers in and beyond Australia with imagery that reflects the shifts in camera-based art (not just analogue versus digital, but conceptual as well).

In this publication like this, each artist is surveyed with a comprehensive essay written by either author, complete with footnotes, 'further reading' and a 'biography'. All essays are up-to-theminute, recording work produced in 2008 as well as providing fresh critical views that may affect the way we perceive an artist's oeuvre. This distillation of an individual's practice, written with an assured grasp of methodology, key works, biographical and theoretical drivers and place within the cultural (and sometimes political) landscape, means that one can confidently dispense with much prior literature on them.

All artists are treated to an average of 14 pages (with the text taking four) and large-scale illustrations are paced through each essay as well as featured in a bank of six pages at the end. The formula is consistent throughout, with the book design kept in check, ensuring featured work and commentaries on the artists are to the fore.

Alphabetically ordered, Twelve Australian Photo Artists starts with Pat Brassington and her psychologically challenging photographs of fear, desire and longing and is followed by Indigenous Australian Brenda L. Croft with her Koori-derived social portraits, some historical and overlaid with text, others based on Redfern inhabitants. Destiny Deacon's satirical take on what it means to be 'blak' and a woman in contemporary Australia follows, before Simryn Gill negotiates the effects of colonisation and time on specific localities in Malaysia and their residents.

Bill Henson and Tracey Moffatt are not singled out for 'star treatment', rather, their well-known oeuvres are treated with the same amount of attention as others in this book. Easy readings of Rosemary Laing's large-scale tableaux (especially of the human body in motion) are avoided and the conceptualism of both Debra Phillips and Jacky Redgate is handled adroitly. Julie Rrap and her commitment to feminist enquiry (especially with regard to the body), David Stephenson's treatment of the 'sublime' and Anne Zahalka with her postmodern appropriations, complete the selection. Ten women and two men is not simply a revisionist gesture by the authors but a testament to the strength of female practitioners in contemporary Australian photography.