Organised by Luigi Clavareau, owner of the Parisian gallery In)(Between specialized in Japanese photography, ShaShin Book Award was dedicated to Japanese photobooks, whether they were from Japanese photographers or from foreign photographers working in Japan.
It became a very high quality competition with 141 entries. And I had the great pleasure to be invited by Luigi to have a look at all submitted books. You may imagine how fantastic it was to be immersed in 141 Japanese photobooks, whose I did not know the large majority.
The jury was formed by four members :
Molly Benn, Chief editor and writer at “our age is 13”;
Sophie Cavaliero, French author;
Josef Chladek, photobook collector, manager of Josef Chladek’s virtual bookshelf;
Xavier Gautruche, photographers agent and producer.
26 books have been shortlisted which means that at least one of the jury has mentionned it.
And the three winners are :
Dew Dew Dew Its by Hironobu Tanaka
Alone Together by Mi-Yeon
DZ dizygotic twins by Jun Fujiyasu
All the books can be seen on Josef Chladek’s virtual Bookshelf : http://www.josefchladek.com/category/shashin_book_award_2014
Well, the purpose of this post is not to comment the choice of the jury, neither to select the best books. I just want to talk about a few books that I discovered and which caught my attention. It does not mean that they are better neither worse than others.
First I am very happy to find in the shortlist some of the books I already know and love :
Atsushi Fujiwara : Butterfly had a dream and Nangokusho, Masako Tomiya : Tsugaru, Masahito Agake : Namekuji soshi qaiden, Bruno Quinquet : Salaryman project, Hironobu Tanaka : Dew dew dew its.
In no particular order, here are some other interesting books I have found :
Alone Together by Mi Yeon, beautifully crafted and printed book about the individual relation to others. No story in the book, just a succession of photos in which appear people successively out of scale in a wider landscape, or blurry and out of focus when we thought we could interact with them. A kind of impossible communication. This book reminds me a lot the provoke era books, when the story was not the primary intention but the atmosphere. I know I’ve said it will not be a « best of » list, but this one was a great discovery and I’ve bought it immediately. The kind of book that remains in your mind even after a quick glimpse.
The second one could be called the little black book : Rinderon by Hideaki Kumazawa. That’s a beautiful small and thick book with double pages of very dark black and white photos. Wandering through a city under highly contrasted light which makes it hard to read in detail. The city becomes an abstraction of lines and masses with a very graphical result.
Michi no ki by Manabu Someya, a very simple design but efficient which highlights the photos. Very basically, and hard to explain why, but I love the double spread of a fish versus an aerial view. Sometimes the sequencing resonates with a personal story without really understanding it. And sometimes, I like to not understand everything.
Macaroni Christian by Kazuyoshi Usui, published in 2006 with an afterword by Eikoh Hosoe, looking at a christian community in modern Tokyo. Love the use of a wide angle and the light from the cross which enlightens the community seen from the inside. Very aesthetical result in a beautifully rich black and white tonality.
Nakazato Katsuhito is a specialist of night photography, three books were submitted reflecting different works from different periods. Tokei shows details and small areas shot at night with a colorful ambiance. Each photo could be the beginning of a story. A very cinematographic work. Ryu-guu is a large softcover book very dark. If the photos are still shot at night, we don’t recognize things in this series unlike the previous books. We focus on details barely lit which make them hard to understand, it becomes a nocturnal journey through our own imagination.
This one is also one of my favorite : Rie Amemiya – Dawn/Sunset. A fantastic handmade leporello. We’re not anymore limited in the photography world but in the visual arts. A very sophisticated combination of different techniques which can be read interactively by the way you mix the pages. Love, death, seduction… you can choose your reading by the way you open it. Widely open, it becomes a canvas, or to better say, a fresco. But you can also allow the photos to interact and recombine a story, your story. I don’t know if this book will be widely published but I would love to get a copy !
Some more books that were really enjoyable for different reasons :
Dromaius by Hisako Sakurai, a complete book dedicated to ostriches. The books is organised like a choreography. Beautiful black and white photos to make us feel the proximity of animals and thus become part of a show in which ostriches would be the players.
Grandma by Misa Kubonaga. The grandma we all would love to have. Large softcover instantly attractive. We fall in love with this grandma who sends us back to our childhood, we want to spend more time with her. A few moments from her life shown in a cinematographic way and a few pages with fluorescent ink make it a beautiful object.
Two books which share a colorful joy, and a nice design :
Pateo do mungo by Season Lao and Matsuri by Junichi Okugawa.
And last but not least, Red Letter by Atsuko Suzuki. What I like in Atsuko’s work is the sensibility which outcrop from the book. Photos are printed on a thin paper which allows us to read them from the back. Photos are like remanent images that remained on our retina, and they alternate with glossy red paper in which we see the opposite photos, but also in which we discover our own reflexion. Throwing ourselves in Atsuko’s story. All photos are black and white and pages are marked with a red ribbon, which is also the color of the glossy pages. A very intimate story, beautifully narrated.
Finally, I have to apologize for the books I have not mentioned. That was a great time to be introduced in the ShaShin Book Award. Thanks to In)(Between gallery for that !
All books will be exhibited in November at the gallery, and then in different bookstores.
Sean Lee is a photographer living in Singapore. The story began in 2007 when he visited Angkor photo festival. On this occasion he saw, then met, many transvestites. He felt attracted by this community and decided to become one of them. For three years he became Shauna, a beautiful asian lady boy. This book relates the story of Shauna, photographed by Sean Lee during those three years. Before becoming a book, this work was nominated for the Prix Découverte during the Arles Festival 40th anniversary in 2009.
That could be considered as a performance, but I would rather consider it as an experience. The experience of gender identification and cross dressing, as many have done before like Cindy Sherman or Nan Goldin amongst others. It is definitely not a question of sexuality and to avoid any misinterpretation, Sean claims that he is not homosexual ; the work is more a kind of tribute to the feminine beauty.
Entering in the skin of a new character, Shauna had to learn everything of a life of a woman which became both addictive and exciting. We follow her in her night life, preparing herself, dressing, having fun with friends or relaxing, all in a colorful world of joy and happiness. Playing both role of photographer and model, Sean/Shauna has experienced the duality of photography with the different powers of each role, deciding what to capture, but also what to give. Some images strongly refer to glamour photography, some refer to snapshots made between friend to remember good moments and some others, to an imaginary world in which Shauna’s life is interlaced.
The strength of this work is its honesty, Shauna shares her complete intimacy with us. We follow Shauna till the end of the night and we come home with her, exhausted but at the same time, delighted by these moments. We know Shauna as a friend and everyone will want to know Shauna after this book. Everyone will want to party with her, everyone will want to chat with her, everyone will want to seduce her. Well, everyone will fall in love with her.
The design of the book reinforces those impressions: double side spreads alternate with small photos, thus our attention is drawn from colorful ambiances to small details. The matte paper is pleasantly soft and the photographs are beautifully printed, colors are as vivid as the night can be (my favorite is Shauna smoking, sitting on a pool table). I also have to say that it took me some time to discover the cover. At first glimpse, I saw some silver spots which did not meant anything, but it is a photo of Shauna (the first one in the book) with the highlights outlined.
I have to say that I like a lot this book, mainly because it synthesizes what a selfpublished photobook could be at its best : beautifully printed and crafted, simple but efficient sequencing and, over all, a honest and generously narrated, strong story.
Softcover book, 14,5 x 21,5 cm, 84 pages with 41 color photographs, print run of 500.
More info :
All images copyright Sean Lee.