Photobooks of 2020: Miwa Susuda

Momo Okabe

I Can Make you Feel Good by Tyler Mitchell, Prestel

Tyler Mitchell challenges the stereotypical views of his community, depicting his subjects with unbridled energy and hope for the future. Although I humbly hail from a slightly different background halfway around the globe, I still feel a strong connection with the vision seen through his lens. I think many of us can commiserate with the themes of ethnicity and appearance, and know how tedious it can be to constantly be judged on such exterior markers alone. I am my own person. My identity is the product of an ongoing, deliberate endeavor to become the person I aspire to be. Identity is an active rather a passive process, and not something that is handed down automatically or biologically. Mitchell’s book is important to me, precisely because it presents a precious opportunity to ponder my state of being, and reconsider the direction I am headed. His work also provides the otherwise much-needed reassurance that discerning, creative individuals can remain faithful to their rebellious spirit while also still maintaining a positive outlook on life.

Pool (expanded) by Taro Hirano, Self-published

The beauty of Pool lies in Hirano’s preternatural ability to capture the landscapes and people he encountered in his orbit as a skateboarder in California. His is not a blind nostalgia for an unfamiliar land, but rather a pure appreciation and respect for his surroundings. The sequences of empty pools in muted tones evokes the rhythmical joy of American pop songs of yesteryear, and gives the viewer a fresh perspective on the quotidian landscapes and fleeting memories that we are otherwise apt to overlook.

Irmatar by Momo Okabe, Mandrake

On first glance, Momo Okabe’s photos are prone to be misconstrued as intentionally provocative, given the explicit yet expressive depictions of sex that can be found in many of her images. However, Okabe is neither an overtly political nor self-promotional provocateur. She would even eschew the term “feminist,” a label liable to hang on the tip of one’s tongue when viewing her work. Instead, she is a sincere and broad-minded creator, a “real” person who is motivated at her core by a willingness to accept everything in her periphery without judgement and without seeking approval from society’s arbiters of propriety. The strong sense of self-assurance in her photos provides us with tenderness and relief. Okabe’s Irmatar is meant to be a lullaby for all grownups who keep up the good fight in an unreasonable world.

Jane by Theo Wenner, Rizzoli

Family is one of the most challenging genres in the history of photography, and many master photographers have certainly tried their hand at the theme. Tina Barney exemplified a more sociological approach, while Richard Billingham and Nick Waplington explore the realm of personal documentary. Paul Graham and Nigel Shafran’s conceptional twists are also already well known to us. Theo Wenner joins this illustrious cohort with his first official monograph Jane, which successfully presents a novel way of depicting the family. Wenner’s mother constitutes the titular subject of Jane, and is often portrayed from behind or in profile. These obfuscated angles and intentionally out-of-focus portraits allow the viewer room to imagine the unseen gestures and interior mental landscapes of this mother-son relationship. The sophisticated work is refreshingly musical and poetic, rather than being overly descriptive. Perhaps Wenner said it best himself: “Simplicity is hard to achieve and it is the most important thing in photography.”

Conrad McRae Youth League Tournament by Ari Marcopoulos, Roma

The continued success of the ongoing collaboration between photographer (Ari Marcopoulos) and designer (Roger Willems) is an inspiring example for everyone working in the photobook industry. Conrad McCrae Youth League Tournament is the most recent fruits of the partnership. It is a gem that deserves a place of prominence on all of our bookshelves.

Only In America by D'Angelo Lovell Williams, Dashwood Books

D’Angelo Lovell Williams is, bar none, one of the most distinct and interesting talents to emerge on the photography scene in 2020. Only In America is a potent indicator of Williams’ talent, one which foretells a bright future in photography for many years to come. Must curious is the posture of his models, particularly the shape/direction of their hands. Their deliberately staged gestures remind me of medieval paintings or even the illustrations in antiquarian, illuminated bibles. Strong and definitive – no ambiguity allowed – Lovell William’s ability to redirect our visual experience speaks to his unwavering authenticity in the face of the irrational demands that are all too prevalent in our society.

Anaglypta 1980-2020 by Nick Waplington, Jesus Blue

Anaglypta is a veritable window onto the last 40 years. These past four decades have been a mercurial whirlwind, and Waplington’s book provides a welcome antidote, celebrating the virtues of living soundly in the moment. I’ve enjoyed this book from cover to a cover a few times, and I keep coming back to one particular aspect that consistently rings true: although society’s values have changed over the intervening decades, we still share the same fundamental feelings, as we humans are warm, adorable, and precious creatures. Waplington is a great photographer who deftly portrays our fundamental essence through his lens.

Miwa Susuda is a publisher at Session Press, photobook consultant at Dashwood Books and writer/reporter for IMA magazine.

Images: top - Irmatar by Momo Okabe, below - I Can Make you Feel Good by Tyler Mitchell

Tyler Mitchell, Deborah Willis, Hans Ulrich Obrist  I Can Make You Feel Good