Photobooks of 2022: Maria Kapajeva

Hidden by Elena Subach, Besides Press

In no specific order:  

Phenomena by Sara Palmieri, Dito

The book is a poem that can be read and understood differently by each reader. The fiction narratives mix documents, parts of bodies with stones, living creatures with dead one, constructed images with accidents in front of camera. Sara Palmieri’s work is as dark, sensitive, fragile and powerful as a female source could be. The texts by Beatrice Le Tralla create another layer of the connections with other worlds, or world we all live in. 

Hidden by Elena Subach, Besides Press

It might be seen as a simple book with it's pages bound with document clas,  suggesting that more images can be added, the story is not finished yet, the war continues. The book is a very emotional and powerful sample of how important art becomes in the extreme situations such as a disaster or war. Ukrainian photographer Elena Subach found her way to coop with the war around her by documenting how volunteers save the museum artworks. A mixture of parts: bodies, hands, tapes, sculptures, fabrics, paintings, bubblewrap definitely makes a reader to ask what is the most valuable in our lives in crisis situations. 

I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you by Shweta Upadhyay and Hari Katragadda, Alkazi Foundation

Is this a story of two lovers? Is this a story of a broken heart? Is this a story of the moon? Is this a story that has many stories in it, and many moons? The book is a collaborative work of two creatives, who found the ways to interweave their practices, feelings, conversations, frustrations, doubts, intimacy and pain blurring every possible boundaries between public and private, intimate and cosmic, female and male. The physicality of the bodies are not only present in the book's photos, but also through physical act of making this book: printing, stitching and hand-writing. It is a story of these two people who made the book, and then, it is also a story of us all. 

One Day Every Day by Zuzana Pustaiova, self-published

The book is like candy, a toy, which you immediately want to hold in your hands and play with. Eat me, eat me now and you will become a princess, or a prince, or someone who will be young forever and beloved by everyone. Playing with very bright colours and constructed images, similar to advertising language, Zuzana Pustaiova asks philosophical questions about our society, about gender norms, about acceptance or refusal, about fitting in or falling out. Can a beautiful image be of a disgust, or can a disgusting image be of a beauty? Why do we create the norms and how can we free ourselves from them? One day without norms could be so much fun, as Pustaiova suggests, so could be every day.

Exhibition in Real Time by Vivian Galban, self-published

A wooden box, which you enter to see the world upside down, or other way around: someone looks at you from it and takes your picture. The wooden box, a camera obscura, built in a size of the gallery space, recorded hundreds faces of people who joined Vivian Galban in her performance. The book is a beautiful combination of science and art. One part of the book is full of scientific drawings, explanations, observations of the process, the second part - portraits of people  taken by the camera obscura. We don’t know these people but we feel we might know them. The magic of photography does its job with the most simple camera: we can look at those faces for long and feel being connected to something bigger that unites us all. 

Puberty by Laurence Philomène, Yoffy Press

We need to see, to hear more voices of the ones, who might not fit into the existed and definitely outdated gender dichotomy system. The book is an intimate diary of a non-binary transgender person, who goes under HRT (hormonal replacement therapy). A combination of joyful and candy-like colours with honest, sometimes, painful thoughts and moments of the life in transition, is a beautiful work, which needs to be seen and appreciated by a wider audience.

The Crimson Thread by Erin Lee, self-published

I came across this book by an accident and it was truly a discovery for me. Within the decolonial processes we are finally going through, we obliged to give more space to the voices, who were silenced and oppressed in the past. Together with that, we also need to unpack the histories by acknowledging the damage done by the ones, who are in a privileged position. Erin Lee’s work is her attempt to do that by accepting her own position and using her camera as a tool to think and to observe the irreplaceable damage the British monarchy did in Australia and how we, as a society, can work on the healing processes together.  

White Shoes by Nona Faustine, Mack

Finally this work, which I knew for so many years, is published as a photobook. It is very important body of work, literally with a body of the artist as a political statement being in the centre of it. Nona Faustine’s nude self portraits at the sites of slave auctions, burial grounds, slave-owning farms and slave-trading docks is her way to acknowledge that the slave-trade histories are grounded everywhere where we go, to make those histories visible, to empower the people, whose narratives got buried and forgotten at these places and to own her own histories in the present moment. 

Mother Tongue by Mika SperlingKerber

We need more empathy in our world, and, one of the ways to achieve that is to listen each other’s stories, which might be so different at first glance but so familiar at the second. Mika Sperling is a story teller, who uses her own life and her own experience to unpack a tangle of issues such as motherhood, migration, generational trauma, relations and interfamily communication. The way she documents her own life and puts images with writings together as a book creates a feeling of reading your own story in someone’s images, building up an empathy.

Putting Ourselves In The Picture by Fast Forward Women in Photography, Trolley

I couldn’t not mention this book, which is a collaborative work of many people including myself. It is one of the outcomes of a year long project with various groups of refugee and asylum seeking women and non-binary people in the UK. Anna Fox and myself as the main editors of the book tried to create a publication, which could be both a celebration of the participants’ work and a case study of the collaborative project with five incredible partner organisations in London, Bradford and Edinburgh with the honest reflections from them all on the complexities of these kinds of projects.


Maria Kapajeva is an artist who works between Estonia and the UK. Kapajeva’s work often explores a diverse spectrum of cultural identity and gender issues within historical and contemporary contexts. Focusing on women’s position in contemporary society, she aims to question how identities are formed via subconscious effects of advertising, moves, and popular media through research-based work. Her latest artist book Dream Is Wonderful, Yet Unclear, published by Milda Books, got Krazsna-Krausz Photo Book Award in 2021. She exhibits internationally and her works are in the museum collections such as Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art and Tartu Art Museum. From 2021 Kapajeva has started a practice-based PhD at Estonian Academy of Arts and continues working as a Project Manager at Fast Forward: Women in Photography.   

Hidden by Elena Subach, Besides Press
Puberty by Laurence Philomène, Yoffy Press

Puberty by Laurence Philomène