The vivid journey into Momo Okabe’s psychological landscape

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Since a child, Okabe was shy and introverted. Imbued with pain and beauty, her photography illustrates her internal reality: “Perhaps taking photographs is definitely an unconscious healing for my younger self, ” the lady says

Over the last two decades, Momo Okabe has quietly become certainly one of Japan’s most respected contemporary professional photographers. Imbued with both pain plus beauty, her vivid pictures have been recognised locally and internationally for their transgressive and imaginative quality.  

Okabe identifies as asexual, and it has explored this within the girl work. Her first sold-out title Dildo (2013) paperwork her romance with Kaori and Yoko as they grapple with gender identity condition. A year later, Bible (2014) presented a more fluid report of the artist’s life as well as the LGBTQ community in Japan. Her most recent publication ILMATAR (2020) comprises images made between 2014 and 2019, rushing through scenes depicting love, lust, and grief. Its climax is fresh, beautiful, and mythical in a short time, ending with the birth of her first child conceived coming from IVF.  

From ILMATAR © Momo Okabe.

Okabe’s foray directly into photography began in the mid-90s at her local collection, where she spotted the copy of Nobuyoshi Araki’s Sentimental Journey (1971). This was a pivotal moment within her life, one by which she realised that pictures was art. “It was a world I had never stumbled upon, ” she says. “I was moved by the concept that my life and my own personal encounters could be made into art… We realised that if you capture with intention, you can make anything at all into a photograph. ”

In 1999, within a few years of obtaining the camera, 18-year-old Okabe was awarded a special talk about by Araki himself in Canon’s New Cosmos associated with Photography Award. “Part from the reason why I started making photos was with the goal associated with meeting Araki, ” says Okabe. “When I ultimately did meet him, I thought, ‘where do I go from this level? ’”

Through ILMATAR © Momo Okabe.

From ILMATAR © Momo Okabe.

Two decades on, the particular artist has been awarded several accolades for her photobooks in Japan, and in 2015 the girl scooped the prestigious Paul Huf Award. But , for the photographer who has achieved a lot, Okabe is modest regarding her success. When we meet in early April –  at an exhibition of Japanese ladies photographers at Kyotographie event in Japan –  it transpires that her actual physical presence on the art-scene is certainly rare.

Okabe talks demurely, but openly, about her life and function; she is grateful, but also surprised by her success. For Okabe, photography is a solitary work, and the images are made intended for no one other than herself. Apart from Araki, Okabe has no interest in various other photographers – not in the sense that she doesn’t worry about their work, but because for her, photography is an inner, psychological process.  

This perspective is perhaps connected to the girl upbringing. Born in Tokyo inside 1981, Okabe was a good introverted child, and when she was two years old the girl family relocated to Paris, france. Unable to understand the language, Okabe “barely spoke a single phrase for four years”. The girl remembers finding it difficult in order to communicate when she returned to Japan aged six. “I began to form my very own internal world, ” the lady says. “Eventually that grew to become my main reality. ” 

Part of Okabe’s practice is about visualising this “psychological landscape”. “It was probably easier for me to escape into that reality, ” she reflects, “I’m not conscious of it, but perhaps taking photos is an unconscious healing designed for my younger self. ”

Marigold Warner

Online Editor

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the positioning of Online Editor. The lady studied English Literature plus History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by a good MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work continues to be published by titles such as the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.

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