Foam opens exhibition of works by the winner of the Foam Paul Huf Award 2015

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Foam opens exhibition of works by the winner of the Foam Paul Huf Award 2015
Untitled, from the series Bible, 2013 © Momo Okabe.

AMSTERDAM.- Foam presents Bible and Dildo, an exhibition of the work of Momo Okabe (Tokyo, 1981). Okabe was chosen by an international jury as the winner of the Foam Paul Huf Award 2015. She won the prize for her two remarkable projects about Japanese society and her intimate relationships with two transgender lovers, whom she followed during their processes of transition.

Bible and Dildo revolves around the struggles of Momo Okabe's lovers and friends, who are outsiders in Japanese society. Experiencing Japanese society as overly systematic, constantly imposing its restrictive views on every aspect of their lives, they are severely impacted by this environment. The people captured in the photographs in these two series suffer from consequences stemming from drug overdoses or the difficulties of achieving acceptance in society. Bible and Dildo portray their complicated and courageous lives in this harsh environment.

Along with nude images, Bible and Dildo also includes photographs of chaos and destruction. For example, the Bible series includes pictures taken in Miyagi after the Fukushima earthquake struck Japan in 2011. These photographs are shown alongside the documented struggles of Okabe's lovers and friends. For Okabe, destruction and devastating feelings are related. She avoids making photographs in a conceptual way, instead always aiming to make work about her actual experiences, and her feelings of loss and sadness.

At first, both Bible and Dildo appear to be primarily documentary photography. Dildo begins with images of Okabe’s relationship with Kaori, a woman with gender dysphoria. After her break-up with Kaori, Okabe followed the relationship with her new lover, Yoko, which eventually resulted in documenting Yoko’s trip to Thailand for sex reassignment surgery, during which Yoko’s uterus was removed. The series title, Dildo, refers to how, for some transgender people, a dildo can represent a body part transgender people may or may not ever actually have.

In addition, the Bible series comprises a selection of images that, for Okabe, functions as a very final and definitive body of work, as reflected in the title.

However, beyond their documentary aspect, these photographs depict universal stories of sex and death for Okabe. She blends tenderness with a raw intimacy, which becomes visible through her specific use of color, the diversity of her topics and the sensitive manner in which she addresses the important and complex social issue of transsexuality. Working within a wider context of the internationally very highly regarded Japanese photographic tradition, Okabe creates an aesthetic that is uniquely her own.

The Foam Paul Huf Award, which is awarded annually to talented international photographers under the age of 35, includes a cash prize of €20,000 and an exhibition at Foam Photography Museum Amsterdam. The jury has chosen Momo Okabe as the winner out of 100 nominees from 26 countries. Previous winners include Taryn Simon (2007), Alex Prager (2012) and Daniel Gordon (2014).

The prints in the exhibition are produced by Kleurgamma.

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