Moe Suzuki, Sokohi | Collector Daily

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2022 by Chose Commune (here). Spiral binding, 25.7×18.2 cm, 150 pages, with approximately 100 color and black and white reproductions, some printed in silver on black paper. Includes an essay by the artist in English/French/Japanese, in a small bound booklet. (Cover and distribute the plans below.)

This photo book was the winner of the 7th edition of the LUMA Rencontres Dummy Book Award Arles in 2021. The book was originally published in 2020, in a different format and sequencing, in an artist’s edition of 76 copies.

Comments/Background: As family members, friends and loved ones battle disease and aging, it is sometimes difficult for those who are not in this battle to truly understand what they may be going through. From afar, we can be supportive and sympathetic, but we can’t really know what it’s like to fight a particular disease or to have a body that’s letting us down. And so we watch, sometimes with a sense of futility and creeping helplessness, looking for clues that might tell us what’s going on, both physically and emotionally.

Moe Suzuki’s powerfully expressive photobook sokohi tries to get inside his father’s ongoing fight with degenerative vision. Using her own photographs, as well as images from her father’s family albums and journals, Suzuki weaves an intimately progressive journey, both through time and through the slowly failing sight. In a sense, Suzuki has taken up the challenge of photographically recreating his experience of the world as blindness encroaches, and with grace and patience his photobook actually documents two people – both father and daughter – working hard to perceive the world. new ways.

sokohi begins by introducing us to Tetsuichi, the artist’s father; a black and white portrait of him as a young boy is spread across the first page turn, putting an eye on either side of the page and symbolically introducing the idea of ​​a shared vision. Other early footage sees him staring into cameras and mirrors, and soon Tetsuichi is a young man with a beard and glasses, quietly smoking a cigarette or perusing on a ferry. Interspersed with these family snapshots, images of twinkling vision are introduced – the mottled dark leaves of a tree, the small orb of a sunset over water, a dry view through an airplane window, the blurring of streets, flickering lights and the swirling distortions of water and waves, each image representing a fleeting (and often confusing) glimpse into the elusive possibilities of sight.

The story’s next informal chapter highlights the father-daughter relationship, with a series of endearing childhood moments where dad and daughter spend time together – lying together on the grass, he carrying her to the park, the two wading in the water by the sea, and the smiling couple sitting in a red hammock. A few of these moments have a low-key vision theme, from playing hide-and-seek among evergreens to sharing a view through a telescope, and these clues then connect to snapshots where father’s sight is momentarily blocked or altered, by a wayward kite, by a flash of light through his glasses, and by the smoke and bright light of party candles. Suzuki is subtle in his choices, and it’s only after paying close attention to each frame in the sequence that we begin to see all the hints of vision, especially the recurring pattern of shaggy white waves and imagery. veiled by curtains or washes and fogs of light.

Although there is no obvious separation in the overall flow of sokohi, roughly in the middle of the book, his father’s beard becomes a little grayer and the darkness seems to make more consistent inroads. In English, sokohi can be translated as “shadow at the bottom”, and Suzuki offers different versions of this effect, from the dark hills of a rolling landscape to the dark areas at the bottom of images of riverside fishing and buildings blown up by glare. Sliced ​​portraits of his father repeatedly show us only half his face (and one eye), and another indoor portrait places him in near total darkness, with the light outside leaving him underexposed.

Throughout the pages, we watch Suzuki capture (and experiment with) visual metaphors and representations of what his father sees. A chain of images is printed in silver on black paper, turning cherry blossom branches into blossoms and petals strewn on the ground into patterns all over; these are associated with fragments of his father’s writings, the scribbled letters creating similar abstract visual marks. The shadows continue to encroach, the dense fog sets in, and his father follows the movements of daily life (like brushing his teeth), the images becoming increasingly dark, blurry, and impressionistic. Another one-eyed half-portrait leads to darker images, ominous clouds across a dark landscape, and more letterforms that look like densely black palm fronds.

A photo of his dad in the hospital after eye surgery lets us know that Tetsuichi’s glaucoma is getting worse, and a paired image of a bright spot of light against indefinite hazy darkness is a likely indicator of what he is. could see. More silver cherry blossoms spread, broken by a close-up image of the gauze covering her eye, getting more and more lost in the dark, the flower clusters getting darker and darker with each turn of the page, leading to another extremely dark view of the sky with a small point of sunlight. The progression feels quietly exhausting and disheartening, and the next spread finds the father reclining on a bare mattress, perhaps trying to come to terms with it all.

The final images in the photobook show the dad trying to recalibrate his life, sitting by the television, wearing sunglasses over his usual goggles and walking with a hiking stick. Suzuki’s images imagine an even more hazy and disorienting reality, where scenes dissolve into mists of muted color or murky darkness, punctuated only by bursts of light that appear as luminous discs. What he sees is only dimly distinguishable, perhaps a walking figure, or the silhouette of a cat, or a bird perched on the balcony, except when he drops the eggs, which crash into the hardwood floor in a pattern that is no different from other lightning bolts nearby. light. The book ends with the father walking up a lonely hill, the textures of the road breaking up into silvery inversions.

Part of the success of sokohi lies in its clever design and construction. An expressively blurred image provides wraparound front and back coverage, and inside, all images are printed full bleed, bringing immediacy to the interaction. A twin-wire binding allows pages to fully open and lay flat, and different paper stocks and inks are used to create different visual sensations along the way. The essay is tucked away in a small bound booklet on the spine, leaving the flow explanation at the end and forcing us to deal with its discomforts and confusions before telling the story. All of these decisions help the imagery tell its nuanced story, letting the visual narrative slowly build back and forth.

Suzuki clearly approached this delicate project from a place of warmth and affection, and the bond between father and daughter is tender and compassionate. sokohi is impressive not just because of this poignant connection, but because Suzuki worked so hard to creatively portray the progressive deterioration of his father’s vision. Not only are the days getting darker, but the journey is getting blurrier and more confusing. His photographic experiments and expressions draw us into this slowly shrinking world, helping us understand and comprehend the situation of the father. As a single integrated statement, sokohi is a personal and moving study of loss, which uses photography with subtle and evocative care, to tell a vanishing story.

Collector’s point of view: Moe Suzuki doesn’t seem to have a consistent gallery representation at this time. Therefore, interested collectors should probably contact the artist directly via his website (link in sidebar).

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