I met Kaori when I was 24 years old and it was summer. Kaori was a woman and had gender identity disorder. We broke up after three years. Then, I met Yoko and we became lovers.

Yoko went to Thailand for sex reassignment surgery and removed her uterus. It was as small as a fist. I heard that people’s life became shorter when they removed their reproduction organs and received hormone therapy regularly. Since Yoko doesn’t have her uterus and breasts any longer, she can apply for a new family register as a man.

Kaori went through the breast removal operation and lives in Canada now. I wonder if people laugh at us when they know about our story. But we are not doing anything wrong.

—From the introduction to Dildo, Momo Okabe’s


Momo Okabe is an enigmatic figure in the world of Japanese photography. Feted from a young age by the Japanese photography world (catching the eye of none other than Nobuyoshi Araki), Okabe continually managed to remain largely out of the public eye. Due to the sensitive (and perhaps even taboo) nature of her work, she preferred to keep a low-profile.

Yet try as she might, Okabe continues to find herself at center stage. Most recently, photographs from Okabe’s first two published monographs— Dildo and Bible—have been chosen as the winner of the Foam Paul Huf Award 2015. In the two projects, Okabe sensitively, yet explicitly, presents her subjects: two of Okabe’s transgender lovers who are going through the intense period of their transitions.

Although the caliber of submissions this year was very high, ultimately the Award’s jury was unanimous in their selection of Okabe’s work. In their words: “We were impressed by the emotional power of her projects, and the extremely personal nature of her work. Momo combines tenderness with a raw intimacy, which is revealed through her use of color, variety of subjects, and sensitive handling of an important and complex social issue like transsexualism. She operates in the lineage of Japanese photography that is highly regarded but has created an aesthetic that is uniquely her own.”

The annual prize, now in its 9th year, is given to a photography talent under 35 years of age. The prize includes €20,000 and an exhibition in Foam Amsterdam. Okabe’s work was chosen from a pool of 100 nominated photographers, hailing from 26 countries worldwide. If this is the first time you’ve heard Okabe’s name, you can probably expect it won’t be the last!

—LensCulture


Editors’ Note: An exhibition of Momo Okabe’s work will be shown at the Foam museum in Amsterdam starting on August 28 and running through October 25, 2015.

For more information regarding Momo Okabe’s books, Dildo and Bible, be sure to visit the website of her publisher, Session Press.

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