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Book of the Week: A Pick by Daniel Boetker-Smith

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Daniel Boetker-Smith Daniel Boetker-Smith selects Incipient Strangers by Yoshikatsu Fujii as Book of the Week.
Incipient Strangers. By Yoshikatsu Fujii.
Self-published, 2015.
This week's Book of the Week pick comes from Daniel Boetker-Smith who has selected Incipient Strangers self-published by Yoshikatsu Fujii.

"In March this year Yoshikatsu Fujii released Incipient Strangers, his follow up to his hugely successful 2014 book Red String.

Red String, his first book, was shortlisted for a number of international prizes, and gained Fujii a reputation for being a unique voice in the photobook world. In an edition of just 35, Red String utilized a number of highly original physical and material devices to guide the reader, and enhance the experience of the images in line with the narrative being explored; a simple one — the divorce of his parents.

Earlier this year Fujii faced up to the photographic equivalent of his ‘difficult second album’ and published his sequel to Red String, Incipient Strangers, again with the help of Yumi Goto, Director of Reminders Photography Stronghold, Tokyo.

Whereas Red String’s felt covering is delicate and romantic and draws you in with its gentle textures and tones, Incipient Strangers is constructed to be large and unwieldy. Where Red String was simple, a divide down the middle suggested the telling of two equal but opposing stories, in this latest book there is none of that clarity or ease of passage through the book. Incipient Strangers is A3, and has a soft cover, which means it’s hard to hold, it flops about in your hands. It is also, importantly, unbound, which means in addition to all of the above, it falls apart in your hands as you flick through. Fujii uses two or three different paper stocks, and mixes up the printing in black and white and color throughout, which again presses home this feeling of awkwardness. Fujii’s intent was to explore his family as if they were strangers, and subsequently this study is much messier and unruly — as a result there is no sense of melancholy here as there is in Red String. Incipient Strangers promotes the feeling of confusion, of strangeness and of a story that is too complex, spans too much time, and contains too much pain to ever be resolved; this is a story of a family fallen apart, and what remains is brittle and fragile, and will always be fragmented.

The construction of a large photobook, such as this, with loose folded sheets, creates this desired experience of fragility in me as I flick through; the book slips and falls away as I turn the pages. Specifically, there is a way your eyes move through this book that goes back and forth from left page to right page, knowing they don’t belong together, but trying to make sense of them anyway; you lift up the pages to peer underneath to see the other side of the image, to see how it adds or subtracts from what you already think you know. And sometimes the other half of an image you saw earlier rings true later in the book paired with another disconnected image. The way the disparate images work together is sublime, and this feels remarkably accomplished; rereading of this book offers more and more clues each time, and reminds us of the complex nature of connection to those people who know us so well. Fujii’s second book doesn’t look as pretty as the first, but it packs more of a punch."—Daniel Boetker-Smith

Purchase Book

Incipient Strangers. By Yoshikatsu Fujii. Self-published, 2015.
Incipient Strangers. By Yoshikatsu Fujii. Self-published, 2015.

Daniel Boetker-Smith is a writer, curator, educator and artist. He is the Director of the Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive, a not-for-profit organization established in 2013 to promote and share the books of photographers from the Asia-Pacific region internationally, and to encourage the production of more photobooks in that region. He has organized photobook events at festivals, galleries, and institutions all over the world. He was a judge at the Kassel Photobook Awards in 2013. He is also co-ordinator of the Asia-Pacific Photobook Prize and a Founder of Photobook Melbourne (2015), the only international photobook festival in the Asia-Pacific region. Daniel is also the Course Director at the Photography Studies College, Melbourne, Australia.

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