When did you first discover Momo Okabe & Kohey Kanno, can you tell us how you came upon their work?
Kohey showed me the project they collaborated on last summer in book dummy form entitled UNSEEN / TSUNAMI. Even though it was hand-made it was remarkably sophisticated. Both artists refer to their personal lives, lovers and circle of friends against the backdrop of 2011 Fukushima tsunami. It takes the form of a concertina cover with each photographer’s pictures and text on either side in a small booklet.
Throughout your work as the Cultural Director of Magnum Photos and your time at Dashwood Books, have you developed any particular methods for discovering new artists?
Magnum was invaluable as we were all horrendously overworked. I would be furiously editing work on deadline and learned to trust my instincts. Working with a large group photographers at different stages of their careers, with very different approaches to documentary methods I learned a lot about how to work with artists – hopefully how to get the best out of them. At Dashwood I engage with a broader spectrum of photographers and can spot the possibilities for collaboration.
Dashwood Books is known for its meticulously curated inventory of photography books. How does your eye for curating Dashwood Books relate to your taste in artists? What was it about Momo Okabe & Kohey Kanno that you found exciting and original?
The curation is led by my own personal tastes – I am constantly looking to be stimulated. There are of course books that I may carry for commercial reasons but the bulk of the store is filled with work I find interesting for one reason or another. I find photography is a particularly compelling medium because it has so many applications from fine art to documentary to commercial use – all of them equally valid in different ways. With Kohey and Momo I found the form of their work was very thought thru and the way they had collaborated with their designer Richard Espinosa was very smart and original. I find this a lot with the Japanese – regardless of the access to materials they come to the table with a very clear, polished vision.
What makes Momo Okabe & Kohey Kanno artists to watch, tell us why you chose them as your nominee.
Both this project and other projects they’ve done individually showed a remarkable sensitivity and an innate understanding of the medium of books. Both have projects with a new Japanese publisher Session Press based here in NY. Momo has Dildo coming out this spring and Kohey published Honeymoon in 2011 as well as some self-published zines.
David Strettell is the founder and owner of Dashwood Books, a photography bookstore located on Bond Street in the Bowery section of Manhattan. Formerly the Cultural Director of the Magnum Photos, Strettell produced numerous books and exhibitions on countless photographic projects and developed extensive relationships in publishing and media, as well as with museums, galleries and with photographers all over the world.
Since opening in 2005, Dashwood Books has become New York City’s insider resource and social nexus for the latest in contemporary international photography. David’s photo by Robin Siegel