Sarah Meister, photography curator at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA, New York), converses with artists Gloria Oyarzabal, Soumya Sankar Bose, Edgar Martins and June Canedo, whose books are nominated for the Paris Photo & Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards 2020. These four photobooks are as different as the artists who made them. Each grapples with urgent contemporary issues—from the suppression of inconvenient truths to the blind spots of Western feminism, from migration and citizenship to incarceration and representation—wrestling them into photobooks that honor the complexity and gravity of their subjects without neglecting the distinctive tactile and visual pleasures of the form.
Sarah Meister is photography curator at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. She is author of the recent publications Frances Benjamin Johnston: The Hampton Album (2019) and Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures (2020), and is instructor of the MoMA online course Seeing Through Photographs.
Gloria Oyarzabal is a Spanish artist who works between photography, cinema, and teaching. From 2009–12, she lived in Bamako, Mali, developing her interests in the construction of the “idea of Africa,” histories of colonization and decolonization, new tactics of colonialism, and African feminisms. In Woman Go No’Gree, Gloria Oyarzabal asks, “Can we assume social relations in all societies are organized around biological sexual differences?” Oyarzabal tackles this question by exploring colonialism and white feminism in West Africa through the use of found imagery, archives, and her own photography.
Soumya Sankar was born and brought up in Midnapore, a small town near Kolkata(India) he was awarded Magnum Foundation’s Social Justice Fellowship for my Full Moon on a dark night project in 2017 and in 2018 has received Magnum Foundations’ Migration and religion grant. His book Where the Birds Never Sing is a riveting story told in fits and starts, gathering together a series of images, documents, and textual commentary to address the 1979 massacre of Bengali refugees on Marichjhapi Island in Sundarban, West Bengal. Soumya Sankar Bose has worked with survivors of this traumatic event to recall and, at times, reenact memories of their survival for his camera.
Edgar Martins was born in Évora (Portugal) (’77) and grew up in China. In ’96 he moved to the UK, where he completed a BA in Photography at the University of the Arts, an MA in Fine Art at the Royal College of Art as well as a PHD in documentary Photography, (University of South Wales). He has exhibited widely and has received numerous prizes for his work.He lives and works in Portugal and the UK.His latest book, What Photography & Incarceration have in Common with an Empty Vase is a two-part photobook created in collaboration with inmates at a prison in The Midlands (England). In this densely packed project, Martins wrestles with crucial questions about the ontology of representation, absence and the experience of incarceration.
June Canedo was raised in Brazil and in South Carolina, June Canedo de Souza is an artist based in New York. In 2020, she released her first book titled Mara Kuya, that tells the story of a family separated by citizenship status. Taken over the course of seven years between Brazil and South Carolina, Canedo’s photographs present a striking, yet tender look into her family’s life and experiences, while also considering the often overlooked emotional and psychological toll caused by migration and separation.