A Moment With: Miwa Susuda
Miwa Susuda runs Session Press and is a well-known member of the photography community in New York. Founded in 2011, Session Press focuses on publishing work from Chinese and Japanese photographers, both past and present. She is a photobook consultant at Dashwood Books, New York's cult photobook store where one can come across work from photographers—established to emerging, and independently published.
Miwa has published ten books under Session Press, with its next book 'We Have No Place to Be' by Joji Hashiguchi being released in 2019. VSP chats with Miwa about the current state of photography, its most impactful artists, and New York's hidden treasures.
What kind of images do you gravitate towards?
I am attracted to work that comes from a photographer's own reality. The work should 100% be a manifest of who she/he is. I also want to feel some kind of urgency from the work that needs to be shared with others. It is my view that all photos are subjective, conscious, and conceptual- it doesn't matter if they are academically understood or not. Even whether you take a simple snapshot, it reflects the personal view and ideas of the photographer. Another example would be how if one compiles a photo book with found images, it shows the creator's own idea. Therefore, I prefer not to make any set category when it comes to experiencing photography for the sake of appreciation. So it doesn't matter as much if the work is of social documentary, personal experience, protest, fashion, conceptual ideas, snapshots, or street photography. Good work is good work! At Dashwood, we don’t shelve books by genre- rather we group the books by the nationality of the photographer. David, who runs Dashwood has an approach I respect—it's an idea where we appreciate photobooks with our clients without any preconceived and academic bias in terms of hierarchy. Such things are not necessary for our pure enjoyment of beauty in photography.
Who do you think have been the most important photographers over the last fifty years?
Such a big question! I think the photographers who meticulously capture the time they live in are important. They dig into their own views first and their subjective minds earn objectivity than can be considered by a larger audience. For example, Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand, Cindy Sherman, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Paul Graham, Taryn Simon, Joji Hashiguchi, Ari Marcopoulos, Momo Okabe, Lieko Shiga and John Edmonds…. I can’t name them all. I feel that the work of these photographers will remain set in the history of the medium. Even 100 years from now, people will be able to understand their views and times their work was made in.
How would you describe the current landscape of photography?
Our visual society has been drastically changing due to both social media and technological advancement. I believe we are more easily overtaken by photography. As many have noticed, it is a bit overwhelming! At the same time, I believe only good and strong work will survive. The increasing number of photos available in our daily lives each day is due to technology and accessibility, but this won’t affect those of true talent. Long term thoughtful projects made with a photographer’s sincere engagement is respected more now than ever. I still enjoy a good snapshot photo though.
What is your favourite thing about living in New York?
I don’t divide my private and professional lives. There is just "my life"—there is no off or on time. When I say "my life" I mean how I am a photobook professional who works for Dashwood as a consultant and manager. I additionally publish books by Japanese and Chinese photographers as a director at Session Press. For the Japanese photography audience I report on New York's photo scene for IMA magazine. It's a thick photo culture magazine in Japan. I write about exhibitions, events, and books and have chances to interview exciting new talents in photography. Sure, I also enjoy shopping and seeing my friends over dinner. Watching a movie and going to see painting shows at museums are also part of me, too. I am doing all of this because I am Miwa.
Where are the hidden treasures in the city that you like to visit?
I can’t come up with any specific location for hidden treasures. For me, a "hidden treasure" is more mental. I feel blessed and grateful when I can share my feelings with my friends and people I love. We as people don’t need to all be the same and we should all have own own different ideas and views. But when I am lucky and I happen to share my immediate emotion, whether it be pain, joy, excitements and anger with my loved ones, it doesn’t matter which spot I am at. I can be at a park, cafe or museum. A shared moment is temporary and emotion is fleeting but I think that’s beauty of life. That's my hidden treasure.
How would you describe your personal style?
I tend to enjoy current styles and check out new collections every season from Alexander Wang, Phillip Lim, Acne Studios and Kenzo. I have an eye on a new designer, Commission. They are a New York based fashion brand, which was just founded last month. I admire their simplicity and contemporary feelings to their collection. I believe Commission truly appreciates the shapes and sensibilities of Asian female beauty and I am very excited about their upcoming collection, too. At the same time, I love classic and 60's French vintage fashion, too. My all time idols are Claude Jade and Anouk Aimée. Their style is simple, charming and elegant. I really admire those who are comfortable in their own skin and stay true to themselves and their vision. I want to become that who I am—I think we do this by building up our personal style from the inside.
Book covers courtesy of Miwa Susuda
Portrait by Seth Fluker
Text by Marlowe Granados