Inkjet printed and collaged on tracing paper with embroidered tape
Photo zine with tracing paper, digitally printed, perfect bound with felt and beaded spine
As a child I obsessively kept diaries, journals, and scrapbooks. When my family purchased our first computer—an enormous Windows PC that sat in our living room—I spent hours searching for pictures of my favorite celebrities and pop stars to print out (on our black-and-white inkjet printer) and cut and paste into fanzines. These early practices certainly contributed to my current interest in artist books, zines, and other archival-based artistic practices. The painstakingly handmade zines by Nozomi Yamashita recall these naive methods of bookmaking. Her photo zines collage inkjet printed images onto tracing paper with embroidered and beaded felt spines. The images are grainy and unevenly cut, affixed to the fragile tracing paper pages with double-sided tape. These material choices create an object that reads as both amateurish and skilly crafted—qualities often set at odds—but here sentimentally and smartly joined.
Window 5 (2019), published in Japan by Crevasse, a small experimental photo-based zine publisher recently featured in Miriam Gallery’s Publication Practices virtual program series, is intimate in scale (only 8.5 × 5.5 inches). The tracing paper cover and pages give it a collaged aesthetic. Even when closed, it’s possible to glimpse stacks of photos of a young woman posed in a soft pink top or frilly tights. The reading experience is always layered, with both the current images visible as well as frosted glimpses of past and future pictures. Taped irregularly on both sides of the pages, the pictures, cut into small squares, show a young woman—maybe even young enough to call a girl—standing against a white wall posing for the camera, playing with her hair, gazing into the distance. Other images show aspects of her bedroom: makeup tables, piles of bedding and clothes; as well as overhead shots of glasses and bowls of fruit staged against patterned surfaces. In Miriam’s video, the artist speaks about her process, “I made it to understand myself better,” she explains. “It is a documentary piece about me, an adult, who has no idea who I am.” I think again of my own childish collage practices, which too, were a way to understand myself. Yamashita elevates these private practices to the public practice of publishing.
Her other zine, kill me in peace (first produced in 2010 but published by Crevasse in 2020), also uses printed images taped to tracing paper. The title and opening image, a closely cropped girl cradling herself in bed, evoke the angsty emotions of young adulthood. While Window 5 focuses more on the character of this girl, this zine looks more towards her surroundings, featuring images of a bathtub, clothes closet, and unmade bed. The stapled binding is tighter here, with more pages that don’t easily fall open. As Yamashita explains, the format is meant to be simple, like a child could make, “impulsive,” and like “a letter to a close friend.” But with that simplicity, there is also the craft of it—the colorful beads embroidered on the felt spine, a notable detail that makes the work “simple but special.”
The childish naivety of these books is the craft. Yamashita’s work celebrates what is simple, beautiful, and painful about girlhood as one ages into adulthood. In lieu of a traditional colophon, kill me in peace includes a library card insert printed on the front with the title and on the back with dates. Both books also include little cards that are not attached to the pages. In Window 5 a small slip of paper styled as loose leaf (the type of paper I was instructed to use as a kid in school) includes handwritten bubble letters with the artist’s website. In kill me in peace a purple business card is loosely stuck in the back with the same URL, but also printed handwriting that reads. “I don’t have this clothes anymore. This house is no longer there. At this time, I am nowhere. There’s nothing at all. There is nothing at all.” Coupled with the library card insert, there is a sense of impermanence—the impermanence of youth, childhood homes, and possessions. Yamashita’s zines celebrate the concerns and desires of young women and girls, often reduced to infantilizing stereotypes. Instead, she reveles in the intensely personal to convey the universal feeling of growing up.