Japanese photographer Momo Okabe was named the recipient of the Paul Huf Award by the Amsterdam-based FOAM photography museum.
Her winning projects, titled Dildo and Bible, focused on two of her transgender lovers during their transition. Her extremely intimate and emotional images made the Tokyo-based photographer stand out in a pool of 100 nominated photographers to receive the prize of $22,000 and an exhibition at Foam from August to October.
“Momo combines tenderness with a raw intimacy, which is revealed through her use of color, variety of subjects, and sensitive handling of an important and complex social issue like transsexualism,” the jury said in a statement.
The annual prize was established to honor Dutch photographer Paul Huf, who helped found Foam in 2001 and was known for his innovative take on photography. Now in its ninth year, the award aims to discover and support young photography talent under the age of 35 internationally.
“I now feel confident about my work,” Okabe tells TIME. “What I want to express through photography was not wrong. I like to take [photos] of sadness and hope in life. I would like to transcend it to something like a fantasy, [and] not just making a documentary work.”
This year, the award's international jury members include Christopher McCall, director of Pier24 Photography in San Francisco, Felix Hoffmann, chief curator of C/O Berlin in Germany, Whitney Johnson, deputy director of photography at National Geographic in Washington D.C., Adam Mazur, editor-in-chief of the Warsaw-based SZUM Magazine, and Brett Rogers from The Photographers’ Gallery in London.
Although Okabe has previously picked up awards such as the New Cosmos of Photography Award and the Color Imaging Contest of EPSON, and earned the Photoeye Best Photobook with her book Dildo, being recognized with the Paul Huf Award is very significant to the 34-year-old photographer.
Momo Okabe is a Japanese photographer based in Tokyo.