There is a common saying that we should “never judge a book by its cover”. It can’t be more true for Internal Notebook by Japanese photographer Miki Hasegawa.
I encountered this amazing book on the last day of judging at the 77th Pictures of the Year at the Missouri School of Journalism. By then, all the judges, including myself, were tired and just wanted to wrap up as soon as possible.
To be honest, I could have easily missed it because the cover was so ‘childish’ and nondescript. So I’m very glad I delved into it and allowed myself to be educated.
I’m very proud that we looked at it carefully and gave the Photography Book of the Year award to it.
On hindsight, I am very sure that it was a deliberate and clever choice to give the readers the false feeling that they are about to open a diary of a teenager.
It’s a journal of sort but not one you are expecting. There is nothing sweet and innocent here.
Every year, hundreds of children are abused in Japan and many end up in death if not permanent bodily and mental damages.
While it would be impossible for Hasegawa or anyone to be there when the abuses happened, she has found a powerful way to tell the stories of the individual victims by revisiting the crime scenes or by photographing the weapons used or the scars inflicted.
Accompanying the ‘quiet’ images are often succinct but important backstories to give the readers context.
This book contains lots of surprises which can be in the form of an insert of a diary entry or a sketch by a real victim. There are also powerful interviews with survivors.
The entire packaging is thoughtful with one basic intention – for the readers to want to care about every victim.
I don’t think it is the author’s aim for you to read everything cover to cover in one sitting. I don’t think any number of tissue packs or toilet rolls you have stockpiled during Covid-19 is going to be enough to see you through this very very emotional journey.
Personally, I can only look at a few case studies in one go, then I’ll need to go watch some stupid sitcoms on Netflix.
Hasegawa handmade 66 copies of this book at an workshop with Yumi Goto at Reminders Photography Stronghold in 2015 and they are completely sold out. I’m thankful that Italian publisher Ceiba Editions has released it in a limited trade edition.