Why buy idol photobooks? A valid question. Many, if not all idol photobooks share the same basic concept. Stick an idol (male or female) in a couple of different outfits, preferably with a few swimsuits thrown into the mix, have them do a photoshoot in an interesting location or two and sell this bundle of high quality photographs to the more dedicated fans of the idol in question. Very few of these photobooks manage or even intend to break out of that target audience. Sayuminglandoll, Michishige Sayumi’s latest photobook however, is different and not just a little bit.
This is not just any photobook. It’s something completely different, on many different levels. While most photographers of female idol photobooks are male (and the photobooks are often shot from a male perspective) in this particular case the photographer happened to be female. While I don’t wish to overstate the importance of gender it must be said that this is a rarity in the idol world and quite refreshing for a change.
Another thing that separates this photobook from the norm is just how much creative input Sayumi got to have. As a general rule idols have little or no say in the creative process. This goes as much for photoshoots as it goes for music. Yet this time she was involved in all the meetings right from the very beginning and was able to give her input on a variety of things. This trend of H!P idols getting more involved with their own creative output seems to have started recently when Takahashi Ai was given a substantial degree of control over her own graduation concert, which arguably ended up giving us some of the best concert outfits of the year. If this is what happens when idols and not just the staff and management behind them have a say in the decision making process, then I really want to see that happen more often.
More than anything, this photobook is 100% Sayumi. By that I mean Sayumi The Idol. A blend of cute and sexy, full of fairytale magic and a hint of dominatrix. Every new page brings a new surprise. From the luckiest teddybear and flamingo in the world to an eerie scene of Sayumi as a lolita idol just staring out in front of herself surrounded by cobwebs and old furniture. Every time I turned the page I kept asking myself: “how on earth did they come up with this?”
This is far more than just your average photobook. It’s different, refreshing, daring, naughty and above all a true work of art. If you only every buy one photobook in your lifetime this is the one to get. Even if you’re not into idols, the imagery alone, the creativity and craftmanship are what should make you run out and buy this.
When Nakajima Saki’s last PB came out earlier this year I thought that was one of the more creative H!P photobooks to come out in a long time. But that particular PB still threads within the boundaries I mentioned at the top of this post. It skirts around them once in a while but never really dares to cross them. Sayuminglandoll looks at those boundaries, laughs at them and then leaps over them. I now consider it to be the absolute best photobook in my personal collection.