Now it’s de rigeur to have a trans-national, cosmopolitan life, to be “between identities” and “between countries” and all of that, but there was a time when it wasn’t so hip, when nobody wanted to hear about your “struggle,” they just looked at you suspiciously. And one of the things that’s so interesting about Yasuhiro is the way that his photographs reflect not just the values of whatever country he happens to be in at the moment but also the style. So his American photographs look really American, and his Japanese photographs look really Japanese.
There’s no way to talk about this without being really reductive about different countries and cultures, but this is a really, REALLY hard thing for any artist to do.
A while ago I sent Hayato Wakabayashi a short email to see if he was free to meet up, and he wrote back, “sorry, there’s a typhoon in Kyushu, I have to go shoot!”
Wakabayashi is the most concept-driven photographer I have met in Japan so far: his personal work is the result of a logical system which he has worked over and over until it arrives at a somewhat stable point. His current series, “Vanishing,” was shot in and around volcanoes and typhoons, and he is after some connection between these natural phenomena and the experience of early man. Really though, because he has such strong ideas about his own photographs, I know I am doing him a small disservice by not reproducing (or attempting to clearly explain) his statement for this series, but you can find the original Japanese version here. (I’m thinking of maybe doing some interviews for this blog, a conversation with Wakabayashi would be interesting and maybe then we can dig into his concepts.)
My initial reaction to these photos was that they were too “pretty”; to turn a powerful, and quite possibly hazardous phenomenon into an aesthetically pleasing one might distract the viewer from comprehending what’s going on. But I think enough of Wakabayashi’s own experience is visible to prevent the series from slipping into pure fascination, i.e. “dude isnt nature amazing?” (And it is! But I don’t want or need a photograph to tell me that.) This is especially true of the typhoon photos, where his own struggle to create these images is clear. In his statement, Wakabayashi talks about getting knocked down by waves while shooting, and conceptual as this work may be, being able to refer back to the human being clicking the shutter kept it interesting.
It’s a bit late, but this work is up at Tosei-Sha Gallery until Thursday (9/30) of this week.
Click this link if you like PHOTOS – it’s someone from China husband and wife team Zhang Jungang (张 君刚) and Li Jie (李洁)—thanks to Di of Jia Za Zhi for the tip.
You can look at other pages too by using the “上 下” (up down) links at the bottom. This is the freshest portfolio website I’ve found in a while. The wonders of HTML!!
I had a good conversation last week with someone who works at a photo gallery in Tokyo. Her gallery deals with all kinds of work, but personally we are both interested in young photographers. We talked about how the successful galleries which attract a “young” audience are built on a Shibuya-centric model of “cool,” where, you know, everyone is wearing the right pair of Nikes and looks really great. Thankfully the concept of “hipster” doesn’t make sense in Japan—there’s no PBR or Tecate here, after all—but we can identify these galleries by looking at their relationship to fashion. G/P Gallery is probably the most obvious example of this kind of place. My friend said that, at least in G/P’s case, the gallery is set up so that cachet of being a cool person at a cool gallery functions like a decoy to get young people interested in photography.
The uncool point I want to raise is that there are plenty of young people who shoot and look at photographs very seriously. These people don’t need the lure of a chic experience to go to a gallery. But the question for the gallery owner here, though, becomes: “is there any money in those people?” Somewhere behind cool—behind fashion—there is money. I don’t think that G/P is a “bad” gallery for doing this, but I wonder if there is another way to attract a young audience. Can serious trump cool?
For example, I was talking to someone at a gallery the other day, explaining what I was up to, and she was suddenly asked me, “Dan, how are you eating these days?” That’s the first question!! But it’s rare to hear (or read) such candor.
Thinking about out what interests me in art, or art criticism, and why so much of this is disappointing. Do we speak the same language?
Conscientious talking about Kawada Kikuchi’s “The Map.”
Here is something else that is striking about The Map. Can you name a German photographer who has dealt with the past in the way Japanese photographers have? Maybe I’m missing something, but while Germany’s non-photographic artists have dealt with the German past, its photographers, curiously enough, for the most part have avoided the subject. This is all the more striking since Germany as a whole has made tremendous efforts to deal with its past – unlike Japan, whose prime ministers until very recently regularly visited a shrine honouring war criminals, but refused to even apologize for the country’s action during World War II.
Gotta give credit where credit is due, this is a lucid paragraph, perhaps the only one Colberg has ever written.
The post also features the following stomach-churning passage: “…when pressed, I elaborated on why The Map truly is a stellar book. Just as before, I was surprised about the stuff I heard myself say, and pleasantly so, if I may add. Son of a gun, I thought, that’s actually kind of interesting.“
Sigh. The most respected “online photo critic” (he still is, right? i’m not really that close to the ‘scene’) is a man who would happily find the words to praise the color and texture of his own vomit.
Fumi has the Japanese gift for simplicity. His toned black and white images of nature or Japanese artifacts and architecture have a quiet elegance that only someone who appreciates the world when it’s calm and still, interprets so beautifully.
Will try to/want to catalog more of this. Send over a link if something interesting pops up.
from Bryan on google reader
“I have often spoken of what I call the inadequate imagery of today’s civilization. I have the impression that the images that surround us today are worn out; they are abused and useless and exhausted. They are limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution. When I look at the postcards in tourist shops and the images and advertisements that surround us in magazines or I turn on the television, or if I walk into a travel agency and see those huge posters with that same tedious image of the Grand Canyon on them, I truly feel there is something dangerous emerging here.
…As a race we have become aware of certain dangers that surround us. We comprehend, for example, that nuclear power is a real danger for mankind, that over-crowding of the planet is the greatest of all. We have understood that the destruction of the environment is another enormous danger. But I truly believe that the lack of adequate imagery is a danger of the same magnitude. It is as serious a defect as being without memory. What have we done to our images? What have we done to our embarrassed landscapes? I have said this before and will repeat it again as long as I am able to talk: if we do not develop adequate images we will die out like dinosaurs. Look at the depiction of Jesus in our iconography, unchanged since the vanilla ice-cream kitsch of the Nazarene school of painting in the late nineteenth century. These images alone are sufficient proof that Christianity is moribund.
We need images in accordance with our civilization and our innermost conditioning, and this is the reason why I like any film that searches for new images no matter in what direction it moves or what story it tells. One must dig like an archaeologist and search our violated landscape to find anything new. It can sometimes be a struggle to find unprocessed and fresh images.”
-Werner Herzog, from Herzog on Herzog
stolen from some other blog, via miguel