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.