This issue of photoworks is devoted to relatively unknown Japanese photographers and their work, much of which has been produced in the form of photobooks rather than as prints for a gallery. This means that much of it needs to be looked a in context and in order rather than as individual images. It is therefore inevitable, that as only a small selection of any of the whole books are shown, some of the impact will be lost.
I have seen very little Japanese photography and am looking at it with an eye attuned to western culture which will effect the way I interpret the photos. I also became aware that I interpreted them differently than the reviewers, often in a more simplistic way. Next time I look at a book like this i think it is important to look at the images first – then read the review!. One picture where I had a markedly different instant understanding was in the work of Osama Wataya where the reviewer (Gordon MacDonald says ‘The most uncomfortable image……… is one of a man whose flesh seems to be melting from his body like wax’ (Gordon MacDonald, Photoworks 2009. p52. ). This image shows me a man who, in spite of his problems, walks down the street with his head held high. This difference may be because I work with people with a disability on a daily basis. Unlike MacDonald this man did not make me think of the atomic bombs, although I agree that it does show immense suffering.
|Osamu Wataya - from Rumor|
The images that I would most like to see more of were by Ariko, a Japanese photographer, who has taken pictures of Iceland to create pictures that are calm, with a great sense of light and space. These images remind me of those by Dan Holdsworth ( seen earlier at the Baltic Gallery), which, although showing much more detail – have the same sense of light and calm.
|Ariko - Swan Feather|
Overall, this edition of Photoworks, although dedicated to Japanese photography shows a wide variety of images, some beautiful and others disturbing. It is clear that a simple label of Japanese does not immediately give an expectation of one ‘type’ of image, any more than British or American would. It is an area I will need to explore further.