Rinko Kawauchi

I’m continuing to explore the works of artists whose photographic work diverges from the norms of conventional photographic technique… the kind of methods taught in this module.

In Project 2, I was struck by the image by Rinko Kawauchi, used on the cover of her Illuminance book https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/dec/07/deutsche-borse-prize-photography-2012

While the image may or may not be in focus in some areas, it is overexposed, to the extent that the detail of the main subject is almost entirely lost.

Now, this book was shortlisted for the Deutsche Borse Prize, so while the image may be indeed be overexposed, which is viewed on a photographically technical level as wrong, the work must be taken seriously. So what is going on here?

Rinko Kawauchi is a prolific photographer from Japan, who continues to create a growing number of photobooks, and has had exhibitions around the world.

Her methodology is unusual, in that she doesn’t take multiple shots of a subject, and then select the best one. She tries to capture an individual moment in as perfect and unique a fashion as she can, in one shot.

Her images are glimpse of her own personal perception of the world. They are moments and subjects that may be mundane, but when seen through the right eyes, are beautiful.

‘Rinko Kawauchi explains that her photos are supposed to give you the feeling of looking in on a moment about to happen. This feeling of catching the tail end of a whisper or the beginning of a storm is more important to her than planned composition’ (The Culture Trip, 2016)

Looking at more of her images, there are many that feature lens flare, bloom, aberrant exposure or focus… things that photographers normally try to avoid.

Obviously, all of these aspects are intentional. So what is it that sets these images apart? How is it that they are good art, and not bad photography?

My feeling is that it’s because they all come together as a coherent set. When they’re looked at as a group, you can appreciate the mood, and feeling being represented. You can feel the magic. There’s an ethereal joy that’s quite unique, and yet so obvious.

My first reaction, when seeing that one image, linked to from Project 2, was one of confusion. The image looked like a reject. How could it possibly be considered good photography? Seeing the series though, I’ve come to appreciate it as a beautiful moment… like waking up with bleary eyes, in a strange light, and before you’ve focused… just managing to make out flowers.

Life is not always experienced in a perfect way. Scenes can be spied from weird angles, with incomplete views, and the sun getting in your eyes. Kawauchi’s photography reflects this reality.

Andla, L. (2016) ’10 Things you should know about Rinko Kawauchi.’ In: The Culture Trip [online] At: https://theculturetrip.com/asia/japan/articles/rinko-kawauchi-10-things-you-should-know-about-the-first-lady-of-japanese-photography/ (Accessed on: 23/06/2017)

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Author: Photos Things and Stuff

Study Log for Expressing Your Vision module, for BA (Hons) Photography Degree with OCA

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