Japanese photography scene have been lively nowadays and thanks to internet, people across the world could simply buy any Japanese photobook online which previously, is very difficult to get through as some of the photobooks is limited only to the Japanese market.
And in this case, I happen to found this photobook online from some random facebook page but nevertheless, the first few pictures that I saw from the facebook page gives me enough reason to ask them a few question and despite some miss-communication later on, the book finally arrive at my doorstep.
WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING?
I like to buy a photobook from any photographer as long as they have something interesting that is worth having. A few original example would be Shinya Arimoto, Jun Abe, Rony Zakaria and etc. It doesn’t really matter on how famous the photographer is as long as their work is ‘interesting’ or ‘original’ to look at.
The name of Hajime Kimura is certainly not someone that you are familiar with but he have a fantastic portfolio to look at and like many great photographer, he have a distinctive style of his own which is obvious from his stark, high contrast, poetic rendition of black and white images.
The main reason to buy this book is probably the subject itself. The subject that he choose to document is fascinating where he document the life of one of the Japanese tribe at the snowy region of the west coast Japan, this is a very rare insight as it is different from what we usually see coming from Japan. The tribe is called ‘Matagi’ and from what I can get from Google, it seems they are one of the oldest remaining tribe in Japan that live by relying on the forest by hunting wildboar, bear, and other form of wildlife.
You can have a look at Hajime Kimura portfolio at http://hajimekimura.net/ .
The photobook contain 56 pages and 30cm x30cm big.
A professionally done photobook!!!.
The photobook is so well design and laid out to the point that it is easy to go though the entire series in a few minutes. The most notable feature of the photobook would be the choice of paper. The paper seems to be a 315gsm thick warmtone matte paper which complement well with Hajime photograph. The picture is well printed and there is nothing much to complain about, that is until I saw the double spread picture of some of his most interesting photograph.
I am not a fan of double spread picture but if it’s done without much consideration to the book ‘gutter’, it would look horribly ugly. Especially those interesting picture where the interesting element lies somewhere in the middle of the picture.
I received my copy complete with sign from the photographer, I find those photobook with signature to be much more satisfying to own especially those with warm notes from the photographer itself.
GOING THROUGH THE BOOK .
From what I know, the photographer seems to cycle from the town in order to get into the Matagi settlement and I couldn’t verify this because the photographer doesn’t respond to my inquiry but nevertheless, the image sequencing is by far one of the best that I have in my photobook collection.
The book is sequenced in a way that you find your self going through the same step as the photographer, from the landscape that he encounter along the way, to the time where he joins them on a hunting trip. The first few pages would make you realize that the photographer is really in awe with everything that he encounter along the trip and to be fair, the grainy picture really add to the whole series. The book seems to be more like a compilation of personal journal and it is not like the usual documentary style photobook.
One of my favorite picture would be the cover page in which is double spread and divided by the book gutter, not cool.
Apart from those mentioned earlier, there is a lot of thing that we can learn from Hajime Kimura photobook and I can list it into 3 thing and that is;
1) Work on a project that really moved your heart.
“I first heard of the “Matagi” civilization right after my third year of college. They were depicted as if coming from a completely different time and captivated my attention immediately. Now, seeing them represented through these images is like peeking back into a distant legend.” – from the book foreword by the photographer.
Hajime got interested on the Matagi tribe since his college year and his curiosity leads him to the rural area of Japan just to observe the tribe with his own eyes. It took him 3 years to gather enough picture that which is selected to be publish on this photobook and it certainly worth it since he even follow the Matagi on a hunting trip.
For those who plan to work on a photography project, a timeline of more than a year is probably the minimum period that allow the photographer to be truly immerse in their subject, regardless of the season and weather or other unexpected variable.
2) A good Black and White image relies on contrast, a heavy shadow and strong highlight.
Most people would probably familiar with the work of William Klein, Daido Moriyama and even Jacob Aue Sobol and their work is highly recognizable through their heavy contrast image with direct approach to their subject. This allow their subject to ‘pop’ out from the entire frame which is good.
Although Hajime photograph share similar use of heavy shadow and bright highlight, the way he compose the subject is really careful with the subject placed along the rule of third gridline but its the contrast of the entire picture that works well with it. Working on black and white can be quiet difficult and Hajime photograph is one of the best reference to produce a great black and white image.
3) You don’t have to take a portrait picture of someone just for the sake of your project.
I know some people might disagree with this but Hajime Kimura photobook doesn’t have any portrait picture of the Matagi people. His approach in showing people on the life of the Matagi works well and it create something original along the way. Even without any portrait picture of the people, I find it to informative enough for me to understand the life of the people in which it seems to changes along with the season.
Sometimes, focusing on what story you want to tell to other people is much better than to approach the entire project with some cliche’ composition in mind.
And that’s it, the photobook is limited to 400 copies around the world and can be bought from his website http://hajimekimura.net/kodama/ and for those who are curious on the content, here is some link, http://storyboard.tumblr.com/post/34368795790/picturedept-hajime-kimura-kodama-hajime