I believe I have written something before where photography should be a part of your daily life and there is a few photographer who actually enjoy it to the fullest and manage to make a photobook out of it. Many great photographer took a lot of picture within a certain period of time and to name a few, Garry Winogrand and Henri Cartier Bresson shoot a lot back then and that is using film negatives. But most of the time, its not just the about the volume but also on the quality of the entire series and Jun Abe is certainly on a level of his own although there is less info about him on the internet. John Sypal and Derrick Choo have written some interesting article on his work so do check them out.
I found Jun Abe work from a blog post on Tokyocamerastyle.com and I felt that his work is rather strong at that time whereas his photobook ‘Citizen’ is causing some sensation among the online Street Photography community, thanks to a certain famous Street photographer.
I didn’t get my hand on the ‘Citizen’ because it was out of print in Japan but I manage to get his Kokubyaku notes photobook from Japanexposure.com.
WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING
If you are a fan of street photography, Jun Abe work might be a good reference, especially for beginners.
I find his work to be rather powerful, not just in composition sense but also on emotional level. His work seems to be a thoughtful snapshot, where most of his subject is unaware of his presence and he manage to capture life in a candid manner. From what I have seen so far, Kokubyaku notes seems to be a compilation of the picture taken during his daily life, something that he encounter during his walk around the town area.
The first Kokubyaku Notes were taken in Osaka from 1996 until 1999 and the entire series truly shows the times and condition of that era. Kokubyaku Notes 2 were much more like a sequel of the first and there is not much information about it other than the fact that it was taken in Osaka. Kokubyaku Notes 2 were a bit thicker with more picture and denser range of subject; with parrots, kids and urban landscape.
Apart from the glossy smooth finish of the book dust cover?, nothing seems to be lacking in quality, even the prints was awesome and it shows a great depth on the entire series.
A book of this quality shows just how much the publisher and the photographer care about the final product and this book is by far one of the best in my collection especially in terms of finishing, eventhough its a softcover book. Smooth glossy dust cover with thick well printed paper, there is nothing to fault with the book overall finishing and even the binding seems durable.
The Kokubyaku Notes and Kokubyaku Notes 2 share similar finishing and design layout so from now on, my word will reflect both photobooks.
When I flip through the pages, one thing that I notice is the lack of foreword by the photographer. I find this a bit of waste considering that this is the final form of a photographer work and the lack of the photographer personal words is somehow a bit disappointing, but maybe this is the photographer decisions but certainly putting in some personal though will give a chance for the viewer to understand a bit about what they about to go through.
So my first impression on the photographer is a bit mysterious and this does make sense after you finished through the entire series. The entire series consist of a sequenced images that brings you towards the city living fabric, from the messy urban thrash to the kids playing along the river. Its as if you were a stranger walking around the exact town area, taking picture of anything that interest you and somehow, provoke you to agree with whatever that the photographer have taken.
GOING THROUGH THE BOOK
The picture is not printed on a glossy paper but it gives such depth on the prints although I prefer the black point to be a bit darker, but this is my personal preference though.
Going through the book is rather fun or confusing for some, and as I said earlier, it is as if we follow the same step as the photographer. Wandering around the town area snapping interesting picture for ourself. The first few picture really seems to be taken from the photographer neighbourhood area before it gradually change to the Osaka congested town area. The transition between the images is a bit messy and the layout is very direct with no intention to challenge the viewer opinion but the volume itself is really ‘something’ especially for Kokubyaku Notes 2.
The book is simple and well printed, a true visual feast for some people. I have no complain.
Kokubyaku Notes is a good reference for any aspiring street photographer, especially those with trigger happy finger, here are some of the thing that I learn from Jun Abe Kokubyaku Notes;
1. Enjoy your walk.
Some people thought that a great street photography can only be made at an exotic places.
It is true in a way but the best is always the one that is closest to you. Jun Abe seems to like the area and since there is little info about him and his shooting style, I believe he is a curious kind of guy with a very deep appreciation on that place. Always carry a camera with you whenever you are going for a walk or shopping spree around the town, opportunity lurks every corner and luck are for those who work extra harder.
2. Appreciate the little Thing
If you have gone through Jun Abe’s work, you will notice the variety of stuff that he shoot.
A parrot, thrash, movie poster, a random alley, weird quirky fencing with some dog in between; this is what makes his entire photobook interesting because he didn’t ignore the little element that makes a city interesting. A true photographer would get excited with the little element due to their interest in photography but although this depends on what we wanted to achieve, those little element might be true eye candy for your projects.
3. Walk, a lot.
Jun Abe work consist a variety of different subject but I doubt that it is within a small area.
I wouldn’t call Jun Abe to be a street photographer but you couldn’t help it since people need a way to categorize a certain approach but his work is more of an old traditional photojournalist kind of approach. For this, you need to explore and walk quiet a lot, simply to explore the area that you intend to cover.
I am working something with similar approach on my hometown but of course, it wouldn’t be the same.