I remember the time when a friend of mine happen to brought some photobook from Japan. We were hanging out at a friend place at 1Borneo Shopping mall while discussing some geeky stuff on Photography; mainly on famous photographer and camera equipment. The topic that suddenly came out during that time was how Japanese photographer had a rather peculiar way in approaching photography. Araki with his cheap porno shots (not that I have a problem with though) and Daido with his understanding that everything has its beauty.
As we finally agree on that matter, another friend of mine happen to brought a photobook of his personal favorite photographer and I recall the way how he describe it as “Soft, serene, poetic” through Facebook message. I was skeptic about it for a while and a few pages through the photobook confirm my thought beforehand. It was more of a “Mundane, cliche’, flat”. I found the photobook to be boring for a while with no obvious narrative apart from its suggestive title and the book was none other than those of Rinko Kawauchi.
I wasn’t a fan of people using the highly popularize lomography tone (I used to refer the soft pastel color tone of Rinko work as Lomography tone) on their work and while Rinko works isn’t exactly ‘cross processing’, but it’s the fact that she use the film negative to create a soft tone images was very distasteful in my opinion at that time. I see it as a cheap way to romanticize a mundane scene and amateur photographer around the world have been copying her style to utter failure.
Rinko Kawauchi is a highly successful international photographer but I haven’t really consider much about her work until few years ago during Zhuang Wu Bin workshop. He mentioned some photographer who has successfully document their family life and one of them is Rinko Kawauchi. I was shocked, not because of her mesmerizing visual photograph but the fact that there is another side of Rinko Kawauchi that actually document stuff (yeah, I know). The misunderstanding was entirely my fault to begin with. Rinko has always had a clear concept in her mind and it was just me being oblivious in making a certain statement without actually bothering to give it a second look.
The book that was shown during the presentation was ‘Cui Cui’, a compilation of Rinko family photographs that was taken for the last 12 years. The fact that it took her 12 years to compile such collection of impressive photograph is a feat in itself and in photography, the sentimental value of a photograph increase overtime. Such was the editing itself was impressive and it has shed a new light on Rinko Kawauchi, she is a fucking genius!.
Sadly, the book is not mine and getting it online is rather hard as well since the book is no longer being printed. I needed a reference of her work to remind myself of my own shortcoming, or more like an inspiration for future work. The only book that I could get was ‘Utatane’ from Foiltokyo, part of the 3 early photobook that she published during her debut in 2001; which also earn her the 27th Kimura Ihei Photography Award .
Much of the quality of Rinko work comes through the vibrant color of her photograph which can only means that the level required for the printing should be nothing less than good. Foiltokyo is a well known photography and design book publisher, so there is no such flaw to begin with as the book binding and choice of paper is rather appropriate given the price and the size of the photobook.
NARRATIVE AND SEQUENCING
The thing with Rinko’s photo editing and sequencing is that it never really get boring. seriously.
I am sure that a lot would argue with the fact that all the picture that Rinko took could be taken by anyone, it’s so fucking simple. True, but not all of the photograph is that simple and many people had try to copy her ‘style’ before and fail miserably. The main reason is simply because I believe she has a lot of photograph to work on (or to choose from) and she sequence all her photograph in a form of pair which could either form a relationship between the two or against it.
The sequencing can be funny sometimes, interesting on the other, clever in some part, and simply weird in many way. It’s very hard to pinpoint where the narrative is going through for ‘Utatane’ but this is the kind of editing that allow you to enjoy the entire series even though you had left it on the bookshelf for years. ‘Utatane’ means ‘Siesta’ which according to the definition from Google, its a noun that state “an afternoon rest or nap, especially one taken during the hottest hours of the day in a hot climate.”. So her editing did in many way reflect that; a short dream that happen when you took a nap.
‘Utatane’ is not as famous as her other series such as ‘Aila’ and ‘Illuminance’ but it does give you some insight on how his dreamy looking series works. There is simple brilliance throughout the book and you can feel the warmth of summer Japan all from Rinko personal perspective.
Need some warm sunshine feeling of Japan?, grab a copy of ‘Utatane’ and immerse yourself in it. I did notice that her other series (Illuminance and Murmuration) is also impressive but for now, this would suffice to satisfy my curiosity on Rinko’s work.
Until then. Or when I get some spare cash to spend.