OBSCURA PHOTO FESTIVAL 2016 – An experience | PART 1

OBSCURA PHOTO FESTIVAL 2016 – An experience | PART 1

Obscura Photo Festival is an annual photography festival that is held yearly at Georgetown, Penang. It is currently in it’s 4th edition which is also the number of time that I had missed the festival. I nearly missed the recent edition and somehow managed to salvage the remaining few days of the festival.

Like any other International Photo festival, it has became a great stop for a gathering among International photographer community prior to the upcoming Angkor Photo Festival this November. The festival has certainly grown a lot compared to its first edition where there is more serious photography discussion with the participant and at the same time with the public. It has also manage to brought in some great name in Contemporary Photography to share their view on current issues and also their perspective on their own work.

Among the program on the list that really capture my attention is the talk from Shahidul Alam on “Finding New Narratives in Photography.” and of course the International Photobook show.  I missed the talk due to my commitment for my University Faculty programs but somehow able to drop by for the International Photobook Show at INCH.

The Photo Festival starts on 15th August until 31 August although the first few days are for the Masterclass workshop while the exhibition is open to the public on 19th August 2016.

On 24 August, I finally managed to get myself free and spent the rest of the day solely for the Photo Festival. The morning was terrible as I was staying up late that night and only to get lost on my way to INCH.

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Alvin giving a stare to the camera. Looking forward to see his upcoming work on a visual diary of some sort next year. 

When I arrived there, the talk was already halfway through and the atmosphere were rather serious with a few casual laugh in between. Most of them are totally focus on the talk while some other were browsing through the books that is on display. A scan through the room shows a few people that I knew online mainly Daniel Boetker-Smith from Asian-Pacific Photobook Archives and also Sim Chi Yin who is rather famous recently with her works from China (I am a fan of her work). I didn’t notice anyone familiar until Alvin (a friend from KL who joined the masterclass workshop) say Hi to me.

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The crowd is very receptive during the talk by Teun Van der Heijden. 

The first talk was done by Teun Van der Heijden, famously known for his photobook design ‘Black Passport’ for Stanley Greene. He is a creative designer that works on photography editing and photobook design and to summarize his talk, it was more about how, why, and his preference in making a photobook. The talk was interesting as he keeps on showing example from his previous work (which is available on display during the International Photobook Show). There was a few interesting point that were discussed which I wish I did a recording of it. It was on how he recently working with a fine art photographer to conceive a photobook while despite all this, he still prefer or rather, more comfortable to work with Photojournalism type of work. There was also something that he mentioned on how working with the two genre is different and what we can learn from this and reapply to any other project in terms of visual presentation or impact.

Of course, the Q&A session were ruthless and perhaps rightly so since we are surrounded with talented photographers of such high caliber.

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The design process of the ‘Black Passport’, one of my favourite photobook ever. Current price for a copy is about 450USD. Wish I can have this on my wall for my room.
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Some of the visitor who decided to go through the books instead of taking their lunch. 
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Sim Chi Yin going through some of the photobook. She teach one of the masterclass for the Obscura Photo Festival this year. 

After the first talk were done, everyone were going downstairs to take their lunch. I already taken mine so I decided to spent my time browsing through the books that is on display. The main objective to go to such event was to gain inspiration and I am taking my time to go through someone else photography zine and dummy book. Not to mention some rare and expensive books as well.

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A collection of photobook on display. Spent a good solid hour going through the books. Immense stuff. Notice the Henri Cartier Bresson book on the bottom left corner?.

There was also a number of photobook on display and particularly those finalist and winner that have won some ‘Photobook Award of the year‘, can’t seems to recall the name of the award though. Just to name a few, there was also the super expensive Henri Cartier Bresson recently republished photobook ‘The Desicive moment’, the writing were good but I still can’t understand why it was that ‘famous’.

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Daniel Boetker-Smith giving his talk and view on the current state of Photobook Market especially in South East Asia and Australia. 

The second talk of the day is by Daniel Boetker-Smith, an enthusiastic photographer/educator from Australia. I knew him from Photobook Australia and he is also the Director for Asian Pacific Photobook Archive, big stuff.

Throughout the talk, he discuss the current state of Photobook market especially in Asia and how aspiring Photographer that want to publish a photobook can do so for themselves. There was also some discussion on the pro’s and con’s of self publishing where opinion were threw in by some of the audience. Since I had no such intention to do a photobook at the moment, I tend to ignore the whole talk apart from the Asian Pacific Photobook Archive effort in promoting photographer work to a wider audience.

A summary on what Asian Pacific Photobook Archive has been trying to achieve in the past few years is to promote the joy of Photobook viewing in a form of travelling mini library. This is achieved by joining/involved in as much Photo Festival that they can afford to. Through their effort, there is some Photography project that manage to capture the attention of a Publisher and from what they said, there is a follow up collaboration with the photographer.

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Waiting for the program to start. Beer is on sale by the way.

The next program of the day is the Projection Night “Judgement of Line Orientation” curated by Anshika Varma, which if I was not mistaken, a Photo Editor for NGEO India.

One irritating things that I don’t really like with the Photo festival is that the programs doesn’t start punctually. But this is understandable and can be well tolerated as most of the participant and audience has probably been tired from following all the program for the past few days.

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The hardworking people behind Obscura Photo Festival and of course, the big ass projector. 

Before the projection night starts, they were giving out some handouts that gives some short description on the selected photography works and also the curator statement on the slideshow.

Here are some of the short writings on the projection;

“Judgement of Line Orientation stems from exploring social structures created for people to find a sense of belonging as a community. The works included explore and question the act of creating such norms. These questions become more relevant in the context of our current times when constructs are blatantly exploited by the politics of nations and its powerful to divide. The photographic interrogations included draw from a strong base in the photographers personal thoughts or politics. For the curator, it questions the need and relevance of these structures and its impact on how we choose to live our lives today. The curation questions the formation of our multipletures and its impact on how we choose to live our lives today. The curation questions the formation of our multiple identities for nations, religions, mythologies, families and gender homogenization and its subsequent politics.”

  • Aapo Huhta – Ukkometso
  • Alejandro Chaskielberg – Otsuchi Future Memories
  • Andre Fernandes – Killing Kittens
  • Diego Moreno – Guardians of Memory
  • Dragana Jurisic – Yu the Lost Country
  • Kosuke Okahara – Ibasyo
  • Laurence Rasti – There are no homosexual in Iran
  • Magda Biernat – Adrift
  • Vasantha Yogananthan – Early Times
  • Yoshikatsu Fuji – Red String

The projection showcase a bunch of visually interesting narratives that really challenge the common society thought on a bunch of issues such as cultural minority, mentally challenged, and also towards understanding the common theme such as love. There is a lot to learn from it as well and hopefully it could go through (in some way) to the works that I had been working on myself.

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Daniel questioned the narratives and objectives used for the projection. 

After the projection night was done, I was somehow been able to join a group of friend for late supper before taking our time to take pictures of some people burning offering to the god. It’s that time of the month in Chinese Calendar and the whole town seems geared towards it as well.

Another late night stay before tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

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UTATANE by Rinko Kawauchi | A thought

UTATANE by Rinko Kawauchi | A thought

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!.

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The cover for ‘Utatane’

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 .

PRINTING QUALITY

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.

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Just to show how clever Rinko is in allowing the reader to interpret her work. I assume this is probably a relationship of the bubble being fragile similar to the thin line that is holding the two thread. 

NARRATIVE AND SEQUENCING

The thing with Rinko’s photo editing and sequencing is that it never really get boring. seriously.

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ALL OF US WORSHIPING TO THE ONE AND ONLY ALMIGHTY!!! (You can make up what you want to say)

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.

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From dark to light, a sequence on surprise. This one is my favorite. 

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.

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Sometimes Rinko also add in a similar visual element to pair up for the editing. The timing within the pages is rather refreshing. 

‘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.

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Again similar visual element being used as a pair. Maybe our sky is just a big washing machine to the alien above. 

CONCLUSION

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.

HIROMIX WORKS by Hiromix | A Review

HIROMIX WORKS by Hiromix | A Review

Photography, in my opinion, is perceived differently in many different culture but for certain, Photography is widely accepted as a form of story telling.

People have their own idea on what makes a good photo and how it should be presented but there is always a gap between a ‘Snapshot’ and ‘Pleasingly Aesthetic Looking Picture’. A snapshot is often consider as something that is taken quickly without any significant meaning other than to preserve a certain candid moment, and while it also known as something mundane, the question whether a ‘Snapshot’ could be consider into a narrative series is simply tempting to answer.

Although there is a lot of opinion on this matter where a bad picture is consider as an Artwork/Masterpiece (Daido Moriyama is often being labelled as an overrated photographer). ‘Snapshot’ in my opinion is the true way on how photography should be done, taking picture on your own impulsive reaction is often something that you will cherish later on after you have the prints printed. I am not promoting the idea of  a badly taken picture but more towards how people should approach something with their camera.

I have been thinking a lot about my standing on photography but there is always this thin line between what people call Aesthetically pleasing and Meaningful picture. Snapshot is often shoved aside without much consideration in the world of contemporary photography but a trend for this so call ‘snapshot’ have started back in the early 90’s by a teenage girl who happen to won a certain famous photography competition in Japan. The girl is non other than Hiromix. (her real name is Toshikawa Hiromi)

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I stumble upon her work on Tumblr and I was fascinated with how honest the picture is and the description on the picture was good enough for me to look further on Google. The picture was a self portrait of Hiromix from her famous entry for the Canon New Cosmos of Photography 1995. A rather blurred with highly vivid color from Cheap film negatives were the characteristic for all of Hiromix work. Apparently he seems to be rather famous in Japan not only as a photographer but also as a member of a band, a literal figure of what the Japanese would refer to as an ‘Idol’.

History aside, her work is the epitome of what candid photography should look like and since it was taken back in the early 90’s, her work reminds me of what Girl with Instagram would take in their everyday life (selfie, your breakfast, lunch, dinner, friends, mirror, skirts). She basically has been ‘Instagraming’ before it was cool and hopefully I could get a copy of her work that was publish by the famous German publisher.

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I got instead a copy of Hiromix photobook and its called Hiromix Works. Its Thick and well thought, from the cover finishing and all the way to the type of paper used for the book. Hiromix book is pretty hard to find on the second hand book market but I am pretty sure it is still available in many places if you look at the right places.

_K033675Picture of some celebrity for a Music magazine. Expect quite a few famous people from the Music Industry in the photobook.

Hiromix Works is a compilation of picture that was taken by Hiromix during the years where she works as a Photographer for a Music Magazine called ‘Rocking On’. The book is designed by a group of designer and art director and I must say that the book is sequenced quite well. There is no such clear narrative throughout the photobook but for a compilation of the work of one of Japan most iconic photographer in the early 90’s, this is really impressive and not that overwhelming for first time viewer as well.

008The sequence were nice and befitting with the objective of the whole photobook. 

Content wise, the photobook contain a lot of picture of some Japanese Superstar, none that I know of but I am pretty sure that they are famous. This indirectly what makes the photobook interesting as most of the subject in the photobook is quite good looking, even the guys. The photobook has no such pages number but instead it was divided into years from 1995-1999.

In term of Hiromix photography style, I could say that there is a high level of intimacy within every picture. It is far from technically perfect picture that is often associated for a Music magazine but I guess this is what the Magazine is hoping for to show the life of a Celebrity. Hiromix candid approach that is shown throughout the photobook is just one of the few variety in the photobook and some of it was taken in a rather Professional matter.

_K033674Not the best product picture that I have seen but this is just some of the picture that was taken by Hiromix for the magazine. 

_K033681I kinda like her style, she makes celebrity looks like a normal human being. 

On why I find Hiromix work to be appealing is probably just how she manage to keep the same vibe that is shown during her earlier work during her teenage years. The same punchy and intimate gesture of her subject shows the level of mutual understanding between the photographer and the subject. I am sure that none of the picture could be taken without some sort of understanding and to be honest, there is quite a lot of her self portrait with her subject, most likely taken after the end of a photo shooting session.

_K033666Probably some of the weirdest picture from the photobook. Its interesting but I really wish those guy were some hot femal Japanese artist!.

Self portrait is one of Hiromix trademark and somehow the art director manage to slip in a few of this in some of the pages and I personally believe it gives the whole photobook some sort of an approval stamp as well. For example, even the last picture on the photobook is a self portrait of her brushing her teeth!.

009Some of the self portrait of Hiromix in the photobook.

Here is some interesting thing that I found while browsing through the photobook. Usually people avoid placing their picture in the middle of the book gutter but the designer seems to find this as a good idea. It doesn’t affect the mood of the whole photobook but I find it quite annoying and there is a lot of it as well. I am not sure why but I would like to hear the reason behind such decision.

001Annoying and disturbing, but I think some might agree that it makes for a good pause while browsing through the pages.

To conclude my thought on Hiromix works, I decided to show one of my favourite picture from the whole photobook. Its a picture of some girl eating ice-cream. Composition wise, its good although it looks quite random when I look at it the second time but maybe its just me falling in love with the girl in the picture. A cute girl licking an ice-cream have some sexy element to it and the ice cream contrast well with the background. I thought the sequence is quite nice as well but this is just a few of those nicely sequenced picture from the whole series.

_K033671The details from her face is interesting as well, usually celebrity wear quite a thick make-up to cover those up, or Photoshop was uncommon and expensive during that time.
_K033670The sequence.

For a teenage girl who have once shock the photography world in Japan, she done quite well in the industry. Being one of the first pioneer for a ‘Girl Photo Diary’ theme, she create a certain awareness among the young girls especially at the time where the country is dominated mostly by mens. I hope to get her other photobook that was publish by Steidl to compliment with this photobook that I got last year. I also did some research on the internet but it appears she is on a hiatus from Photography, the last photobook of her was Hiromix Works. I just hope she will make a come back someday with a rather fresh new series of picture. I am quite certain she has a lot more to offer.

My Top 5 favourite Photobook for 2013

My Top 5 favourite Photobook for 2013

My list for ‘My top 5 fav photobook for 2013’ is probably insignificant compare to the thousand of list from the like of New York times but I decided to go through with it anyway as a highlight on the interesting photobook that I manage to get my hand on from last year.

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It was certainly difficult to list a ‘Top 5’ as most of the book that I got was bought according to my preference but a good photobook doesn’t only inform the viewer on its subject but also inspire them. I learn a lot from photobook and to be honest, I prefer to look at other people work instead of taking picture for my own photography projects. It doesn’t sounds good on my wallet but the thrill of waiting the photobook to arrive by post is really exciting (and flipping through the pages is a bonus)

Here’s is my Top 5 Photobook for 2013, the selection is based more on personal reason than artistic opinion but still it’s worth mentioning beforehand.

1) Junko Takahashi – School Days

School is a special place to most people and looking through the book really reminds me of my teenage years. Junko Takahashi -School days made it into my list simply because I enjoy looking through the nostalgic documentation of normal Japanese school life. Each of the picture portray the life of a Japanese high school student and most of the picture consist a mix of portrait and candid snapshot inside the school.

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Junko Takahashi was literally an unknown photographer to me but her book can be bought from Amazon.

2) Andri Tambunan – Against all odd

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is probably one of the most well documented disease throughout mankind history. Andri Tambunan did a great job in documenting the effect of HIV among the people of Papua but what makes this book so interesting in my opinion is the amount of visual story within the book. He doesn’t only document the suffering of the victims and the family, he also managed to inform us the roots of the whole problem within Papua itself.

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Overall it is a complete book that is not only full of interesting visual but also well written and the well researched article is well written. The book can be sourced from the photographer website though.

3) Ian Teh – TRACES

China is a country known for Communism and extreme capitalism. Despite their major advancement in terms of economy as the world largest force in manufacturing, this has given a negative impact to its people and also to its beautiful landscape. China is not a country well known for its environmental effort and this has prompt Ian Teh to capture the other side of China which he has been doing diligently for the past few years. Its impressive on how the book was sequenced where the panoramic landscape picture is being complemented well with another few series from the nearby coal factory worker. There is a good narrative feel to it with a simple conclusion as a whole and yet, its feels poetic.

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Ian Teh photobook can be bought online. – http://deepsleepeditions.com/

4) Kim Hak – UNITY

When Norodom Sihanouk, the late Combodia King died on 15 October 2013. It send a massive shock wave  throughout the nation. Kim Hak decided to document the funeral procession as the entire Cambodia mourn on the death of their beloved King. The historical event was capture well by Kim Hak and the consistent color throughout the photobook really adds to the atmosphere.

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I really like the photobook simply because of the well captured image of an important historical event of Cambodia.

5) Hajime Kimura – KODAMA

Hajime Kimura interest on the Matagi people led him to an adventure that saw him cycling all the way to the Northern Japan. The high contrast black and white imagery flow smoothly across the pages and the printing is probably one of the best in my collection. The Matagi people is probably one of the most unique existing tribe in Japan even though they are keen in preserving some of their tradition in this modern world.

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The book is probably out of stock at the moment as its only printed in 500 copy but no harm in asking the photographer himself to see if he is planning for a second reprint.

Worth mentioning; Nozomi Iijima – Scoffing Pig, Shinya Arimoto – Ariphoto series, Hiromix – Hiromix Work, Aik Beng Chia – Tonight the streets are ours, Aji Susanto – Nothing personal.

“Scoffing Pig” by Nozomi Iijima | A REVIEW

“Scoffing Pig” by Nozomi Iijima | A REVIEW

Photographer nowadays have a lot of option to publish their work to their audience and I believe the rise of social media on the Internet have been very influential in this trend.

With photography become more accessible to almost everyone, more people wanted to share their picture in the instant that they have captured it and personally, I don’t really like it but the idea is certainly tempting (i have an Instagram account by the way) but sometimes its not the best way to present your own personal photography work accept for those thing related with your friends and family.

Internet has make photography to be accessible to most part of the world and promoting your work has never been this convenient. This has somehow reduce the demands in photography prints and it is pretty obvious as most of the local photo lab around Malaysia is closing down, even in my own hometown. The fact that this has slowly changing the usual trend from 10 years ago means that photographer need to adapt to survive and somehow I find people just need to be more open minded and take advantage of this opportunity.

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Facebook is a powerful online platform to promote your photography work and if used wisely, more people will be exposed to your work. I find this true as I manage to find a lot of inspirational work from a photographer that I didn’t even know exist such as Hajime Kimura, Kosuke Okahara and Aik Beng Chia, just to name a few. A few months ago I saw a photo essay on IPA website called ‘Scoffing Pig’. It was good and nicely done which impress me on the photographer effort to answer such difficult question on the life of domesticated animal. A few days later, I happen to saw a familiar picture with a prints of a pigs, which is oddly similar to ‘Scoffing Pig’ that I saw a few days before and to my surprise it was. This prove that internet is a good way to promote your work to international audience and this is just a few of those that I found on Facebook.

There was something interesting about it as it was not just a print but an ‘accordion’ shape book that consist the work of the photographer from her series ‘Scoffing pig’.

WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING?.

I actually like the series, not because of the photobook design.

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Sometimes I ask myself on the life of those caged animal which were raise and born in a farm where their only sole purpose is to be slaughter once they have reach their suitable age. It was certainly weird to live a life like that only to wait for your own death knowing well that everything is temporary. The photographer really have a strong stand in this and it was certainly shown on her portrait of the pigs which is pretty strong and human like in my opinion.

Nozomi Iijima is the daughter of a farmer, born and raise around the cattle pen and piggery. She have a very interesting story to tell;

“With my house between a cattle pen and piggery, I grew up with the calls of livestock and the smells of grain and dung. My parents worked at the pen everyday, and often faced injuries from the kicks of cows. Once during elementary school, my classmates came to visit my house as part of a school excursion. One of them said, “I feel sorry for them.” I was a little distressed to hear that because I felt the same way. I asked my friends “So, you don’t drink milk?” or “Don’t you eat meat?”, but that did not ease my mind. I have been thinking about this for a long time.”

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You can have a look at her work on IPA Website and if you are interested in getting a copy, try looking at this link : http://reminders-project.org/rps/nozomi-iijima-newsprint-scoffing-pig-is-now-on-sale/

FIRST IMPRESSION

Simply creative.

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I got the photobook along with a newsprint and a handbag through a pledge that they offer on the Photography Stronghold website. It was worth it although it took a long time before I actually receive it but it was certainly nice to be able to support a fellow photographer on their work and in return, to receive a piece of their own personal work right on my door step. The concept for the pledge is really interesting and I probably would do the same somewhere in the future.

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The package arrive in a nice package and I particularly like the newsprint more than the ‘accordian’ shape photobook.

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Concept wise, this is certainly new for me as it open up another new possibilities in showcasing your work in the form of a photobook plus its entirely handmade (accept the newsprint though). I believe newsprint is probably cheaper to make compare to a conventional designed photobook which means it could be produce in higher volume or quantity at once. This would be great for a project which require a worldwide attention or something that is related to a certain political or environmental issue.

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Somehow I believe the dark stark black and white imagery from Nozomi suits well with the newsprint medium as it doesn’t make you to concern over the image sharpness or quality.

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The accordion style  photobook on the other hand has a different feel to it as the unconventional way to look through the image is different than most photobook but it offer greater possibility to make an entire series of picture to look much more attractive in terms of sequencing. The printing seems to be alright as well. As you can see, somehow the black and white image suits well with subject and the message is pretty clear to me, “Animal is a living thing!!!”.

GOING THROUGH THE BOOK

I am a fan of high contrast black and white picture but a lot of people doesn’t seems to do it as well as Daido Moriyama or Hajime Kimura. High Contrast black and white picture tend to look superficial if it is not done properly and it certainly need a proper image editing before before sequencing it into a book and surprisingly, it works well in Nozomi Iijima photobook, although I prefer the newsprint better than the DIY photobook.

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The accordion photobook is interesting in its own way as you can stretch across the table or display shelf to show the entire spread in the series, something that I might do for myself in the future considering the creative outcome from seeing one here. There is also a different series at the back of the photobook cover which consist a series of portrait of the pigs, presumably Nozomi own piggy in their farm. This series is interesting because the way the picture were arranged reminds me of the picture that was used to show a deceased person. (or those who lose they life in wars.)

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High contrast black and white enhance the rather dark atmosphere of the farm surrounding and the portrait of the pigs is so human like, it reminds me of those old portrait of a fallen soldier during WWII and to think that this pig is soon will be killed for human consumption, I couldn’t help but to think that this series is all about the common life of a farm animals. This is a photo series that reminds us the true nature of commercialism and that life is somehow different with other living things, especially those we call ‘food’ and ‘pets’.

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Flipping (or rather scrolling?) through the image on the accordion book is a nice experience and I wonder why I haven’t thought about this before. For a DIY photobook, its not bad and it certainly easy to make as long as someone is willing to spend some time gluing those paper together. The sequence is nice although I would prefer some of the picture to change from here and there but overall,  its good.

CONCLUSION

Impressive, those are the word that I could say when I finish going through the newsprint and photobook.

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D.I.Y photobook shows us another unexplored medium in the recent years where internet has been involves in practically everything in our life. This give me a new appreciation on printed media and its power to influence people to such degree and combine with the effectiveness of the internet in spreading coverage (or propaganda), DIY photobook could certainly lift your photography to another level.

Nozomi Iijima photobook have reach its target worldwide and I am sure there should be more coming out from her in the next few years. Her ‘Scoffing Pig’ series is truly impressive and despite the rather high contrast imagery throughout the series, I couldn’t help but to feel content with the fact that she manage to capture all the intricate detail of the life of a living life stock. This certainly provide another interesting addition to my collection and if people were wondering on whether or not to get a copy of the newsprints, you guys probably should. 😀

*I was just informed that Nozomi Iijima was one of the finalist for IPA Photo Award 2013, check it out : http://invisiblephotographer.asia/2013/07/23/photobookasiaaward2013-finalist5/
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*Some of my family member (who are not photographers) are really impress on the series.

School Day by Junko Takahashi | A Review

School Day by Junko Takahashi | A Review

My high school year is probably one of my most cherish memory in my life.

For me, school was not a place to gain education but more as a place to hang out with my friends. Let’s be honest here, nobody go to school just to learn some algebra. The main reason will always be because of your friends. Its not that I have a problem with Malaysia education system but let’s face it, School was one of the ‘coolest’ (convenient) place to hang out especially during extra co-curriculum.

It was a bit more chaotic than I remember and seeing some of the old picture that I took during that time really recalls a lot of nostalgic memory. My first love, my first fall down the stair in public, my first fight against someone over some silly stuff, and to be honest, School is the place that most of us share similar memories.

Everyone have their own high school memory and Junko Takahashi photobook called ‘School Days’ really evoke this nostalgic feeling during my high school years, even though the picture was taken in different place with a different culture.

INTRODUCTION

I saw Junko Takahashi work on my Tumblr newsfeed and I was suprise to see how simple the photographs looks. It wasn’t something from her School Days photobook but from her latest work, ‘The Receptionist’. There is a subtle glow in her work which seems to be a common staple for a photographer coming from Japan and later on I found that there is a book of her that is on sale at So-Books (http://so-books.tumblr.com/). Her work reminds me or Rinko Kawauchi although with a slightly higher in contrast.

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A click on the website preview provoke me to buy a copy and for 1500yen, it seems to be a bargain but I hesitate for a while since I have used up all my budget on photobook for that month. But I was lucky that  a friend of mine happen to visit Japan recently and he agree to get that copy for me (although he ended up with more photobook than he could carry). Personally, I believe I have a good taste in photography and usually I could immediately tell a good photobook (or movies) from seeing one of its pages and Junko Takahashi ‘School Day’ photobook really have that certain vibes which is similar to the first time when I saw Hajime Kimura photography work.

Photography should be honest and clear to other people and I find the subject in her photobook is probably one of the honest subject to be approached by a photographer.

FIRST IMPRESSION

COMPACT, TIGHT, FIRM.

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Well, it sounds decent enough but ‘School Day’ is just like any normal A5 sized softcover photobook would be but of course of a good quality, especially in term of printing and binding. The printing was good and I really like the rendering of the warm vivid color of the photograph. It gives a good retro atmosphere to the whole series. A flip through some of the pages reminds me of some of the scene in Anime where the main character will always sits at the end of the classroom facing the windows (I am a fan of Japanese manga by the way).

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One thing that I notice is that people could somehow experience the life of a Japanese student in their school and as someone who grew up with Japanese anime and manga, this give me a wonderful insight on the actual life of a real Japanese student. Although this was taken from a teacher perspective.

WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING?.

This picture was taken by the photographer when she is working as a teacher in one of Japanese High School. The matter of perspective is really important here and it should probably be one of the highlight in the photobook. The fact that is was taken from a teacher point of view who is probably trying her best to mix with the student is truly admirable and as a result, the intimacy with the student is truly obvious in the series just as if it was taken by one of the student.

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It reminds me of the nostalgic feeling during my high school years and I truly wish I have taken a lot of picture with my friends. All the silly stuff that we did, just like the one in the photobook where the kids is playing baseball or cricket in the hallway. Crazy stuff!.

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If the pictures doesn’t give you this fuzzy feeling in your stomach, then I don’t know what you have been through during your teenage years. The photobook seems to be rare and it quite hard to see a copy of it online so if you saw one, just grab it. Its worth it.

GOING THROUGH THE BOOK.

Like any normal book, you need to flip through the pages to see the next picture.

The picture were well printed and all the photograph have this warm colour tones in which probably because of the film used by the photographer. There is a sense of intimacy in the entire series and it started out with a few portraits of her student before slowly getting into the candid surrounding around the school.

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This is one of my favorite picture. It truly reminds me of my school years and to be honest, I believe my classmates is much more crazier than this.

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And it is nice to see how the photographer decide to add a series of picture on a spread pages. This doesn’t work well unless there is some obvious changes within every frame but then again, it gives you a good idea on how the school atmosphere is. I could swear that I heard some Japanese while flipping through this book.

CONCLUSION.

For a small and rare book, this is truly a stunning addition to my collection.

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I consider myself lucky to get a copy of this as it seems to be pretty hard to find elsewhere on the internet other than in some second hand book store in Japan. Junko Takahashi did a wonderful job in capturing all the picture for the book. I wish I could meet her and say ‘thank you’ for going through all the effort to make the book a reality.

The photobook could also serve as a way to introduce the Japanese school culture, especially for those Anime fans. As for photographer, it might depends on their interest but I simply love the photobook and totally recommend it to whoever manage to get their hand on it.

CONTACT #1 by Kosuke Okahara | A review

CONTACT #1 by Kosuke Okahara | A review

Most ‘Master’ photographer doesn’t always share their contact sheet to public, let alone making a magazine out of it.

Contact sheet is a private stuff, and it usually shows how bad a photographer is before they manage to capture a certain picture. Even the legendary Henri Cartier Bresson have a  love-hate relationship with it along with some other famous photographer.

“A contact sheet is full of erasures, full of detritus. A photo exhibition or a book is an invitation to a meal, and it is not customary to make guests poke their noses into the pots and pans, and even less into the buckets of peelings . . . Pulling a good picture out of a contact sheet is like going down to the cellar and bringing back a good bottle to share.” ~Henri Cartier-Bresson

That is how a photographer feels when they are working on a contact sheet and although I was born during the rise of digital media, I still have some appreciation to the process and it is one of the reason why shooting with film camera seems more tempting to me. Contact sheet is used as a way to judge and select a good picture from the entire roll of negative but I never thought of the idea in compiling it in a form of magazine just for story telling.

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I stumble upon the work of Kosuke Okahara when his CONTACT #1 got featured on Invisible Photographer Asia facebook page and it spark my curiosity when I saw that the cover is made out of contact sheet, which I presume at that time as something that the photographer use to select one of his picture. So, I google his work and I instantly bookmarked his website and blog once I saw a couple of his work.

James Natchwey is a famous war photographer whose work that I am familiar with but Kosuke Okahara approach on the brutality of his subject is much more subtle and far more human in nature. He didn’t try to show the gruesome nature of the stuff that he encounter but instead he focus more on the daily life of his subject and the consequences of a certain issue towards the subject.

The magazine consist a series of contact sheet from one of Kosuke project, “Any Given Day”, plus some huge print on certain pages. – http://kosukeokahara.com/stories/anygivenday-e/index.html

WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING?

Seriously?, a large size magazine that consist a contact sheet of the photographer at a cheap price? What not to shout about?, plus its the same contact sheet that he use while editing for one of his project, which gives me more reason to get a copy of it.

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Usually, photographer always tell a story in a series of picture but this magazine tell us more about the photographer own journey. The fact that he include his contact sheet along with a full page print on the next page allow us to get a sense on his photographic vision and journey as it allow us to participate along with the storyline.

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“Any Given Day” was a recent project by Kosuke Okahara on the Gangster and Slum community of Medellin, Colombia. Its an interesting subject and you can find more of it at http://www.kosukeokahara.com/stories/anygivenday-e/index.html

INITIAL IMPRESSION.

Contact sheet being printed on large paper. Stapled and folded. A very simple design.

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One thing that I notice from the magazine is the fact that the prints have a rather blue colored cast on most of it, which I don’t really like as it ruins the picture in a sense. The prints sharpness is ‘Okay’ by standard but at such price, you really wonder whether this magazine was printed by a inkjet printed or using a Xerox machine. Its a bargain nevertheless and soon I realize that the way the magazine tells its story is much more fascinating than the usual photobook. Unique is a much more accurate terms on this magazine.

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GOING THROUGH THE BOOK.

The whole book have this classic 60’s design where the font for the essay were written in a classic typewriter font instead of the usual helvetica while the entire layout look similar to the usual document form that you see in the old James Bond Movie. There is a sort of retro feeling while going through the entire series which makes you forget that the entire series was taken recently in 2010.

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Even though I complain a bit on the printing part, it was actually quite ‘okay’ and apart from the color tint, there is nothing to be fault on. It was big enough to compensate for the silly tint and I ignore that minor part a few minute later as I spent more time with a magnifying glass on the entire contact sheet.

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Somehow, after inspecting every frame on the contact sheet, I realize that there is some other interesting frame from the entire contact sheet but  it didn’t make the final cut. I wonder why because it might look great with the other series but here’s the thing, we are not the photographer and the photographer himself have different objective than us!!!.

It reminds me on one of John Sypal quote from his blog;

“The thing I like most about editing contact sheets is how similar it is to the act of photography itself. Re-selection, a chance to catch it again, it’s part of how it all becomes an “adventure in seeing“, indeed.” – John Sypal

We need to be reminded with the fact that every photographer have a different purpose and perspective on how Photography should conduct and this is the exact thing during a photographer selection from their contact sheet.

CONCLUSION

Looking at someone else contact sheet is always a good experience and it is even more intriguing when the photographer is one of your favourite (I became a fan of Kosuke work ever since I gone through his entire photo essay). I learn a lot on Kosuke approach on his subject and if you have seen his other work, you can sense the intimacy between him and the subject.

If you are wondering how a good photographer working on their subject, the best way is to have a look at their contact sheet but in todays world where digital is imminent and analog working process seems obsolete, your best bet is to ask them for directly if they still have the file.

Somehow I am impress with Kosuke Contact #1. There is a sense of awe after I finished reading it and I believe this kind of magazine would not make any sense if it was taken with digital. I really admire the fact that he, somehow, willing to print his contact sheet in exact size but I think that is what he intend to do so from the beginning.

And if anyone want to learn  more on how a ‘Master’ approach their project but don’t have the spare cash to buy Magnum Contact Sheet. Kosuke latest publication might just be worth it.

If anyone wanted to get their copy of this, you can do so from here – http://www.kosukeokahara.com/blog/books/481.html