Wednesday, 11 November 2015

shoji ueda: isolated and austere

Shōji Ueda Office - Chose Commune

Shoji Ueda, published by Chose Commune, is a collection of great photography by the Japanese photographer of the same name.

Ueda began photographing in the 1930s, and developed his staged style of shooting in the post-war years, using the Totori sand dunes as a back drop for staged photos that were both surrealist (and you can see more of that side of his work here) and minimalist in nature.

Shōji Ueda Office - Chose Commune

The minimalism is evident in this new publication which focusses more on the landscape of Japan than the surrealism. There are some images from the sand dunes (but not the best known. I guess there's another book in the wings somewhere), there are pictures from his Children Calendar series, and there images of snow; it all goes to create an idea of Japan as a country that is somehow austere and isolated. Which it is I suppose without really knowing.

Shōji Ueda Office - Chose Commune

It's quite beautiful really, with pictures of a boy on roller skates on a harbour wall leading into a broken television and an austere snowscape. There are profiles of children, figures isolated on a wave like tower of a sand dune and a framing of a figure within a picture frame against a big sky.

Big skies, silhouettes, and geometric patterns create a strong formal narrative throughout the book. It gives a slightly lonely and sad feeling that combines the claustrophobic and the agrophobic in equal measure. I'm not quite sure how it does that, but the openness of the big skies and the wide seas is matched by a closed-in feeling.

There are colour pictures slotted in there as well, but they interfere more than anything. But overall, the book is a really lovely monograph that has been very thoughtfully edited to give a narrative direction and an overview of Ueda that gives a feeling for where his work is situated.

Buy the book here.

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