Hiroshi Watanabe – Findings


Photographs copyright of Hiroshi Watanabe courtesy of Photolucida

Hiroshi Watanabe’s book Finding published by Photolucida is the grand prize winner of the 2006 Critical Mass. While reading this I find that I am always looking at life through a veil. There always seems to be something between me and what I think the subject is.  Which may be overlooking one the underlying theme of this book; the many layers of reality that exists in our lives and the many layers which we are not fully conscious.

The potential subject often appears to be just beyond my reach whether that is the other side of a window screen or curtain, or a glass window, or some netting. There is a hand slightly concealed within a sheer glove, birds resting on a porch sunscreen, industrial plants or bridge lurking in the mist, and birds behind semi-transparent cage doors. The subject is obscured by a hard metal scrim, a lacy transparent spider web, a wall of bubbles or a semi-transparent wall created of blooming tree limbs. Perhaps I think that the subject is finally revealed such as the fish laying on a wooden top but then take note that it is enclosed within a transparent bag almost within touch but still just beyond my grasp.

There is a wooden fence that entirely blocks our view as an opaque barrier between us and what might be just beyond. The early visual subtitles giving way to a final hard statement of fact that we are limited in our perception of reality. We can not see through this fence; it is there and obscures everything beyond. We have a hint of what might be beyond as we can view the sky and the clouds that hover above it.

Frequently Watanabe includes within his photograph shadows and silhouettes of either someone or something. The details are obscured, hinted at, and what we can see exists as a shadow metaphor for someone or something which is just beyond our comprehension. Their presence is a shadow projected on a semi-translucent door, behind a hanging gauze, on fences or on a window.

There is his photograph of the missing person using a cut-out of an historical Japanese person with an opening for a someones face to complete the picture. Anyone can stand behind and place their face in the opening and for a moment this can become a symbolic person in history. Are there not many people who wold like to step into an important role and play a significant part in life? Part fantasy with a hint of alter-ego that we wish were true? The photograph of the cut-out is also similar to his  shadows and silhouettes as a representation of the real thing as a symbol that implies a presence but lacking tangible substance.

I enjoy the multitude of layers that hint at complexity in even of the simplest of things. These thoughtful photographs are very dreamlike.

The hardcover book is in a size that is consistent for Photolucida at 8 3/4 x 10 1/4″ with a tipped-in cover photograph on the black linen boards encompassing 64 pages and nicely printed and bound in Hong Kong. The design and layout of the photographs is very classic with nice white margins that make the book a pleasure to read, which is complemented by the duotone printing.  The two afterwords are by Anthony Bannon and Kirsten Rian with a summary of the photograph’s captions. The book, photographs and texts are copyright 2007.

Due to the books publication date this book will not be on my list of best books for 2009 but it is a book that I enjoy and recommend as one of the better books that I have reviewed in 2009.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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