my make believe collection :: 9 :: masao yamamoto

Contributor post by Lisa Solomon

masao yamamoto, box of ku 154
masao yamamoto, box of ku 246

back in the 90's i worked for braunstein/quay gallery [a contemporary art gallery in san francisco that will be closing its doors soon - after 50 year !]. the gallery was housed in a building that had several other galleries. one was michael shapiro gallery, he specialized in photographs.

masao yamamoto, nakazoro 1082

masao yamamoto, 1651 
to be honest, photography is not my strong suit. sure there are photographers i admire and respect. and i dabble in polaroid and other types of photography myself - although i would NEVER consider myself a "real" photographer. but i don't really know or understand a lot about photographic history [not in the same way i relate to the history of painting and drawing]. i don't really know how cameras work - or the fundamentals of aperture, ISO, bokeh, etc. i just shoot by trial and error, and i know when i like a photograph. for whatever reason.

masao yamamoto, 1213
i also have to say that i'm often attracted to photos generated in a more analog way. that's not to say i don't adore some digital imagery - or to detract from the skill or beauty that digital photos can hold, but usually when i fall in love with a photograph it's roots lie in film [of any sort], and it's often printed in an alternative or antiquated method/process.

masao yamamoto, 1175
but i digress. back in the 90's mr. shaprio had a show of masao yamaoto's works. a show entitled box of ku. and because that show was next door to where i worked i was fortunate enough to live with it. i visited it almost every trip to the bathroom. every time i had to go out of the gallery for lunch or run an errand i would pop in. i kept the announcement card in my desk for eons. until it was falling apart and dusty and dirty from years of sitting there.

masao yamamoto, box of ku 140
masao yamamoto, 1409

there is something so deceptively simple about yamamoto's photographs. they imply a narrative - but never tell a whole story. the feel incredibly nostalgic, and immensely personal. it doesn't ever feel like there is a completely random image - sure some things are caught by luck or chance as that seems to be part of the magic of photography, but then there is a larger force at work. a sense of thought and purpose and hunting for that image. knowing that a particular image belongs in the group with the others....

masao yamamoto, kawa/flow 1606
 they also feel inherently japanese to me. you might say DUH he's japanese, but no - i mean more than just that. his images really embody something about the culture, the aesthetic - they obviously contain landscape and characters that are distinctly japanese, but there's also a sense of composition, of restraint, of quiet that seems to be relayed in a particular way . in fact it is often said that his work is like haiku poetry and i couldn't agree more.

masao yamamoto, box of ku 67
 to help make that point: here's what he says about his latest body of work: KAWA=FLOW
is about the world where we are and the world where we go in the future.
Although we seem to be connected continually there is a rupture between us in the present and those that went before us or that come next.
I tried to perceive this rupture as a KAWA (FLOW, river) that divides a plain and expressed the resulting reflexions in this works.

think, though, that one of the things that REALLY attracts me to this work is the way that he often installs his photographs.

instead of simply framing them and lining them up in perfect rows he often creates installations out of them. groupings of images that then become more powerful and poignant as they ebb and flow against one another. love that there are different scales, different tones, different frames, different methods of printing all living with one another. sometimes he hand colors an image or repeats an image in different saturations.

i think i would be hard pressed to simply choose one image. i would definitely want a grouping [any of the ones i've posted would be A-OK with me !]. in my dream collection i would have mr. yamamoto come and install a whole wall. in any way he'd like - would that be amazing?

until next time - you can follow my collection as it grows on pinterest !


lisa solomon is a mixed media artist who lives in oakland, CA with her husband, young daughter, a one eyed pit bull, a french bulldog, a cross-eyed cat, a 3 legged cat, and many many spools of thread. she moonlights as a college professor, a graphic designer, and is a partner in MODify/d a crafty biz that up/cycles and re/purposes discards from the fashion industry.

Jan Halvarson


jamie w said...

its just amazing. they do tell a story but not quite all of it.

Marissa Buschow said...

I'd never heard of this photographer but now I'm definitely a fan. Thanks so much for telling us about him!

lisa solomon said...

a girl called james : isn't that one of the best aspects of the work?

marissa - so glad !!

Jan Halvarson said...

i love the wall display - love.

lisa solomon said...

me too jan :) me too ! :)

kara rane said...

perfect* & agree on the old is amazing that so many young artists (even photographers graduating from Brooks in SB Ca.) have no understanding of a dark room or film process.
l♡ve this art.

lisa solomon said...

kara - i know. the dark room is quickly quickly becoming a lost lost art :(

glad you like these !

izzy22 said...

wow thanks for posting this. His photos are amazing and really do capture the culture and spirit of Japan. Beautiful.

lisa solomon said...

so glad you enjoyed them izzy !

hayley said...

mr. yamamoto is so talented! ive been in love with his photos and philosophy on image making upon being first introduced a few years ago at The Print Center in philadelphia, as an intern at the gallery. We were so fortunate to have him come in, speak and install!

nina said...

yamamoto is by far my favorite artist. i became a photographer because of him. his work inspires me beyond anything else.