A few months back, a friend of mind showed me "IN OSAKA" by Japanese photographer, Ko-ji Yamasaki. After flipping through a few pages of the book, I knew I was hooked by the strong, grainy, black and white photos of daily life in Kansai, Japan. I was so moved, that I contacted him via his website to purchase his book. I was glad to receive his reply, and eventually his book. In fact, he was kind enough to send me two copies. I was so excited, that I made this unboxing video.
Through our back and forth communications, I began to understand the motivation behind his bleak and striking images; however, rather than try to review his book from MY point of view, I thought it would be better to let Yamasaki explain a little about his ideas.
Q1: Your book is undoubtedly emotional, and you mention that in the introductory conversation that you wanted to convey sad feelings. When the book was finally published, did you feel a sense of emotional relief? Not just simple happiness, but something deeper for you.
A1: Upload photographs on the web; organize them as a photographic collection and display it. This is an action to show and tell something with pictures, but this doesn’t enable you to remove the darkness that has been at the very bottom of one's heart. I project on pictures emotions which I can’t totally express with words, and I have been recording the emotions by projecting them on photos, which enable the emotions to be visible.
Q2: Almost all of the images in the book are simple subjects of daily life, but the feelings they convey are very powerful and magnetic. It’s difficult for me NOT to look at your pictures so intensely. I’m made to look at them; inspect them, read them; communicate with them even though the image is that of room with a bed / futon (page 22). Why do you think rough, hard images of simple life are so alluring?
A2: The scenery we see every day looks calm and peaceful (at least in Japan). However, it doesn’t match with the fragile emotions that exist in your heart. I want to express them with pictures as much as I can. Coarse particles and colorless monochrome, unstable forms which are relative to emotions, films which are live media, those are natural options to me.
Q3: Unlike some photographers like Osamu Kanemura who shoot high-contrast, gloomy, chaotic cityscapes, his pictures have almost no humans in them. Similarly, yours are harsh, brutal, severe, which includes people, but their face is either hidden or blurred. What is your motivation to show people, but “not to show” them?
A3: There are two cases. One of them is when a camera recognizes a person as a human, and the other case is when it recognizes a person as a part of the scenery. In the latter case, the person shows up in the photo as a subject with the scenery which is changing and moving in front of me, not as a human.
Q4: Simple question: have you ever thought about shooting a series in color?
A4: I sometimes take color pictures. I took color pictures with nice films the other day (all of them were bad though). But, I can’t express my feelings with color pictures because my gray stormy feelings often come out. So I take color pictures for a change of pace. Although color pictures have reality as a visual, the reality that is very close to my true feelings is the world of monochrome. In other words, what is very important to me is that my pictures depict my feelings.
Q5: Lastly, on the contact sheets included in the book, you list your technique for processing and printing, and we can see the effects on the images. Do you always make images in this manner? Do you plan to try different styles in the future?
A5: The data that I use when I print photographs from the negatives can be decided by the films I use. I make contact sheets when there are a lot of negatives which are not printed yet. And I like watching the contact sheets. You can say that one film is one photograph. And it is true perfection of one's own LOG.
I am not thinking about a new style. For example, I am not thinking that I will start using a digital camera. Including work like printing photographs from negatives using chemicals or printing photographs in a darkroom, those are very important “photograph actions” to me.
You can find "IN OSAKA" on Amazon here.
Thank you very much, Ko-ji Yamasaki for taking the time to share your thoughts.
I'm sure many of his fans are looking forward to the release of a future publication.