The PhotoBook Journal

May 14, 2009

Hiroshi Watanabe – Findings

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:24 pm


Photographs copyright of Hiroshi Watanabe courtesy of Photolucida

In Hiroshi Watanabe’s book Finding published by Photolucida is the grand prize winner of the 2006 Critical Mass. While reading this book 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 many of which we are not fully conscious of.

The potential subject of his photographs often appears to be just beyond my reach whether that is on 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 subjects are 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.

Finally 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 there as we can only view the sky and clouds 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 reach and 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 an significant part in life? Part total fantasy and with a hint of alter-ego that we wish were true? This photograph of the cut-out is also similar to his  shadows and silhouettes as a representation of the real thing and a symbol that implies a presence but lacking tangible substance.

I like the multitude of layers that hint at complexity in even of the simplest of things. These thoughtful photographs are dreamlike but not with a watery or soft appearance that fully evoke my imagination.

The hardcover book is in a size that is becoming 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 and complements the 57 duotone photographs very well.  The two nicely written afterwords are by Anthony Bannon and Kirsten Rian with a summation 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 and one of the better books that I have reviewed in 2009.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

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  1. These are such beautiful photographs. The duotone photographs is very well done. this is the sort of project we wish we could always work with. Bravo.

    Comment by Sam — November 24, 2010 @ 12:54 am

  2. […] of the Photolucida Critical Mass event in 2006, three photographers were awarded monographs, Hiroshi Watanabe, Sage Sohier and Louie Palu, for his photo-project Gage Call: Life and Death in the Hard Rock […]

    Pingback by Louie Palu – Cage Call « The PhotoBook — November 3, 2011 @ 2:54 am

  3. imágenes bellas

    Comment by Consuelo Mendez — November 3, 2011 @ 9:46 am

  4. […] this week I had an opportunity to meet up with Hiroshi Watanabe (books: Findings and Love Point) at his studio and during the tour, I found myself rather taken by his darkroom. […]

    Pingback by Darkroom – Hiroshi Watanabe « Singular Images — December 9, 2011 @ 9:23 pm

  5. […] of him could look like.  I have been writing about his photography since his photobook Findings was published by Photolucdia in […]

    Pingback by Hiroshi Watanabe – studio portrait « Singular Images — December 14, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

  6. […] Watanabe has previously expressed his interest in collaborative photobooks, where there is an editorial and design team to play off of. As I understand, Watanabe still maintains a veto vote, thus I think the first book spread below is characteristic of his humor and subtle dialog. We see a photograph of a smiling young man who is caught in mid-salute while looking to the facing page and the photograph of painting of the Kim Jong II amongst is smiling constitutes, as though this is a little smirk and a node as to might be really true versus fiction. With most of Watanabe’s paired photographs, those that face each other do so for a reason in which one plus one creates a multitude. Nevertheless, and probably unsurprising, I also observe similarities in the layering of the subject’s content, which appear to be color versions of the photographs featured in his subsequent photobook Findings. […]

    Pingback by Hiroshi Watanabe – Ideology in Paradise « The PhotoBook — December 29, 2011 @ 11:18 pm

  7. […] Michal Kastenam and myself, as the interviewer, to expand on an earlier Watanabe photobook Findings, a photobook which I had reviewed in 2009. Watanabe was a Critical Mass winner and the resulting […]

    Pingback by Hiroshi Watanabe – 99 Findings « The PhotoBook — June 24, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

  8. .

    Comment by Saturn Sa — October 13, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

  9. […] photographs from my project Ciociaria, I find myself thinking of Hiroshi Watanbe’s “Findings“, a project that was a compilation of photographs that he drew on from a diverse set of […]

    Pingback by Live wire juxtaposition « Doug Stockdale's Singular Images — January 4, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

  10. […] Critical Mass, which Watanabe garnered a book prize and the subsequent publication of Findings by […]

    Pingback by Hiroshi Watanabe – Veiled Observations and Reflections | The PhotoBook — January 31, 2014 @ 4:40 am

  11. […] Other Watanabe photobooks reviewed on The Photobook include: Love Point, Veiled Observations and Reflections, 99 Findings (iTunes which includes my interview of Watanabe), Ideology in Paradise, Findings. […]

    Pingback by Hiroshi Watanabe – The Day the Dam Collapses | The PhotoBook — November 14, 2014 @ 3:37 pm

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