In Hiroshi Watanabe’s book Finding, published by Photolucida, the grand prize winner of the 2006 Critical Mass, 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, many of which we are not fully conscisous 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, an opaque barrier between us and what might be just beyond. The early visual subtitles giving way to a final hard statement of fact, 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 photographs shadows and silhouettes of either someone or something. The details are obscured, hinted at, and what we can see exists as a shadow, a 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, 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 can become this 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, a symbol that implies a prescence 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, fully evoking my imagination.
The hardcover book is in a size that is becoming consistent for Photolucida, 8 3/4 x 10 1/4″, and has a tipped in cover photograph on the black linen boards, 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 in 2007.
Due to the books publication date, it 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