Jesse’s book review, Origins by Kozo Miyoshi
It has been while since the last book review, so a nice peaceful Sunday book review seems apt. Jesse reviews the stunning work of Kozo Miyoshi. Check it out.
Kozo Miyoshi’s Origin is about the origin of Kozo Miyoshi. He has seemingly always been an 8×10 photographer, but these photos show his beginnings with a 35mm Nikon and 6×6 Rollei. It is symbolic as all of these where among his first non 8X10 shots and when most think of the origin of photography as large format so do most when thinking of Kozo Miyoshi. All of these photos were taken from 1972 to 1982.
In the quiet nature of Origins it is easy to see why he went into large format photography, so already the interesting aspect is too see the signs of what was to come. I often find when shooting different cams/formats the cameras make me shoot differently. When developing I automatically tell the difference in a GR1 shot and a Leica shot and of course more easily in a Mamiya 6 or iPhone 6 shot. However, Miyoshi’s vision is so focused that he already has the idea and the camera is nothing more the means. Neither is good or bad, just with Miyoshi that is how it is.
With that said, I simply love his work. There really are no tricks or wit involved, instead just a sensitivity to the ordinary in what is as straightforward as the titles his gives his photos. Take for instance the first shot, titled Table of Snow. It is a table with snow on top…which is interesting for a myriad of reasons. We all have seen this and very few if any have shot this. If we have the results were probably as is and disregarded. Someone like Rinko Kawauchi would shoot a washing machine, but then juxtapose it to an opening in the clouds in which the realization of her art is brought about in juxtaposition. Yet a table of snow is a stand alone image and on top of that it is underexposed, fuzzy, and devoid of symmetry. But it somehow works. There is a certain character to it highlighted (as with later photos) with a certain glow to it. We have seen these images yet never been forced to observe. The fuzzy nature offers a snowlike texture…it all somehow works.
Perhaps it is the minimal timelessness of his photos. The next page features a large window with rain outside. Silhouetted are the tops of two hats that cannot be time dated. This is juxtaposed with a set of indistinct chairs and tables with an ashtray and papers on top. All of these are devoid of detail and refuse a time date. Going back to the last paragraph they are underexposed, fuzzy, and devoid of symmetry yet carry a certain glow to them. We have seen these moments but never carried the sensitivity to capture them. They continue through out the book a shot of a tire, a store window, living room, and water collecting on greenhouse roof. They are all of the everyday that we overlook.
The afterward in the book offers no really explanation of his work neither do his interviews. It isn’t that he doesn’t discuss it, it just he likes to speak about photography in more abstract terms. He refuses to make a distinction between humans and inanimate objects and is not one to discuss spatial notions of composition in his work. It is all rather straight forward in that he talks of knowing the mediums limitations and not trying to do anything more with them. Which of course shoots down the thoughtful observations I put forth above….
Only 700 copies were printed of Origins. In all there are 64 pages with 31 photographs. The book itself is quite large and well constructed so the prices tend to be on the high end of 200 dollars.
Every time I read one of Jesse’s reviews I feel like I come away with a greater appreciation for Japanese photography and photography in general. And this time was no exception. What a beautiful book. Thanks Jesse.
Jesse Freeman is a friend, photographer and movie buff. He has a great knowledge of photography books and classic cinema. He can also be relied upon for decent music recommendations.
You can more of his work and passions at the following places:
Want to read Jesse’s other great reviews? Then click here to go to the archives.