Jesse’s book review, Tank and Road Surface by Jun Nishieko
Last night I was very fortunate to be reminded what a talented individual Jesse is, as I went to the screening of one of the movies he has made (something I hope Jesse will share with us in the future). And then today I remembered I still have a few more of his wonderful reviews to get through. So without further ado..
Recently at a show in Tokyo, I ran into Haruna Sato selling her latest book (not associated with her Ichi no hi series reviewed earlier). She shared her booth with another photographer, Jun Nishieko, who was selling a pair of zines. One of which through the plastic covering looked like it was cut in half, which visually made me want to pick it up. Flipped through it and saw some water towers and patterned station floors shot on cheap color film. Looked at the back and saw it was only 500 yen and with 22 pages figured it wasn’t a bad purchase. The bizarre title and layout furthered its appeal.
Immediately I felt this was a strange mix between Bernd Becher and Patrick Tsai (two completely different artists) that oddly works. Bernd Becher and his wife Hilla actually are most known for the photo book Typologies that is more conceptual than photographic in its artistic nature. The couple basically went around Europe shooting industrial building which consisted mostly of water and cooling towers.
However, the correlation between the two lies only in the subject, the resulting meaning and depiction of the towers are vastly different. The Bechers shot them in cold black and white in large format while here the towers are depicted in a cheap color on 35mm. Nishieko also includes more of the surroundings in his depiction of the towers which creates more of a fun spot the tower within the composition game, whereas the Bechers present them straightforward that you stop seeing them as they are but for their forms.
Patrick Tsai is a color film photographer based here in Japan, perhaps most famous for his blog Talking Barnacles and his book Modern Times. The latter saw Tsai in China focusing on its peculiarities. It’s not only the quality of his the color of his film but the rundown plastic quality of the subjects he shoots in China complete with a knock off Disneyland with Garfield of all character next Minnie mouse.
A lot on capitalism and the modernity or its façade really could be drawn from this, but the focusing on the aesthetic quality Nishieko’s patterned walkway surfaces feel very similar in their texture. Just as facades of the Chinese buildings are pot marked and rundown so are the Tokyo walkways. The water towers featured in tank and road surface don’t have the rigid formality of the Bechers but the plasticity of quality of Tsai’s Modern Times. And it is essentially these two qualities mixed in with the strange preoccupation of patterned surfaces that make up, tank and road surface.
The book works off of duality, mostly horizontal but at times vertically in its arrangement on the page spread. It opens with two water towers centered in the middle of each page, followed by two surfaces walkways laid out very similarly, before setting of the taught bottom photo of water towers and surfaces. The sensation you get is oddly natural when looking at the top and bottom half of pages in seeing literally a building top or station floor. This use of the physical space of a book is unique and is a quality that only serves to enhance our experience…I think any other layout would of come off to a lesser effect.
Just a curious book really. Thinking outside the box a bit and shooting something so simple and putting into a zine is the fun of these projects. For 500 yen you can’t go wrong and looking at a total of possibly 30 copies left.
In addition, Haruna Sato’s latest book Happening and a lot more can be purchased from here as well:
Thanks for sharing this one, Jesse. I am sorry to have missed the book show. I need to get out more.
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:
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