Jesse’s Book Review – “Yokushiroku” by Kouhei Hirose
Jesse’s back and checks in this week with the debut tome from the psychedelic mind of Kouhei Hirose.
Some photo books are simply about the overall effect. Rather than a careful selection of perfectly curated images each intended for maximum impact, it becomes a barrage of haphazard images seemingly put together that coincidently share in common with the former…maximum impact.
Photographer, Kouhei Hirose (previous Visual Interviewee), first book “Yokushiroku” exhibits much of the latter. Yet he throws into the mix this process of corrosion in the printing process that while it does make each photo unique, it fits into the idea of coming off haphazard, despite the images being quite well observed.
In all there are 79 images over 160 pages. Shot in film black and white, they are made from everyday street situations. They aren’t shot in major Tokyo areas like Shibuya crossing but in descript city side streets. That in descriptiveness could be applied to his subjects as well who blend into the environment. Their faces are often framed out or due to the corrosion are distorted.
It is almost nightmarish but think an existential interpretation into this would prove wrong. Instead, I see the process performed more to heighten the unique qualities of film.
I have heard criticism in Tokyo photography circles questioning the necessity of corroding really great street shots as something unnecessary or even gimmicky, but I am seeing his direction. Surely it must have been fun experimenting with the prints, achieving that artistic breakthrough that became a signature.
When I met him in 2010 he hadn’t discovered the technique. But I have attended some of his most recent exhibitions that are becoming less figurative and more abstract as he is focusing more on the process alone. The result is of which is something approaching levels akin to a Jackson Pollack as he now works exposures onto Japanese paper, washi.
The last show of his I attended (don’t recall the name) simply featured a single massive dark print in a dimly lit room that absorbed the viewer much like Rothko. I could see the excitement when in between drags of his cigarette in front of the gallery where he told me to just simply go in the gallery that he had curtained off.
I for one am always for pushing oneself and constantly evolving ideally toward some form of truth and I see him going more into this for his shows. Not sure if future books will reflect this change in work, since publishers surely would be more comfortable putting out more of what we have here. But going back to the point more than some commentary on the human condition, I see the process as something that simply is fun for Hirose as he gropes toward art that is simply more rewarding.
But going back to the book itself the overall atmosphere he creates with “Yokushiroku” just needs to be experienced. As with the in descript locations, neither can the time of the photos be ascertained. They carry a timeless quality that moving forward affords his books to be viewed in the way anyone can just pick up a Moriyama photobook and enjoy it. Pure street photography. The photos aren’t mean like a lot of western street photography where often the point is the subjects reaction to the photographer nor are they didactic with some greater meaning into Japanese society. There is a distance that inevitably is just him looking.
With that the book is still readily available via a Google search. I always recommend So Books, it is where I got my copy and the editions they carry are all signed. Yokushiroku is limited to 700 copies, and they retail for $65 USD. Check it out.
Jesse Freeman is a friend, photographer and movie buff. He has a great knowledge of photography books and classic cinema. Jesse also knows his music and can always give you some good recommendations
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