Jesse’s Book Review – Port Area, Sakai, Osaka 12:00 – 14:00, May 4, 2010 by Hiroko Komatsu
It’s all about the details when you flip through this captivating collection of seemingly random images. Jesse reviews Hiroko Komatsu’s latest.

“Exhaustive” can be perhaps be the best word to describe the work of photographer Komatsu Hiroko. She closed the summer with one of this year’s more compelling exhibitions by literarily filling Tokyo’s aM (alphaM) Gallery from floor to wall with monochrome prints. The effect was an exhaustive one… seeing prints all over the space being stacked, hung, twisted, left on the floor, ripped, etc. After that initial impression is gone and you work your way around to appreciating the work you begun to see the exhaustive darkroom sessions it took to create such a body of work. Yet what cannot be overlooked is the presentation of analog photography as that of materiality. In the digital age, the photograph as an object is all but forgotten. Traditionally we know it as something that is flat, has edges and is static…yet through her presentation she even challenges this notion through her treatment of her own work.

Enter Komatsu’s book: Port Area, Sakai, Osaka 12:00 – 14:00. May 4, 2010. Featuring no sign of life, the photos are a seemingly exhaustive study of an industrial port zone in a suburb of Osaka over a precise four-hour period with 100 photographs over 200 pages. After that initial impression of the mundane again you work you way around to appreciating the photos for what they simply are… materials of a port, i.e. bricks, cement flood prevention structures, and spare wood. All shot in black and white, the materials in the photos reflect the handling of her prints in her exhibit in that they are haphazardly existing all over.

Going back to materiality of her exhibit, this industrial aesthetic is then incorporated into the presentation of her book. Aside from the digitally printed scans, she hand stapled the cover, individually stamped each book’s title, and included a one of one contact sheet print of one of the 100 images featured in the book (accounting for limited edition run of only 100 copies). The print is Saran wrapped not only for protection but again showing a strange us of materials with a resulting contradicting textures. Exhaustive, to the extent one can really appreciate not only the content but its presentation.

Both carry a sheer abundance of work. I like the focus on the whole rather than individual. In both creative outputs, we are drawn to how all the photos work together. It serves as a sort of anti-thesis to the single image focus of most the social media platforms driven by photography. Catering to these attention spans is something her work refuses. But also what it does is curiously eliminate all together the process of editing. I find this to be the common weak point of most photographers that is making a collection of images work together, and by simply showing everything there is an opposite effect her work does in revealing a truth. In her exhibition last year of a similar nature, there was an idea that “making a choice seems an unnecessary error.” Through her work she foregoes editing through this sentiment.

This book can still be purchased for about 30 USD. I’d recommend So Books, where I obtained my copy. The book is published by Japanese publisher Osiris who also has done books for Araki, Takuma Nakahira, and Osamu Kanemura. Check it out…


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.
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