Masao Yamamoto

Masao Yamamoto is one of the most interesting and significant living Japanese photographers. Uncertainty, understatement, transparency, lightness — this is how his work can be described. The simplicity of composition and soft focus work to achieve this effect. A Japanese photographer like no other creates suggestive contemplative images. He shows the viewer his vision in the rhythm in which the famous lines of haiku are read.

"For me, a successful photo is the one that calms, gives a sense of peace. Makes you be kind and gentle. A photo that gives courage; that awakens memories of good things; that makes people happy"

Masao Yamamoto was born in Gamagori, central Aichi Prefecture, in 1957. Since childhood he was imbued with the beauty of nature, living on the shores of the Pacific Bay.

Young Masao began to study painting under the tutelage of an artist well-known in his town. After becoming interested in photo, Masao decided to follow the path of artistic syncretism and erase the boundaries between painting and photography, as if between the fictional and the real world. His work is now a synthesis of photography and painting. He uses photography exclusively as a way of stopping time, and this results in poetic images that evoke memories and nostalgia in the viewer.

Yamamoto started working as a freelance photographer quite early, in 1975, when he was eighteen.
In 1993 he presented his first series "A Box of Ku". Yamamoto's visual language and working method is unique in its own way. Yamamoto makes very small prints, averaging 8 by 13 centimeters, sometimes larger or smaller, which he stamps in various ways - by tinting with tea, dyeing, carrying around in his pockets, crumpling, tearing, and rubbing in his hands for long periods of time.
During exhibitions or press conferences, Yamamoto often sends a small old suitcase of prints through the rows, so that they "absorb" some of the audience's human warmth. Yamamoto builds exhibition installations from these prints by attaching them directly to the walls of the gallery in a chaotic order. Each time Yamamoto tells a new story, which reveals its meaning only in the process of creation. So, over a period of seven years, eleven different versions of the installation «A Box of Ku» were created.

In 2000 and 2008 Masao changed the title of the series and added new photos. It is believed that human life and all world processes are subject to seven-year cycles, during which we live our whole life from birth to death. Each cycle ends with a crisis, enabling a transition to a new level of development. Thus, every seven years this Yamamoto series dies and is born with a new name.
Japanese culture has always attracted and amazed Western civilization. Beginning with Japanese engravings, the West has always been captivated by the incredible elegance and depth of Japanese art. One of the secrets of this success is the special philosophical basis that emerged from the synthesis of traditional Shintoism and Buddhism.

If Shintoism brings to Japanese art a search for beauty, which is understandable to a European, then Buddhism adds a moment unusual for us, namely the striving to show the true nature of things. For a Buddhist that is "Śūnyatā" - emptiness, so the main thing for the Japanese artist is to convey his vision of truth - emptiness. And this is reflected in almost all areas of Japanese art.
Загадочные и глубокие снимки настраивают зрителя на созерцательность.
The same principle underlies Masao Yamamoto's photographs, which have resonated widely in the photographic world. While postmodern photo of the recent past gravitated toward gigantism and photographers competed by making larger and larger prints, Yamamoto's photos can fit into a small box, like the one in which children put their treasures. Masao spent a long time as a child wandering in the neighborhood, gathering a collection of insects and other objects of nature, in which the future photographer saw a special beauty.
The mysterious and profound photos set the viewer up for contemplation.
"The best format is when you can hold a photo in the ladle of your palm. If you hold a a photo in the palm of your hand, you hold a memory in your hand. Like a family photo you carry with you,"
- says the photographer.

The nostalgic character of Masao's photos is fully consistent with the Japanese artistic concept of "wabi" - "poverty", which implies asceticism, contentment with little and modesty. As well as the concept of "non-thinking", which is also present in Yamomoto's installations.

As the photographer himself states:
"I would like the viewer, when looking at my installations, not to try to understand. Instead- just watch".

Masao Yamamoto's photos are included in the permanent exhibitions of the world's best museums, such as the International Center of Photography in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the European House of Photography in Paris, and many other private and public collections. The photographer has also published several books and photo albums.
The Master's works were brought to Moscow and exhibited in spring in MAMM.
Text Anna Laza
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