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Rinko Kawauchi, 'the eyes, the ears'

Every now and then I'm revisiting some of the photography books and other items on my shelves here. This time it’s . . .

Fron cover of Worktown People by the photographer Humphrey Spender

I came across the work of Rinko Kawauchi some years ago and I loved it straight away. It’s a style of photography very different from my own: spontaneous, reflective and free-flowing. She accompanies the images with her own lines of poetry, although for me the images are poetic enough on their own. 

I see Kawauchi’s photographs as a kind of celebration of the visual world, if not of life itself.  They are pictures of the ephemeral, capturing moments of fleeting beauty or balance: melting snow, bubbles, light, a child's gesture, the movement of a swing.  As such they relate to an aesthetic appreciation of impermanence which is a particularly Japanese tradition.


Kawauchi’s subject is everywhere and everything, and this is something I love about her work. She doesn’t need to go to a particular place to make photographs. They can be found in her kitchen, in her grandmother’s garden, while walking through the city or looking up at the sky. The effect is like watching someone that's been blind all their life suddenly gaining sight and expressing wonder at everything they see around them.  As Kawauchi says herself, “I like everything, everything, everything."

The eyes, the ears, is a book that made me think about beauty, although that is probably not the right word. I mean something insistent about the world that says 'look at me' and that rewards our attention if we do so. Kawauchi's images suggest that many things are beautiful but that beauty is not necessarily in the thing itself...only in our need, as humans, to find it wherever we can.

Rinko Kawauchi, the eyes, the ears. Published by Masakazu Takei (Foil), 2005


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