Galeria Marcelo Guarnieri | Rio de Janeiro presents a solo show of the Japanese photographer Masao Yamamoto.
As Agnaldo Farias, the curator, wrote, Yamamoto hits the mark by producing small-scale photos, some of which are fragile, with torn edges, and most of which can be held by one’s fingertips or laid on one’s hand, reminding us that fingers and palms are the table for the contemplation of small things, of objects brought close to the eyes, to be better seen, touched and smelled.
We contemplate the world from a distance, from the height of our heads, set atop a body that generally does not stop moving. We seldom stop, and even when we do, either we or our context are still somehow in movement. We each carry a nostalgia of permanence, of the simple exercise of standing still and looking around ourselves. Looking calmly, paying attention to what is happening around our body.
The scale of Masao Yamamoto’s photos, in and of itself, is an invitation to this way of being in the world. The majority of the subjects seem to result from walks he takes with an attentive eye, camera in hand.
And such attention, the artist teaches, is never passive. As is common in his photos, the object of the photographer’s attention reacts to his gestures, to his actions in the space.
What one sees when observing each of the images produced by Masao Yamamoto, which he displays directly on the wall, like a torn beehive of images, or floating in the center of a large paper quadrilateral, depends not only on how one looks at it, but also on how the light bathes it, inventing it.
“The capture of light is the essence of photography. I am more than ever convinced that photography was created when humans wanted to capture light.” This statement by Masao Yamamoto explains the predominance of black and white in his photographs, although a detailed examination of them – a natural impulse due to their small sizes, some of them downright miniscule – will reveal that the polarity between these two colors lies in the truth calibrated by the calculated addition of faded colors, such as the light-toned planes in discrete hues of green and yellow, speckled here and there with dark points, like aged paper or photos faded by the action of time in association with light; such as the planes dyed with deep, velvety black insatiably absorbing the closest light.
The work begun in his walks through nature, observing the details of scenes and objects that normally go unnoticed, or in the accurate studies he carries out in his studios, expressed in still lifes and shots taken of the same object from various angles, is extended in the processes of printing and enlargement, in his patient and excessive control of the light that shines down from the top of the enlarger onto the photosensitive paper. According to Masao Yamamoto, photography is not limited to the simple recording of the visible, but includes the production of an image which, as such, is born from the tense balance between the photographer and the fragment of the world; a fragment of the visible that he makes his own, which, by appropriation, can only be his, an object visible in his own way. And it is from this viewpoint, through the awareness that it is his task, by means of light, to make the selected portions of the world flourish like images, that he highlights it as a seminal instance, able to recover the things from the eclipsing our inattention condemns them to.
Masao Yamamoto’s work does not only concern familiar beings, objects and situations. It also concerns the relation between them, the intricate relation between them and the light, between them and the formats chosen for the photos, between them and their relation with the photographer’s disquieting, changing, startling points of view. (Agnaldo Farias)