In November 2016, I went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to see an exhibit of "Japanese Photography from Postwar to Now." I saw some of Ms. Kawauchi's photos for the first time. Being a black and white photographer, I was surprised to find how drawn I was to her photography. The color, not over emphatic or over colored, was quieting. The color blue dominants many of her photos.
The photo here is from her "The Eyes, the Ears" series. It is a simple image. A side closeup of one eye and with a backdrop of the color blue. I am first drawn to that blue. Is it the sky? Is it a thought? And the blue is not just one blue, it is layers of blue lighter at the edge near the eye. The vast image of just one elegant eye brings in the most human element. An exquisite Japanese woman's eye? Or a child? And then there are a few strands of hair. I find it surprisingly comforting. Even childlike.
Born in 滋賀県 日本 Shiga, Japan, in 1972, Rinko Kawauchi lives and works in Tokyo. Ms. Kawauchi studied graphic design and photography at Seian College of Art and Design and graduated in 1993. Before working as a fine art photographer, she worked in advertising.
Rinko Kawauchi uses a six-by-six format camera.
In 2001 she published three photo books, Hanako (a Japanese girl's name), Utatane ("catnap"), and Hanabi ("fireworks"). In the following years she won prizes for two of the books in Japan. In total, Ms, Kawauchi has published 15 photo books. She has displayed her works all over the world, including at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Sao Paulo Museum of Modern Art, the Foundation Cartier pour l’art in Paris, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
According to Ms. Kawauchi, her art is rooted in Shinto. In Shintoism, all things have a spirit, thus leading us to an appreciation of the small and the mundane.
She writes, “It’s not enough that the photograph is beautiful. If it doesn’t move my heart, it won’t move anyone else’s heart.”
Ms. Kawauchi's WRITINGS - I'm not surprised to read that Rinko Kawauchi also composes haiku. Many of her photos are visual haiku, short visual poems designed to capture strong emotions or moments with carefully selected Kanji.
All images are Untitled, from the series "Illuminance", 2011, C-print, on dibond, framed 40 × 40 in
In this video, Rinko Kawachi discusses her recent work in an interview with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art