Issei Suda

Issei Suda is a Japanese photographer, whose philosophy is whether photographs depict objects, animals, or people, images “should be simple but expressive, with no further explanations necessary”.

This is very close to my heart. I am not a fan of long stories to explain/support a picture. In my book you are either a photographer or a writer, so – decide, and do what you do best.

How Suda does what he does best (in my humble words of an admirer): he frames superbly.  He almost entirely gets rid of the context, lights the subject up, insignifies the background, messes up composition, choses an unusual angle, disbalances image – causing discomfort, tension and drama, and by doing all that he turns an ordinary subject into a symbol of extraordinary-is-inside-everything-if-you-look-deep-enough. Unlike so many other image-makers, Suda is not after an unusual moment, an extraordinary happening, a temporarily distortion of a familiar scene, but – what I think  – he reveals the extraordinary that is always there. The drama is inside each one of us, and we are in eternal conflict with ourselves.  Afterall, we all are in avante-garde to our tradition at some point. Everything, everybody carries that inner espèces extraordinaires gene, and we all are a part of our extraordinary prime matter.

 “For the person [rag-and-bone man] who does the collecting, these objects are definitely not ‘rubbish,’ rather they provide the excitement of a ‘treasure hunt’ and offer an inexhaustible source of discovery.”- Issei Suda

Issei Suda can show this, being a true master of photography.  Unique, in fact. Somewhere in between two most influential and well-known (doubt that first one, though) movements  – Kompora and Provoke – Suda’s work exists, having claimed a special position at Japanese photographic scene. Kompora-style woud be what we call today – a deadpan, emotionless description of a fact of life in plain, low contrast manner… sort of documentary without a pulse. Provoke-style would “shout” at you, tilt and shake cameras, shoot from a gutsy angle… it would blur, have buckets of grain, and definitely, definitely enhance contrast to the extreme. Interesting, that both movements caused two respective trends, quite popular nowadays in the West. Suda didn’t set a trend, as such, but rather there have been many that followed (tried to, moi including), intrigued by typical for Suda subtlety. Contradiction, confrontation, conflict – common themes in Japanese photography, and each photographer plays them differently. Some cut their guts out to shock, some photograph ass holes, close-up, in-your-face, to provoke, some say look there is a woman wearing a kimono in a car stuck in Tokyo traffic. I do prefer the subtlety, you know. Like in best cinematography or theatre, it has class, – the quiet scene, full of tension and drama.

I am not an expert, nor this blog is the place, to tell you about Issei Suda’s profile in details, using  appropriate terminology. As a humble admirer of Suda’s work (and Japanese photography as a whole) I will tell you what attracts me in his imagery.  Think of a grey simple dress. Grey is a risky colour, only very beautiful people can wear it well, to look even more elegant. Issei Suda’s photography is such a grey dress, beautifully cut, perfectly executed, and worn by a special person.  I sense the drama, the conflict, the mystery in every fold.  And there is no need to shout. Or explain anything.

Notes to myself : 6×6 frame is a challenge, not a solution to everything. 

P.S. I need a volunteer editor, someone who would be willing to team up with me and correct my writing. If you are able and willing please get in touch.

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