Masao Yamamoto is a Japanese photographer famous for his poetic, small size photographic prints which he celebrates as individual objects of art.
I liked it the moment I saw his work on the Internet, and that was years ago. Twenty? Yamamoto’s images stand out, and it’s almost unbelievable nowadays, to stand out in the world of visual arts where everything seems to have happened already. It’s quite simple, really: show me twenty images made by contemporary photographers, and if Yamamoto’s work is one of them, I bet I can tell straight away.
What I personally love about them is … calm. Yamamoto’s photographs are very calm. They create a moment of silence. There is something about them, that makes you feel the space, suddenly appearing before you and inviting you to contemplate. Each photograph is like a small door to a large space, empty quiet room, where there is light, and there are shadows in the corners.
I don’t really like when people use the word “zen” applied to Yamamoto’s art, because it doesn’t empty my mind but rather fills it with poetry, sound of nature, sense of touch, longing for something very beautiful I, too, have seen before. Zen state is a state of … blissfull nothingness, achieved during endless hours of meditation in effort to empty one’s mind. Yamamoto’s work is another world within a world. Where we rush, his little prints, soaked in variety of mediums (his tears, too, but I find it a little overreacting) – his little prints float in space like messages – elegant, a bit melancholic reminders of ourselves what we could have been if we were not what we are.
After I saw his work, I started paying attention to rocks, and trees, and birds, and bugs, and human gestures. I realized the value of small prints – so small I can hold them in a hollow of my hand – they are like small birds, or family pictures from my wallet… they are … fragile, like memories. I became interested in installations, combination of prints in displays, to tell the story … It doesn’t have to be a story that really happened, it could be a story I imagined with the help of random images I move around on my desk. I always loved minimalism and space, so it’s being close to my heart – one object, one line, monochromatic palette. Yamamoto was probably the first photographer who made me realise the importance of printing medium, too. Paper, what kind of paper, why, what and how it alters the final image. In fact, Yamamoto changed my views on photography forever.
In short, – great master, who can open a fathomless mind space using only small photographs.
“For me a good photo is one that soothes. Makes us feel kind, gentle. A photo that gives us courage, that reminds us of good memories, that makes people happy.”
Note to myself : slow down, pay attention, print small see what happens