Contemporary Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi creates an imaginary space where the fantastical is possible— evoking ideas of dreams, memory and temporality. The images in her book, Illuminance, span 15 years of work, both commissioned and personal projects, and have the ability to make the mundane extraordinary, leaving poetry in the viewer’s mind. This is even more apparent after the recent natural disaster in her homeland.
In her photos we see an iridescent diamond; a radiant blue sky; an elderly woman making onigiri; an infant suckling on a mother’s breast. At first glance, her photographs seem simple. But her talent lies in the way she is able to evoke the primal in all of us: a depth of raw human emotion. “It’s not enough that [the photograph] is beautiful,” says Kawauchi. “If it doesn’t move my heart, it won’t move anyone else’s heart.”
A distinctive trait of her work lies both in the sequence and the juxtaposition of her images. This editing, she says, “differentiates between a photograph and an artwork. Seeing two images next to each other opens up the imagination and gives birth to something else. Flipping through the pages of the book, it can arouse feelings of excitement, sadness, or happiness—things that are hard [for me] to do with words.”
During the tumultuous aftermath of the earthquake and the tsunami, when the country was still rattled by aftershocks, Kawauchi stepped outside with her Rolleiflex and took a photograph of something she sees everyday. But on that day, the sun seemed to symbolize something more. “The world is connected by what we cannot see,” says Kawauchi, “in times of despair if we hold on to the things we believe are beautiful in life, that energy will change and affect the world in a positive way.”
Even in her darkest moments Kawauchi is still able to evoke what is important to her and to others feeling the same pain: Hope.
Her work will be on view at Hermès, which opens on May 20, 2011 in New York City (691 Madison Avenue, 4th floor). You can purchase a limited edition of her print via the Aperture Foundation. Proceeds from the print will go to support disaster relief efforts in Japan.